Sie warden nicht überleben.
That about sums up Einhänder – you will not survive. Squaresoft has never particularly been known for its raging difficulty, but this intense side-scroller from Squaresoft will leave you thoroughly frustrated but yearning for more.
The concept of Einhänder is pretty simple. You pilot a state-of-the-art ship (and you can unlock more than the starting options as you progress) in a side-scrolling adventure that puts your piloting abilities to the test. Each ship grants the player different set-ups, allowing multiple attachments like starting attachments, arms, etc. These are used to carry various power weapons outside of the stock machine-gun. The word German word einhänder is translated very bluntly as ‘one-handed’. This refers to the arm manipulator, one of the places to attach a weapon, that can be flipped to the top or bottom of your vessel in order to strategically navigate each level.
Einhänder’s premise is quite simple. You play as a pilot from the moon during the Second Moon War, collecting intel and resources from earth. The majority of the game takes place on a mostly barren earth (barring some really cool Blade Runner type scenery) with the closing levels raging in outer space.
Gameplay is smooth and mechanically sound/simple, too. The player controls his/her Einhänder through each level. The vessel can only move up and down or forward and back during each stage. The game is fully 3D, and even though the player is confined to these simple motions, the camera enjoys utilizing its 3D environments. Luckily, this neither detracts from nor harms gameplay. Keeping controls to simple up/down and forward/back allows the player to adequately understand exactly where each enemy is. One shot will destroy your Einhänder, but you can sacrifice your weapons if you can’t fully dodge an attack by swinging them into the fire.
If I have one complaint about the game, it is that you don’t get enough lives to power through the insane difficulty. I have only completed the game once, and only reached the final stage a handful of times. It’s not exactly easy. That’s no fault of the gameplay, however; rarely did I ever become frustrated because controls killed me. No, the game is just FromSoftware difficult, which is both a blessing and a nuisance. The whole experience is rather short, but the different Einhänders you can unlock and equip add to the little replay value this game has.
The soundtrack for Einhänder is pretty nifty, too. Kenichiro Fukui composed an electronica/techno soundtrack that fits the stylized earth of Einhänder perfectly. If you’re familiar with Blade Runner , the film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, then imagine a equivalently stylish futuristic setting. The thumping techno beats and sirens of the first level sync extremely well, and the boss fights each sound eerily appropriate. And while I’m not a huge fan of electronica to begin with, the soundtrack was nicely done and incorporated excellently.
Unfortunately, at this point in its life, Einhänder is an expensive used game purchase. The top results on eBay run for an average of $85, where a new copy on Amazon runs for close to $250. Your best bet, if interested, is to locate the disc only and find a free case/manual for collection purposes. I lucked out and purchased mine when GameStop cleared its warehouse about a decade ago (and I still paid $40 for it without a case). With that said, if you’re a hardcore fan of side-scrolling shooters and stylized scenery with a thumping soundtrack that fits the atmosphere of the game, Einhänder is a title you should seriously consider. As far as collectibles go, the game finds itself in the company of fairly rare titles.