Sunday, September 09, 2007

Retro Rave: Einhander (PS1) - Squaresoft's Unique One-Of-A-Kind Shooter

One of the finest side-scrolling shooter ever made. An unusual effort by the then Squaresoft (now Square Enix).


In the year 2245, the war between the Earth and the Moon rages on. The lunar city of Selene's advanced technology gave them an advantage early in the war, but Earth's greater population and resource base turned the conflict into a stalemate. In response, Selene began sending advanced one-man tactical fighters on suicide missions against Earth. These Einhänder fighters repeatedly broke Earth's defenses, and in time their name became a synonym for the god of death. The player takes on the role of an anonymous Einhänder pilot during his first, and most likely last, mission. The date is December 12, 2245, when the pilot enters the imperial capital's airspace.


Einhander Gamescreen 01

Einhander is perhaps Squaresoft's (now Square Enix) one and few efforts to explore other gaming genres that deviates from their trademark RPG videogames and franchise names (e.g: Final Fantasy). Released in November 20th 1997 (JPN) and April 30th 1998 (USA) for the Playstation 1, Einhander is a three-dimensional side-scrolling shooter. The name of the game itself comes from a German word for 'one-hander', which refers to the single manipulator arm slung beneath the bellies of your fighter used to control auxillary weapons called Gunpods. The in-game music is a mix of different styles of electronic dance music, composed by Kenichiro Fukui. You can view his official biography here.

Einhander Gamescreen 03

While smaller-sized enemies served as nothing more but paper-mache obstacles, medium to larger-sized enemies are usually made from separate, destroyable parts, which would affect their attack/action depending on parts you destroyed. These kinds of enemies mentioned in the latter often carry Gunpods with them. Gunpods are additional weapons that you can snatch from fallen enemies and use it against them. Depending on the type of aircraft you're using, the number of Gunpods that you carry and its position when mounted varies. The boss battles in Einhander are often gigantic and flashy. Damaging specific parts of the boss may alter its attacks or makes the boss' encounter shorter than expected. While much of the fighting takes place in two dimensions, the camera often dramatically pans to the side during a boss fight or while entering a new area, and enemies can maneuver out of the player's line of fire and into the foreground and background, giving the impression of 3-dimensional space.


Astrea Mk. I
Astrea FGA Mk. I - Special steam-powered fighter uses 2 Gunpods simultaneously. Equips both Gunpods differently for a myriad of fighting techniques. This is one of my favourite fighters as you can employ two Gunpods at once, able to shred bosses with copious amounts of damage. Also, certain kinds of Gunpods may point straightforward at any position (Cannon) or does not alter its trajectory arc with movement (Vulcan, top position), giving the Astrea Mk. I a stable firing control.

Endymion Mk. II
Endymion FRS Mk. II - Lead fighter with loadable spare Gunpod. Can instantly adapt to battle conditions by switching between equipped and loaded Gunpods. Of all three initial fighters, the Endymion Mk. II has the most Gunpod slots, though it can only fire one Gunpod at a time. As an equal exchange, any Gunpod the Mk. II picks up gets slightly less ammo. Recommended for advanced players with strong knowledge of how different Gunpods function.

Endymion Mk. III
Endymion FRS Mk. III - New fighter that cannot load spare Gunpods, but can capture new weapons and has a simplified firearms system. Easy to pilot. As the description implies, the Endymion Mk. III is designed for rookies or those new to the game. While its specs is nothing to shout about (2 Gunpod slots, fires Gunpods one at a time), it fires the standard machinegun in double burst, giving you twice the firepower and better damage rating. The Endymion Mk. III is also best suited for those who find the Gunpod system a bit troublesome to get used to.

Unknown Fighter Type I "Die Schabe" - This bonus fighter resembles the cannon fodder squad cars you encountered during Level 1. It doesn't have a manipulator arm like the other fighters, but picking up Gunpods powers up its machine gun, and can alter the firing pattern. The more Gunpods the fighter collects, the faster and more powerful the gun becomes. This fighter is unlocked by collecting fifteen or more special bonuses in one session of the game.

Astrea FGA Mk. II - Though appearing and performing no different than the Astrea Mk. I other than an alternate paintjob (red, 3 times faster LOL), the Astrea Mk. II gets 9999 ammo for any Gunpods it collected. This fighter is unlocked by completing the game on the Hard difficulty setting using 3 continues or less.


NOTE: I will only cover Gunpods that I like in the game. For more information on other types of Gunpods found in Einhander, go to this page here and here.

Einhander Gunpod Vulcan
Vulcan - A common Gunpod in the game, the Vulcan fires 30mm machinegun rounds. Perfect for shredding smaller, cannon fodder enemies. Its low damage is offset by its high firing rate. 750 rounds per Gunpod.

Einhander Gunpod Cannon
Cannon - Another common Gunpod in the game, the Cannon is the exact opposite of the Vulcan: it fires devastating 120mm armor-piercing rounds at a slow firing rate. Against smaller enemies, it can penetrate through multiple targets in a straight arc. Its tremendous damage rating makes the Cannon suitable against larger enemies, mini-bosses and Level bosses. 25 rounds per Gunpod.

Einhander Gunpod Wasp
Wasp - Multipurpose rocket/missile launcher. When equipped at the top, it fires homing missiles with slightly weaker damage rating. When equipped at the bottom, it fires unguided rockets with good damage rating. Adaptable at any situation. You can use the homing missiles to target off-screen enemies and objects for extra points. 75 rounds per Gunpod.

Einhander Gunpod Juno
Juno - High velocity machinegun firing 40mm armor-piercing rounds. An amalgam of the Vulcan's best features (firing rate, ammo count) and the Cannon's best features (damage rate). The Juno is a rare bonus weapon that appears only twice in the game. Be it smaller ships or bosses, anything it hits is instant cornflakes. 450 rounds per Gunpod.

Einhander Gunpod Flash
Flash - A 'sucessor' to the Cannon, the Flash is a powerful railgun capable of better penetration, firing rate and damage than the Cannon. The Flash is also another rare bonus weapon that seldom appears. 45 rounds per Gunpod.


Einhander Gamescreen 04

Critics hailed the game as one of the most successful non-RPG videogame ever made by Squaresoft. Sadly, despite its stellar reception among gamers, there are no signs or announcements by Square to create a sequel for Einhander.

Einhander Gamescreen 05

Close to a decade later, what we know of Einhander is left as nothing more than fragments of alphabets and wisdom: an epic about a once triumphant non-FF title made by what was then Squaresoft that captured many shmup enthusiast and casual gamers in awe, but mostly forgotten in the dusty scriptures of gaming history.


Pictures of the Einhander aircraft are taken from an unofficial fansite. The in-game screenshots and Gunpod pictures are taken from Blazing Lasers WITHOUT PERMISSION from Simon Coong, owner of the site. First of all, a sincere apology towards Simon Coong for taking away images from your site without your consent. While writing down this entry, I am left with one good reason and one unavoidable complication:

1. Your site has high quality images. All other sites have really bad quality pics or with large watermarks on em'. It'll be boring for me to make a long entry without pictures to justify its legendary greatness.
2. The request I sent you via your e-mail address found on your site bounced back. In case you're wondering why I didn't kindly asked for permission to use images from your site, this is the reason why. I got a message from Hotmail telling me something about "Mailbox disk quota exceeded".

Artwork via Pixiv