Square isn’t known for stepping outside its comfort zone, so many will be surprised to learn that it made this rather excellent shooter in 1997.
At first it feels a world apart from Square’s previous work, but you soon realise it’s a typical Square game. It’s most noticeable in the story; a neat, if rather brief retelling of an old Grecian tale, although Earth and the Moon now step in for Endymion and Selene. The aesthetics are distinctly Square-like as well, with interesting design choices that capture both East and West. Add in an epic soundtrack by Kenichiro Fukui and some truly gigantic, cleverly designed bosses and suddenly Einhänder doesn’t seem like quite an odd game for Square to release after all.
Like R-Type Delta before it, Einhänder is a 2.5D shooter and a damn fine one, thanks to some extremely good level design, an interesting selection of big, meaty weapons and plenty of big over-the-top boss battles to get stuck into. The stages look fantastic as well, kicking off with a neon-tinged skyline that feels straight out of Blade Runner, before heading off into the ether for an assault on a gigantic mothership that culminates with it spewing out yet another boss to battle. The variety continues, and while it’s a little drab at times, the imagination packed into each stage is to be commended.
It’s a little too hard for its own good at times, but Einhänder remains an exceptionally good shooter. And if the bottom ever falls out of the RPG market, at least Square has something to fall back on.