-Square Soft (1998)




In a future ruled by Germans, one suicide ship will end the war between Earth and the Moon.

My Thoughts

There was a time when the Earth was in an era of great chaos when Square Soft announced it would make games other than RPGs. Many asked how an RPG developer, actually, the RPG developer, could make successful games that were not RPGs. Square proceeded with its plans and dipped its hands into other genres. Over time they released a few good and excellent fighting games, a mediocre racing game, and a shooter. The shooter was entitled Einhänder and with it, Square crafted one of the best shooters in the known world.

Einhänder takes place in a future where the Earth and moon are at war with one another. In this future it seems that the primary language is German. World War III must have been the revenge of the Germans to make up for their loss of the previous two. Each boss has some sort of German saying before the big battle. It makes the bosses very threatening and if I knew what they were actually saying I’m sure they would be even more so. The Moon’s primary language must be English which is evident by the communications given from the cold, synthetic voice of the computer that relays orders.

The Einhänder ship is one of the most, if not the most, unique ships in all shooters. The ship design reminds me a little bit of an insectoid like a wasp. What makes it unique is its manipulator arm. With the arm, the pilot can capture and effectively use weapons (called gunpods) from fallen adversaries. The gunpods consist of a Vulcan mini-gun, cannon, wasp missiles, spread shot gun, grenade launcher, hedgehog bombs, the electricity discharging riot gun, and the laser blade. Many of these weapons can be used in two ways, depending on their placement on the ship. For example, placing the wasp gun pod on the top of the ship makes the missiles fire straight, while placing it on the bottom gives them homing capabilities. The gunpods have limited ammo, so acquiring more and different gunpods is a necessity. Much strategizing comes into play when deciding which gun pods are best to use in a situation. With some experimentation, the pilot will discover some favorite and deadly combinations of pods. The gunpods can also be used as temporary shields if enemy fire becomes unavoidable. The pods will be destroyed in a few hits, but better to lose the weapons than the ship itself.

There are three Einhänder ships to choose from when stating the game. The main difference between them is in the number of gunpods each can carry. One ship can carry a single pod, another can carry two, and the other can haul around three. Each requires different tactics and if the pilot is looking for a big challenge and is feeling especially suicidal he’ll choose the single gunpod ship. I believe this is the first shooter I remember playing where the ship had the ability to change its speed on the fly.

The bosses are some impressively wicked creations with many deadly, sometimes unpredictable, attacks. Many of the boss’ appearances, attacks, and movements are characteristic of animals or reptiles. These encounters can be very tough, but if the boss is defeated in less than thirty seconds the player receives a huge point bonus. It may seem to be a very difficult task the first few times, but with the right gunpods it is possible to accomplish. I’ve played through this game so many times over the years that I figured out each boss’ weakness and exploited it to the fullest. Most of the time grenade and cannon pods work the best, but being able to hold on to or to have enough grenades until you actually get to the beginning of a boss battle can be tricky.

The stages are full of future German fighting machines and every stage requires a conflict with one or two mini-bosses. Some of the mini-battles can be just a tough as a regular boss. At the end of each stage the synthetic voice slightly progresses the story by updating the pilot’s orders as the Einhänder flies into the next stage. Each stage is flawlessly connected to one another giving the player a real sense of where they are going. Annihilating the bosses is the main objective for each stage, but there are also a few secondary objectives throughout the game. For example, in one stage there is the objective of destroying the nuclear power generator. This can only be done if the appropriate panels are destroyed and the right weapon is fired into the hole.

The graphics are a little dated now thanks to the PS One’s rough polygons. Everything still looks pretty sweet and techno-futuristic with some nice lighting effects. Much of the music is an orchestral-techno score and is still some of my favorite music in a shooter. Throughout time with the game, more pictures in the gallery will be unlocked. The pictures are very cool and feature all the ships, weapons, awesome battle scenes, and even some concept art.

Over the years Einhänder has been one of the only shooters that I keep going back to, just because it's so damn good. I’ve always hoped that a sequel would someday grace us, but I know it will never happen. Einhänder is one of my favorite shooters because of its uniqueness and solid gameplay.

Score: 9.5 


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