Ever since D3 Publisher opened their doors up in North America I’ve been patiently waiting for them to release some of their in house games like the Onechanbara and Earth Defense Force outside of Japan. I was pleasantly surprised by the announcement of Earth Defense Force 2017 (previously known as Earth Defense Force X) and I got to see a bit of the game at a press event. Between then and now more than the name of the game has changed. Brian Etheridge, the producer of Earth Defense Force 2017 at D3 Publisher America gives us the scoop on the revisions and talks about getting revenge against giant ants.
Siliconera: It's a good surprise that we're seeing Earth Defense Force 2017 coming to North America. Why did D3 Publisher decide to localize the Xbox 360 game?
Brian Etheridge (producer): It’s a great surprise, especially for us around the office. We had been kicking the PS2 titles around for a while and when this one came across our desks we decided after about 5 minutes of playing it that we thought America was ready for EDF. We had a lot of fans of the previous titles here, but this one caught the eye of even the more-discerning crowd with all of the enemies on screen and the massive environments being even more-impressive than the previous versions.
When I played Earth Defense Force 2017 it had an arcade feel to it, you jump right into the game and start shooting giant ants. How would you describe the game to someone unfamiliar with the series?
The game is all about shooting A LOT of huge enemies. Basically we throw literally hundreds of giant ants, spiders, robots, and UFOs at you at once and we give you over 150 guns to choose from and 4 vehicles. To me, it is reminiscent of some of the old arcade shooters like Smash TV and Total Carnage, but in a 3D environment, which changes the gameplay dramatically. You can also approach other EDF squads out on the battlefield and get them to follow you, which means even more firepower.
The Earth Defense Force series is kind of a tribute to kaiju movies right?
The game’s theme definitely gives you the feeling of being in one of those movies. If you ever wanted to know what it felt like to be that pathetic foot soldier shooting your rifle at Godzilla as he tramples the atomic power plant, then this is definitely the game for you. The major difference in EDF 2017 is that, instead of the monsters feeling a tickling sensation when you shoot them, our weapons do massive damage, allowing you to lay waste to hundreds of giant ants with the squeeze of a trigger. I’d like to think that this game offers reprisal for all of those guys that decorated the bottom of Godzilla’s foot.
What types of giant monsters and robots can we expect to see in EDF 2017?
Well, Sandlot has brought back the perennial favorites from the past EDF games like the giant ants, giant spiders and the UFOs, but they have been given a complete makeover. All of the models have been redone to take advantage of the 360’s hardware and abilities, including normal mapping. Some of the classics have been changed to the point that they are quite different, like the giant Godzilla-like Dino-Mechs called “Vallak”. We have also added new enemy types, like a giant Quadruped Fortress that is armed with a massive plasma cannon and a new type of giant robot called “Hectors”. These guys can tear you apart in seconds with their plasma Gatling gun. They’re tough as nails.
And we have 150 weapons to blast them with? Can you tell us about the seven weapon types?
We have more than a 150 weapons for players to choose from and the 7 weapon types are Assault Rifles, Shotguns, Sniper Rifles, Rocket Launchers, Missiles, Grenades, and Special Weapons. The first 6 are pretty self-explanatory, but the last one is where a lot of the good stuff is found, like auto turrets, acid sprayers, and flamethrowers like the “Magma Cannon”.
What is your favorite weapon?
I actually have a few. They’re all situational, you know? Sometimes you want a shotgun and sometimes you absolutely need a sniper rifle. Your weapon choice actually changes the way you play certain levels. A lot of times, I find myself going back to a particular mission just to see how it would have played out if I had weapon X.
Personally I like the granddaddy of them all, the “Genocide Gun”. The EDF developed it with Ravager (alien) technology and it basically just completely annihilates whatever you point it at… and everything within a few kilometers around it. It makes for some good laughs and some crispy bugs.
Besides weapons you can pick up vehicles like a mech, a tank and a helicopter. How do these change the gameplay?
These are situational as well. The vehicles are there when you need them to take on a group of enemies that might otherwise be impossible. They do change up your gameplay style. For example, jumping in the Bazelato Combat Helicopter lets you get well above the battlefield to see what’s coming your way. Or, you can jump on the Airbike to zoom across the whole level to get to another squad that needs your help. After that, you might be able to team up with them and add their firepower to yours. The Battle Machine Vegalta (mech) is definitely my favorite. It has 3 weapons that can totally devastate the Ravagers, but it’s really slow, so you have to be careful not to wade too far into a sea of enemies.
Since it's an Xbox 360 game, Earth Defense Force 2017 is going to have achievements. Can you clue us in on how players can earn points towards their gamerscore?
It’s all about beating the game in the different difficulty modes. Each time you do that, you get gamer points. That’s easier said than done, though, considering there are 5 levels of difficulty. The best thing is that “Hardest” level is not the hardest. There is also “Inferno” mode. If you have that on your achievement list, people will know you are hardcore. You can also get some points by unlocking all of the weapons.
I heard that you're considering to keep the Japanese voice acting in Earth Defense Force 2017. Why?
We had considered it for a time. Since we know this game has a cult following here in the US, we wanted to keep that level of authenticity. However, after some discussions, we decided that the voice-over was too important to leave the player in the dark like that. Your squad members are constantly shouting out advice and pointing out incoming enemies. We felt that it might make the game too tough if you weren’t given those clues, so we’ve now reverted to recording all of the VO in English. It really adds a lot to the game.
Ok now here's the question on everyone's mind, what's the price point going to be for Earth Defense Force 2017?
We haven’t locked it down yet, but we think the game has broad appeal in that it’s a game for super-hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike. Also, since this is the first time we’re brining this series to the US, we wanted to make sure it would grab peoples’ attention even if they don’t know the name Earth Defense Force. So, needless to say, it won’t cost you as much as something like Gears of War.
If Earth Defense Force 2017 is successful is there any hope for Earth Defense Force 1 and 2 to come to North America at a later date?
At the moment, we’re just focusing on this title since next-gen is really the current-gen, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t go back to the vaults and bring back EDF 1 and 2 if EDF 2017 is a smashing success.