What do we make? Role Playing Games! What shall we release? A 2.5D sidescrolling shooter!
The developers at Square probably didn't chant that as they were making Einhänder, but that's what players got in late 1997: an unexpected title from an unexpected developer on an unexpected system that unexpectedly made enough of an impression to warrant a spot on the 1001 list.
What's it all about? I have no idea. The name comes from German to mean 'one hand', and refers to your ship having one hand to pick stuff up with. Where we go from there is anyone's guess.
After a short, CG cutscene involving ships blowing up over a city, we're dropped into a world where the people of the Moon are fighting the people of Earth, and I think the Moon people are the good guys, except that you turn against them and go rogue. I don't really know. You're not told too much before picking a ship and getting dropped into your first test.
As you fly over the city, waves of opponents will form orderly queues to attempt to knock you out of the sky, and you can see their approach and gauge where they'll finally turn up in front of you thanks to the 2.5D system in play. Nothing will hurt you, nor will you damage anything, unless it's on the same plane as you, so Einhänder is a bit more of a laid-back experience than other shooters.
The main difference between it and other games is that your ship can grab the weapons that you salvage from the remains of destroyed enemies, where they attach to a claw on your ship and can be used as a separate weapon.
In other shooters, this would be a power-up to change the way your ship shoots, but here, it feels like a physical object that has more impact than any power-up ever could, especially when you play around with switching the orientation of your claw.
Weapons you pick up can hang below you ship or get hoisted above it, and their characteristics will change depending on which 'stance' they are in, so to speak, meaning one weapon can be used in two different ways, and with weapons ranging from shotguns to cannons to missiles and even a giant blade, switching things up to make the most of your resources in any given situation is important.
Some ships have multiple weapon slots to switch between picked up weapons, but my 'easy to fly ship' has just one. Maybe it should have had more.
This giant Police drone is the first sub-boss you meet in Einhänder, and you don't really want to face him with a shotgun.
Bosses, and bigger opponents in general, often have multiple areas to target and destroy, allowing you to chip away at their overall health from all manner of positions on the screen. That was what I thought I was doing in I got blown out of the sky.
Again. And again. And again.
I was clearly doing something wrong, and my paper-thin spacecraft seems to blow apart in one hit, which I usually couldn't make out. The game is colourful, but it's on the dark end and with lots of motion to distract you.
Excuses aside, I had a few more attempts and continues, but with too long a wait between attempts, having to reload the level and start a little ways back, I just got fed up at how badly I was doing and you know what happens after that.
I could have dropped the difficulty. I could have tried a different ship. I could even have opted for the Japanese version of the game to go into the chilled Free mode, where continues and points simply don't exist, but no. I got fed up and quit.
I'm watching a playthrough and it does look like a fun game. Einhänder is not the prettiest of games, let alone shooters, but it's colourful enough to be eye-catching and yet realistic enough to feel like something important is going on.
It's not like arcade shooters. It's a PlayStation shooter. They have a different thing about them, and maybe in a different frame of mind I'll try and find out what it is first hand.
If you have an afternoon to kill - it's not a long game - and want to check out what is actually a pretty cool shooter that I am interested in, despite my moaning here, then have a go at Einhänder.
Apparently the battle tactic your superiors are using is to send one fighter on a kamikaze mission. You are that fighter. No wonder you go rogue.
Einhänder, developed by Square, first released in 1997.
Version played: PlayStation, 1998, via emulation.
Version watched: PlayStation, 1998 (World of Longplays)