HIGH Gorgeous art and classic gameplay
LOW Isn’t “easy mode” supposed to be easy?
WTF That price tag!
Depth of strategy and careful, deliberate play aren’t typically the concepts that come to mind when considering 2D shooters from the Genesis era, but then again, there’s Assault Suit Leynos. Known to English-speakers as Target: Earth way back in 1990, Assault Suit Leynos brought an unusual level of tactical grit to the customary chaos of sci-fi shooters at the time.
In the years since, 2D shooters have gone from being at the top of the genre heap to being comfortably quiescent, but the Assault Suit series (including Leynos and Valken, a.k.a. Cybernator) have roared back into visibility thanks to a high-definition remake courtesy of Dracue Software.
To look as this re-release and fault it for failing to innovate would be missing the point, and the greatest praise I can give Assault Suit Leynos is that it looks just the way I remember it. Indeed, the visual overhaul conducted by Dracue brings this work in line with the games it would eventually inspire, like Astro Port’s Gigantic Army and Armed Seven. Those titles have their own appeal and even offer some innovations, but Leynos honors its original version by proving how engrossing that style of play can be. Barring a battery of fancy new sprites, voice acting and special effects, little has changed since then… because little needs to.
Players still pilot the titular assault suit mecha, armed with up to six weapons selected before the mission (with more unlocked through progress and high scores) and plow their way through legions of enemy vehicles in search of victory. While the idea of a linear campaign interspersed with narrative encouragement is no longer new, the differences between weapons encourages repeat play, as well as a bit of careful planning and/or advance knowledge. Players may choose to ditch a weapon or two for extra armor in case of a particularly tough stage, or abandon a defensive shield in favor of a booster pack for one of the space stages. Choosing different loadouts and finding the right combination to tackle each mission is both an art and an expression of style.
All of this demands mastery, as Assault Suit Leynos is tough. One might think that having recharging health and unlimited continues would make the game a cakewalk, but that buffer and the slightly less punitive retry system are all too necessary. More than simple pattern recognition, Leynos tests reaction times and weapon mastery—even resource management, considering that every gun but one has limited ammo. That toughness is mandated by the game’s classic bearing, but it may actually be a bit too tough. Even on easy mode, the end stages are both too punishing and too long to avoid the sting of frustration. Lastly, Leynos is also quite expensive. Premium pricing for niche titles isn’t unheard of, but it’s a tough sell for players not already interested in old shooters.
Though prospective pilots may have a tough time giving the green light to Assault Suit Leynos due to the hefty price tag, it’s an impeccable remake of a classic, underappreciated Genesis game that delivers all that could be asked of it and more.
Disclosures: This game was developed by Dracue Software and published by Rising Star Games. It is currently available on PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game’s rating is E10+, and contains fantasy violence, language, mild blood. The violence is entirely mechanized, though characters are killed permanently, and occasionally shown in communications portraits with blood on their faces.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The game has subtitle options, with voiceovers locked to Japanese. Gameplay is not dependent on sound.
Remappable Controls: There are no remappable controls.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes in the game.
Today he continues to write for a living while trying to turn his fledgling knowledge of Japanese into a marketable skill. He is Managing Editor of Japanese culture site Japanator and is a Contributing Editor for Destructoid. He has written for The Escapist, The California Literary Review, Esquire Magazine, and proudly holds the badge as the premier apologist for Star Trek Online.
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