The Earth Defense Force franchise has come a long way from its origins as a budget series, origins many current fans aren’t aware of — especially outside Japan. It started as part of the Simple 2000 budget line from D3 Publisher on PlayStation 2, and was 31st entry (out of 123) when it released in 2003. Some of those experiments were successful, but the game whose concept involved soldiers thwarting a near-future alien invasion resonated with the gaming audience the most. This started a series that’s still kicking to this day without losing much of a beat. There have been several EDF sequels and spinoffs over the years for a variety of platforms, and now, three — three — are coming soon to PlayStation 4.
The most well-known among these is Earth Defense Force 5, the next mainline game. It was announced at Tokyo Game Show in 2016, but it’s noticeably taking a while to release for a low-to-mid-budget game. It apparently hasn’t suffered from any serious development issues, despite promotional gaps in the last year. Developer Sandlot and D3 want to polish this title in terms of its gameplay execution (not performance — performance issues are a hallmark of the series, you should know), since it’s their biggest series.
EDF5 takes place in 2022, three years before the fourth installment, where aliens have launched yet another attack on Earth. That’s where the Earth Defense Force comes in, who has to rally their best forces to take the war to the invading force and prevent them from doing too much damage. The key difference with this installment is how the aliens behind the invasion will make an appearance, instead of the story solely focusing on those invading. Given the franchise’s history with cheesiness, it should be a fun time. That will also apply to the gameplay, as in addition to the single-player option, the game will let players team up with up to fuor players to take down a series of aliens online and offline.
EDF5 was finally given a December 7th release date at this past TGS. Given the presence of English-translated trailers on D3’s Japanese YouTube channel, there’s a good chance it will get localized. Bandai Namco previously released the games here, as they own D3, but they handed localization duties to XSeed with the last few installments. But it’s tough to tell who will take this one. Bandai Namco may not want it if the last few games sold below their expectations, and XSeed recently passed on picking up several titles they otherwise would have (see Ys VIII and Tokyo Xanadu) due to being busy with the Falcom Trails titles. We might find out soon.
Meanwhile, there’s also Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wing Diver the Shooter in the pipeline. Upon observing the title, it sounded like another updated version of Earth Defense Force 4, following previous enhanced port/remaster Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair. This is actually a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up spinoff of EDF4 developed by Giga Rensya, who mostly works on mobile games. It’s an unexpected turn for the franchise, though it’s not the first time D3 has tried a different genre with the EDF franchise.
Instead of focusing on the EDF ground units, this installment will focus on the Pale Team, a group of Wing Divers who have typically been non-playable in the mainline titles. They’ll fight against another segment of the opposing alien force, comprised of the same sort of giant creatures and insects that attack the player in mainline games; they’ll simply be fought from a different angle. There will also be around 60 weapons for players to use, and many of them can be combined to create a more unique fighting style. Given its nature as a shoot ‘em up, it should be tougher than the usual EDF games, since these types of titles aren’t good when they’re too easy.
Wing Diver the Shooter will release for PS4 in Japan this fall as a PlayStation Network-only title. Like EDF5, there’s an English trailer for this. They could be looking for a western publisher, but they could also publish it worldwide themselves if they have the resources to fund a localization thanks to its digital-only nature.
The third game was one of the few titles announced at TGS this year: Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain. This is a spinoff from WWE 2K-developer Yuke’s that looks similar to the mainline games, whose story will again involve the EDF fighting gigantic creatures and insects using various means of weaponry and equipment. But it will have some necessary changes to distinguish it from EDF5. Not many core details are known at the moment, but gameplay footage from TGS showed how characters are capable of maneuvering faster than in some mainline games, hinting at how the overall game could be faster-paced. But it still includes the EDF hallmarks of the player being attacked by swarms of enemies at a time, so they made sure to include the important parts.
This installment could be a successor to Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, a western-developed installment that contained similarities to the mainline games, but included modifications to distinguish it. The developer of that title, Vicious Cycle Software, shuttered in January 2016, so it’s likely D3 wanted to continue this with another developer who’s made several games for the west, but isn’t actually in the west. It will be an interesting experiment regardless of how the title turns out, especially since this will be Yuke’s first non-WWE game in years.
Like the previous two EDF games, this one also has an English trailer. Unlike them, it also has (hilariously cheesy) English voice acting, though the above gameplay video shows how Japanese voices will also be present. Iron Rain is due for release sometime in 2018, and could arrive in the west in the same year depending on when it releases.
If you’re an EDF fan, you’ll have no shortage of installments to play in the near future — in Japan. But let’s hope this overabundance of titles doesn’t lead to the installments cannibalizing each other’s sales.