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Assault Suit Leynos (PlayStation 4) artwork

Assault Suit Leynos (PlayStation 4) review

"This Old Ganymede"

"Target Earth" has a special place in history as a unique Sega Genesis/Mega Drive release, due to its uncharacteristic, uncommon approach to console action games of the era; I mean, it has a weapon loadout system, where you can utilize six slots for obtained weapons and armor, before it became a typical inclusion in modern action titles! On top of that, your life meter is capable of regenerating health during battle, albeit at a slow pace. Both features give off a strategic flair to the game, which Target Earth attempts to emphasize in certain moments. Such instances involve taking down a space battlecruiser before it destroys your Jupiter Ganymede base in the first stage, and another example requires protecting a space shuttle prior to atmospheric entry to Earth in stage three.

However, the game, also known by its original name of Assault Suit Leynos, is an incredibly difficult side-scrolling experience to conquer, and I don't mean that in a flattering way. Mechanized enemies of all shapes and sizes, from bomber aircraft to bipedal vehicles, constantly appear on screen in numbers, and this wouldn't have been so bad without the presence of questionable factors. One major problem is that your life meter drains super fast in just a few hits, and this is made worse after realizing your mech gladly takes damage from destroyed opponents. However, the ultimate kicker is how you only have one life to finish each stage from start to finish, backed by two continues to complete all eight stages. It makes the Genesis port of Ghouls 'n Ghosts look like a coward's game.

While the PlayStation 4 remake shares many of the above elements, due to developer Dracue's efforts in staying true to the original, they thankfully went about modifying the game so that it's not so dreadful to play this time around. The good news: continues are infinite. Better news: stages have checkpoints. So that sense of terror, the fear of losing your last life and continue on something trivial, is now absent. Graciously, regeneration also moves at a faster rate, so you now won't have to camp in "safe" spots for long periods while enemies continue to spill into the screen. But if you're feeling masochistic, the devs included a Classic Mode that reinstates the ruthless vibe, ensuring you'll die in a matter of seconds if you're not prepared for the chaos.

Along with these improvements, the dev team incorporated elements that allow Leynos to function similar to its successors, Cybernator/Assault Suits Valken and Leynos II. The shield and air boost are available from the very start, instead of having to earn them through scoring hefty points, with the latter giving your mech much needed agility against the flood of forces. Also, some stages have a map radar that displays all enemies on the field, which is useful for planning attacks in moments where you need to protect something.

But for all the modifications and graphical updating, the Leynos remake ultimately feels like a throwback release, a nostalgic tribute to a first outing of an IP that continues to have influence over mech games to this day. Outside these notable changes, Dracue's insistence on sticking close to the first's level designs is the biggest disappointment of this reworking. The original thrives on being a harsh game, so when you tone the difficulty down to a respectable level and make the protagonist more flexible, you realize the level layouts aren't that solid.

There are three main layouts: the outside ground areas where you occasionally jump over hills, the underground base areas with wall turrets and electrified floors, and space areas where you freely float around. Now toss in endless waves of enemies that attack in the most generic "zone in on the protagonist" AI patterns you can imagine, and this becomes worrisome. Then it turns into a problem when it's obvious the game gives up after stage four, when it starts recycling and molding these layouts together. Hell, as I write this, I'm still having trouble remembering anything unique about stage six, because it's just another area with uninspired outside and underground base templates.

Thankfully, Leynos isn't purely about these battles, as the aforementioned battlecruiser and space shuttle protection segments indicate. To Dracue's credit, they went out of the way to either improve these moments or squeeze in new ones where they could. Stage three's atmospheric entry in the original has your space shuttle and an enemy cruiser on opposite extremes of the map, never moving away from their corners. The remake, however, has the enemy ship eventually confronting yours as entry commences if you fail to destroy it before time runs out. Stage two is now an actual escort mission, with slow civilian vehicles you can't abandon, enemies pouncing from both sides of the screen, and a new giant mech making an appearance. Sadly, a huge opportunity is missed with stage five's uneventful and brief tower defense structure, as Dracue perfectly executes a remade stage that's just as boring.

Basically, everything that doesn't have to do with normal enemy waves are high points, since they require extra effort and, *gasp*, forces you to take advantage of the loadout system for success. Like, a particular weapon can disintegrate projectiles, which is especially useful for bullet-hell encounters. Also, with the exception of your default gun, every weapon has limited ammunition, heavily impacting the way you plan attacks in specific stages. I was actually freaking out a little when running low on weapons to use in the spotlight finale, as I wasn't expecting a challenging, lengthy gauntlet; it made up for the ridiculously jarring inclusion of two Cybernator stages fused for the prior seventh stage. It's just a shame these calculated segments aren't the norm for the game.

Comparison-wise, this outshines the original with its alterations, but as a standalone title in today's market, the Assault Suit Leynos remake just comes off as a standard mech title when you take away both its infamous difficulty and stature in the medium. I'm not trying to downplay the improvements Dracue made, because the dev team did a service by making this a playable experience from beginning to end. I know it's not easy remaking something with new assets and what not, but there's a lot of missed potential here, where they could have fully utilized the loadout system and put more thought into the stages, transforming Leynos into the strategic action game it desperately wants to be. As is, this simply stands as a curious purchase that's more of a history lesson. You enjoyed Cybernator, Metal Warriors, or Gun Hazard? Gigantic Army or Dracue's own Gunhound EX? Well, meet the earliest incarnation of those games.


pickhut's avatar
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