Einhander: A Shoot-Em-Up Classic from an Unlikely Source
In the 16-bit era, shoot-em-ups were enjoying their new found technological freedom. As technology stepped up, so too did the amount of enemy ships trying to blast you out of the air. Levels lengthened, enemies took on a wide variety, and bullets split the sky in various patterns. I was in heaven.
In the 32-bit era things went decidedly differently. Perhaps this was due to the continued decline of arcades and the inherent arcade nature of shmups. Polygonal hit boxes and the commonly low budgets for shmup developers (things that are still true today) clearly had an impact as well. Most great shoot-em-ups of the 16-bit days either went dormant, or stuck with the tried and true gameplay of their past iterations. New shoot-em-up franchises you say? Maybe in Japan, but even with the PSX being the money maker it was, publishers rarely cared to put in the comparatively minimal effort needed to bring them stateside.
Then Square stepped up to the plate by releasing Einhander in the US in 1998. Perhaps feeling cocky by the release of FFVII they were translating and releasing everything they could develop searching for their next big hit. Even things that were not RPGs were getting developed by Square, practically unheard of today.
Not only did Sony bring shmups into the polygon era, they nailed it on the first swing. Large bosses, huge variety of guns and strategy to using them, great music, amazing graphics. Any criteria you could use to judge whether a shmup is good or not (meaning don’t judge it on the story whatsoever) was impressive. I still go back and play this game when I want to blast hundreds of generic enemy ships into oblivion.
I, as I am wont to assume, believed that this was the beginning of an incredible series, rather than a one off experiment. Evenually other companies dragged shoot-em-ups new and old into today, but Square was so far ahead of the curve it is truly surprising that they didn’t capitalize on it. Square never saw fit to develop a sequel, nor any other shmup game ever since. Even worse, they are too lazy to let me download the originalon PSN, even though it is available on the Japanese PSN!
Oh Square-Enix, finding the dumbest ways to try and take my money while simultaneously finding other ways to keep me from throwing money at them.