It’s always nice to see developers bring back classic titles from the past, especially when those games come from the Sega Genesis/Mega-Drive era. Assault Suit Leynos, or Target Earth as it was called in North America, is a side-scrolling-shoot’em-up set in the future where Earth is threatened by an alien race of cyborgs.
As a remake for PS4, you certainly expect some additions like improved graphics, better menus, and soundtrack, and though it does feature all those enhancements, I was thoroughly surprised by how much of it remained retro. Graphically the character models and environments look pretty good but retain their retro aesthetic, while the game’s menu system boasts a 16-bit look. Likewise, its opening cinematic is stop motion animation, like something you would see from a 90’s arcade machine. The game’s backgrounds are pixilated and feature simple explosion animations, once again giving it that retro feel, while the Assault Suit you pilot and the enemies you encounter explode and fall apart using some cool physics and explosion effects.
Assault Suit Leynos sound design is my favorite part of the game. The soundtrack itself sounds like it was made in the 90s while also fitting the new generation perfectly. The sound effects are impressive as well. Explosions sound great, guns sound heavy and powerful, and your Assault Suit sounds like it weighs ten tons as it stomps around the environment.
Assault Suit Leynos can be a tough game. It’s not the bullet-hell shooter you may think it is, but it can be tough simply because of its control scheme. Every button on the DualShock controller is used, and that’s not always a good thing. When playing a game where everything can pretty much kill you in a few hits, you want to have full control of your character and a lot of the time I didn’t get that. The biggest issue is that your aiming and your movement are locked to the left analog stick or the D-Pad. For example, as you are flying around in one of the space battle missions and there is an enemy below you, you have to move down just to aim down, putting you right in the enemy’s crosshairs. Thankfully the game allows you to lock your aim down into one position using the L1 button, but it doesn’t always help as enemies are always moving around.
Speaking of the game’s difficulty, I didn’t have too much trouble on normal settings, but naturally the difficulty skyrocket in the final mission of the game. Unlike other games in its genre, Assault Suit Leynos actually gives you regenerating health which you can easily recover by avoiding damage or defending yourself with your shield; it also features plenty of checkpoints so you won’t have to restart all the way from the beginning of the mission. Your shield makes the game a lot easier as it deflects almost every attack in the game and makes most bosses a breeze; in fact, I literally found an exploit in every boss fight except for the final boss. All it required was to stand in a corner shoot and block as an attack approaches you, and most of the time the attacks never even reached me.
Assault Suit Leynos also features an unlock system where you can unlock new weapons like grande launches and shotguns, which force you to sacrifice some important skills. For example, you can equip three different rocket launchers, but the downfall is you run out of ammo way too soon. You can also equip four weapons and sacrifice your shield as another option. You can equip up to eight different weapons and skills, but I found some of them to be essential, like your shield.
The game is also fairly short with only eight missions, each one lasting about ten to fifteen minutes. You can unlock the classic game mode, which makes the game as hard as it was back on the Genesis/Mega-Drive with no checkpoints, to add a bit of challenge – as well as unlocking music tracks to listen to and concept art to look at but doesn’t offer much else once the final credit roll.
Other issues I encountered were the fast moving text during the mission briefing and the fact that story dialogue and mission changing objectives happen mid-mission. These are especially bad, because text will appear on the bottom of the screen while you are in a battle with bullets and explosions happening all over the place, requiring you to manage the situation while reading what’s going on. It’s impossible to read this dialogue while trying to survive. This lead to many undeserved Game Over screens.