Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition Xbox 360 Review

Even though the Dreamcast was a failure for Sega, the system itself had its fair share of diehard fans in Japan where games were still being developed and released for the console long  after the system had died off in other parts of the world. One of these games was the 2006 release of Under Defeat by G.rev, a vertical-scrolling shoot ’em up that had players pilot a helicopter in an alternative reality based on World War II. As you can expect, it never saw the light of day outside of Japan, but now Rising Star Games, who seem to love giving fans a good supply of shoot ’em ups, are bringing the HD remake of Under Defeat to UK shores.

A story for a shoot ’em up is never going to be the main appeal, and Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition is no different in that regard. It sets up the plot with a few lines of text that explain the war, which has continued for more than ten years. With the fight between the Empire and the Union reaching its peak, it seemed a good idea for the two nations to reach an agreement for ceasefire. Just as the upcoming date for momentary peace was about to hit, both sides unveiled new tools of war and the scale of the battle between the two nations just became bigger. In other words, this is a sign for the player to blow stuff up. YEAH!

As mentioned, Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition lets you control a helicopter to blast everything in sight before it shoots you. The gameplay is similar to titles like 1942, Ikaruga and Raiden Fighters Aces, although Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition slightly twists how you handle your war machine. Normally in these type of games, your attacking instrument of death can move side to side and shoot directly in front of itself, but if you move the gunship without shooting in this game, it will turn on an angle in the direction you are moving (you can invert this to turn in the opposite direction if you so wish) causing the gunship to face up to a 40 degree angle from the front. If you hold down the shoot button while moving, the helicopter locks in position as it travels across the screen. Let go of shoot and the helicopter will straighten up. It’s a simple mechanic, but it becomes a rather key factor to master in Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition, as it allows you to shoot at things across the screen rather than only directly in front of you.

Past releases by Rising Star Games, such as the great Akai Katana, have fallen into the bullet hell category of shoot ’em ups. Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition does not fit into this category. It is still a challenging game and you die in one hit, but it never fills the screen with an insane amount of bullets. It relies more on players being able to shoot from the side, as enemies will try to make it hard for anyone to directly shoot upwards towards them. The game is beatable without having to rely too much on learning bullet patterns and enemy entry paths. It’s more traditional and simplistic in approach. There are no crazy mechanics in play or bizarre power-ups that rain in the points. It is a straight to the point shoot ’em up, but just because it is lacking the depth of some bullet hell shooters doesn’t mean this game will not kick your butt if you do not adapt to its unique shooting style.

Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition comes with two game modes – the newly arranged wide screen mode or the original arcade mode. There seems to be no difference in the content of the game, only that the viewing plane is shorter in arcade, giving the player a much smaller place to dodge from enemy fire. You can also train with any of the levels you have unlocked by using their dedicated practice modes. Once in game, each helicopter can shoot a fast machine gun weapon that acts as its primary fire, while also having access to a limited amount of bombs that can be used to blow away all the small enemies on the screen. One last attacking mechanic is the “Option” device, a small machine that pops out of the chopper and adds supporting fire, something similar to helper ships in many shoot ’em up games. Options cannot be released until the green metre is filled at the bottom (which fills quite quickly). Once the bar is topped, your next press of the shoot button will release the Option and it will begin to do its job. Power-ups will drop from enemies that can buff the bullets used by options, either giving it rockets, a cannon or a vulcan powered machine gun. Kills by the bot are worth twice as many points, so it’s handy to use often.

One disappointing feature of Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition is the chopper selection screen. This is part of the main menu, and going into it only shows the name of the chopper assigned to player one or player two. You get zero information about its features and it lacks even a picture. It feels tacky and extremely lazy not to put the selection into the start of a new game, especially when all it tells the player is the model’s name. The deluxe edition comes with four helicopters to select, with the VKL6.02(A)P chopper being a special one that is only accessible with the deluxe edition, along with the CD that includes the soundtrack and a digital artbook. Xbox Live leaderboards and local cooperative are in as well, but you sadly  cannot download and watch other people’s replays of their high scoring game.

In terms of visuals, Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition is one of the few shoot ’em ups that fills the whole of your TV. This is only when you play new order mode. The arcade version keeps its heritage by staying with its ratio and using a wallpaper to fill in the blank spaces to the sides of the middle. The game incorporates 3D models, and, while it won’t win awards for its appearances, it looks decent and visually clean to care that it isn’t pushing fancy graphical effects.

Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition manages to keep hold of that arcade inspired addictive mentality that makes you want to try again after a unsuccessful attempt. While it does not reinvent the wheel, the ability to fire at an angle is a neat twist on the genre that can often feel dry and overdone. If you’re looking to get a start in the genre, Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition is actually a good place to begin thanks to its direct, no nonsense approach to the gameplay. If you’re a fan of the genre and have never had a chance to play the original Under Defeat, this is worth checking out. As it goes, Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition is a solid shooter that I am happy was given the chance to come across to the UK and deliver gamers a good bit of challenging fun.

7 out of 10