Under Defeat HD Review

December 17, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): G.rev
Publisher(s): Sega, Rising Star Games
Platform(s): Arcade, Sega Dreamcast, PS3, Xbox 360
Review Platform: Playstation 3
Release Date: November 28, 2012

Back in 2006, at the end of the Sega Dreamcast’s lifecycle, an anomaly was released in the form of Under Defeat. A top-down, helicopter shoot-em-up that was a love note to the classic arcade experiences of the 80s, you can understand how a game like that could seem an odd, if not interested, prospect. Well, the game released and quickly gained a legion of fans. It seems equally as odd and interesting, then, that Sony would release an updated, HD version of the game in 2012, complete with remastered graphics, a new soundtrack, and new screen-ratio settings that stretch the screen for more player movement. Considering the game’s classic pedigree, the biggest question that needs answering is: Does Under Defeat HD have a place among today’s games?
  • An uncompromising design vision that isn’t willing to sacrifice what makes the game special for a more accessible experience
  • Tight controls
  • A classic, nostalgia-driven experience
  • Awful slow-down when there’s a lot going on onscreen
Under Defeat HD has everything you would expect from a top-down shoot-em-up. The vertically scrolling screen is littered with all variety of tank, gun boat, helicopters, gunships, and so on, that one would expect to find. Your main objective as the player is to progress through a number of levels—all progressively harder—while annihilating everything onscreen. The player also has access to a satellite that will help you shoot down your foes and a massive carpet bomb special attack that clears the screen of enemy missiles and does massive damage. The controls are tight and responsive. Something that sets Under Defeat HD apart from similar games is the added diagonal axis that your helicopter can move on. It’s not a simple left-to-right movement. This makes avoiding the missiles, which come at you from varied angles, more intuitive and deaths feel less cheap because of it.

But none of that is what makes this game so special. In a day and age where tutorials are king, and the handholding linearity of many games on the market make you feel a sense of regression, it is refreshing and admirable that the development team responsible for Under Defeat HD was uncompromising in their design decisions. This is a very hard game. We’re talking Ghosts and Goblins hard folks. It is a game of skill and memory. You will die, as I did, many, many times before you hone your reaction times and memorize the movement paths and time the fire of opponents. And while this is infuriating to a point, once you sit and take in the experience, a sense of “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” sets in. It feels good and puts a smile on your face.

Everything about Under Defeat HD screams of an over-the-top game styled in the same vein as shooters like Raiden or 1942. There is only one problem I have, and it is more technical than anything. The game experiences slow-down when there is a lot going on onscreen. It usually works in your favor, as it makes it easier for you to get out of the way of incoming fire; but, in this day and age, such things are unacceptable, especially on console hardware like the PS3.

Under Defeat HD is a nostalgia trip, through and through. For many players today, this type of difficulty, and the sense of reward and accomplishment that accompanies it, is a foreign concept; especially to players outside of Japan, who get more of these types of releases than players in North America or Europe. Was there enough to justify an HD remake of the original Under Defeat? Go scour the internet forums of the websites for communities of players who played things like Raiden, 1942, or even more contemporary examples like Icaruga, and you’ll see that the demand among fans of the original was high. It’s not an experience that everyone should have. I’d even go as far to say that most of the people playing games today wouldn’t like this game. But, that’s not the fault of Under Defeat HD. It’s just what players who grew up playing games in the late 90s and early 2000s have been conditioned to expect. That being said, anyone looking for a hardcore, top-down helicopter shooter should definitely check out Under Defeat HD.

Final Score “A Fantastic Shooter-Classic” 7.0
The game hasn’t aged well. But, for what it is, it gets the job done. It looks decent in HD, too.
It’s a frustratingly good time. Really, despite the game’s ability to build you up and smash you back down again, you’ll have untold amounts of fun if Under Defeat HD is your type of game.
At $29.00 for a physical copy, I feel there simply isn’t enough content to justify the price tag. The Deluxe Edition, which includes the game’s soundtrack, access to all DLC and patches, a digital artbook, and a letter from G.rev CEO and UD executive producer, Hiroyuki Maruyama is better, but the pricing model still seems a bit off. I am especially concerned about the “access to all DLC and patches” bit. Well, more so the “patches.” You shouldn’t have to pay more money to have access to something that improves the game at a technical level.
This would have been a point lower, but the game’s awesome soundtrack saved it from the clutches of a 6.0. Otherwise, the sounds aren’t anything to get excited about. The retro arcade sounds featured when navigating the menus are a welcome touch.

Review by Jon Hamlin

Jon Hamlin is a freelance game journalist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He plays too much Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and enjoys a good glass of wine. Occasionally, he can be found commanding his legion of doom on Xbox Live as GeniusPantsPhD. Follow him on Twitter @WordsmithJon, or email him at All Articles by Jon.             

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  1. I agree about the slowdown, which is aggravating, but this is a very solid game with a tremendous amount of depth and replay value. I personally happen to love the graphics and the music, especially the widescreen mode.

    $29.00 is not at all expensive for a SHMUP either, especially compared to many of Cave's ludicrously expensive games from earlier in the generation. The incredibly low price for Gundemonium Recollection were just insulting to such an amazing game, IMO.


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