Mmmmmm, there's that good jank.

Earth Defense Force 5 is the latest entry in what is easily one of my favorite gaming franchises. Ever since I had to go three towns over to track down the first game in the series to come out in the US, I've been a huge fan of these games.

So what are the games about? With somewhere between 3 and 8 storied entries depending on how you count ports and remakes, two(soon to be three) spinoffs, a couple reboots and a constant bouncing around different platforms, you could be forgiven for thinking this is as complicated as a Kingdom Hearts game. But luckily, I'm here to explain the premise to you.

It's the future.

The earth is being overrun by alien invaders. There are giant bugs crawling through the cities, UFOs hovering in the sky, and more.

Go shoot them, now with way more over-the-top blood and meaty-chunk effects, in the name of the Earth Defense Force.


...Okay I covered everything you need to know. The EDF franchise has long built itself as a glorious homage to absurd B-movies of old America, with a history of being B games in turn. It took us multiple entries to get a reload button, instead of just emptying the clip, is what I'm saying here.

The basic gameplay loop of EDF 5 is pretty straightforward. It's a third person shooter with four classes, which we'll come back to. You pick a class, pick some guns out of an absurd collection, then go into a mission.

Each mission is somewhere between 5 and 20 minutes long, a little bite sized morsel of a singular premise; spiders are nesting in tunnels, UFOs are flying through a canyon, red ants are swarming the suburbs, things like that. While there are exceptions, your typical mission boils down to "Kill all the ENEMY TYPEs in MAP".

But for a firmly, proudly arcade styled game, this is more than fine. It creates more than enough framework for the game's intentionally cheesy dialogue, or if you're like me, a great thing to lose yourself into while you listen to podcasts.

The real trick to the loop is the gear. Armor and weapon crates drop from your fallen foes, and getting the numbers to go up and having more crazy kit is a lot of what the game is all about.

And to make it even better, the other classes now gain a percentage of the armor you pick up and have a lower but present chance of some of the weapons being for them, so you can actually experiment a little instead of having to commit for an entire run. There's even a whole new system where weapons can pick up direct improvement if you roll a duplicate, so you have this whole consolation prize if you don't get a ton of new things: Your old stuff probably just got better.

Now, if this is your first EDF, you might be asking what are the classes like? So you've got your four: Ranger, Wing Diver, Air Raider, and Fencer.

Rangers are your classic soldiers. They got things like rifles and shotguns and rocket launchers, they can sprint around, drive any vehicle, and are doing all that classic straightforward class stuff.

Wing Divers are the first alternative class introduced in the series. An all female attack squadron, their whole deal is a thruster pack and energy weapons. They get things with lasers and lightning and all kinds of weird esoteric weapons, but in trade they can only drive some basic vehicles.

Air Raiders are like Rangers, except not. They trade the Ranger's speed and sprinting for an extra weapon slot, they have a whole dedicated vehicle-summon system instead of having to give up an accessory, and a huuuuge portion of their gear is all about calling up bombardments from overhead. They're a bit weird, a bit funky, and not the best choice in a cave, but they're super fun.

And then there's Fencers. ...Fencers are bananas. They're in huge heavy weird power armor that feels like your controller's laggy, but they get weapons that hit as hard as a tank, they're the toughest class in the game from getting extra armor on pickups, and they have this whole insane jump jet system that can make them super zippy and responsive...If you master and build around it. Like Wing Divers, they can't cram their well armored rumps into most seats.

It's a lot of options. And I'm going to tell you now, like, you need to not come into this with the idea that you're gonna platinum this game over your next holiday. That's not how this franchise works, and if you try you'll just burn yourself out.

You're going to bust this out for a couple hours when you just want to unwind, and then you're gonna do that again the next time and the next and the next, slowly adding up dozens of hours of play over the coming months.

Because, spoiler, I adore this game and this franchise and think you should buy it.

But I am obligated to talk about the problems.

I started the review off calling the game 'good jank', and there's definitely some jank here. A fair bit of it is intentional, but there is some just plain slop. Weird physics glitches are funny most of the time, but I've definitely had them go awry before. Or like what I mentioned with the Fencer, how the attempt to make them feel slow and lumbering just makes them feel unresponsive until you set them up right.

You can see a lot of this in the translation, too. In the dialogue it's no big deal, it's fun and charming. But in the actual things like weapon text, there's a lot of these kind of weird choices that don't actually explain things in a clear or concise way.

Like, for example, the Wing Diver basically has three core styles of how her weapons work: They can have a magazine that reloads by pulling charge from her meter, they can have a gauge that fills up by pulling from her meter when you hold the trigger and then dumps when you release, or they can just pull straight off the meter when you fire, with no charge.

But if you're in the weapons menu, it's actually not very easy to tell which is which at a glance. You have to scroll down to the tail end of the description of the weapon and see if there's one of the boilerplate sentences that describes one of those mechanics...And if there's not, well, you just kind of have to suss it out yourself.

So, there's some definite jank. And yet, at the end of the day...I think it's still an incredibly fun game. Hell, I think a good chunk of its rougher edges let it be a more interesting game, since it's not so smoothed over that all the weird fun shit gets taken off.

I don't know if I'd be willing to give up shotguns sending dead enemies flying into the distant sky like Team Rocket because of some weird momentum-transfer calculation error, just to get stairs to work more consistently or something like that, you know?

At the end of the day, EDF 5 has its quirks and its problems. But I've probably had more raw dumb-ass fun with these games than with any other. Go buy it already, I won't accept excuses.