I recently had the chance to play the latest Assault Suit Leynos title so if you're a fan of the original, like side-scrolling shooters or just have a fascination with Mecha, read on as I give you my thoughts on my overall experience.
The original game of the series, known mostly as Target Earth, was released on the Sega Genesis. I'll be honest here, I grew up with the original Nintendo and Gameboy, so there were a lot of games for the Genesis I'd never heard of, well apart from Sonic of course. Still, the idea of this game having a reboot made me happy because it was another game I could experience that I missed back in its hay day.
The story is simple. You play a soldier fighting for Earth's survival against an invading force. Normal weapons aren't practical for Space Battles and so you're given an Assault Suit. It works on the ground and it works in Space. The opposing forces have suits of their own, though a little different in design and their objective is to destroy Earth. Naturally, you have to prevent this by any means necessary, even at the cost of your own life. As to be expected, there are a few twists and turns along the way, but considering how short the campaign is, the story is very shallow and doesn't elaborate on any more than it has to.
Upon starting the game, I quickly noticed voices were in Japanese only. English subtitles are there, but I was sadly mistaken when I felt that'd be sufficient. Whenever you're loading a mission, there's a mission briefing display with imagery on the left and a long scrolling text box on the right. The textbox naturally tells you what your mission objective is, while simultaneously doubling as the plot giver. Of note, I play on a 42" Bravia and you'll understand why I'm mentioning this in just a few moments.
Okay, so the game itself does look nice. It feels like an old Sega game, is retro in design but more modern than 16bit, with music suitable for the 90's era. The problem I have is with the text. On the mission briefing section as mentioned above, it's as if they've even tried to scale the text back to past years, because it's very hard to read at times on a modern TV. It's almost as if the text side of the screen has been squashed up, leaving some letters bold and easier to read, while others are so cramped they look like entirely different letters altogether. This could also be a poor choice of font, perhaps even a mixture of both, but when you're struggling to read even the story, it's not great.
The other issue I have with the text is that when you're on a mission, let's say in a fast paced action scene, flying about in space and destroying everything, at the bottom of the screen in a semi-translucent text box is written dialogue from the characters aiding you in your quest. This is where I found the lack of English voices to be a problem, because you're having to constantly focus all of your attention on the enemies, your surroundings and what weapon type you're using, meaning you're missing practically everything that's being said at the bottom of the screen. Frustratingly once more, when I completed the campaign on Arcade mode, the end of the story also scrolls up the screen a little too fast, so I didn't even get to fully take in or read what happened at the end. I watch a lot of subtitled Animé. I can read fast, but this was just slightly too fast when there are paragraphs you have to read.
While on the subject of Animé, it's clear they've taken inspiration from Mobile Suit Gundam and Space Battleship Yamato because the old Captain looks very similar to the one in SBY 2199 and the suits look very similar to those featured within the Gundam series. This was nice, but what would have been nicer was if they had included full animation sequences, though that's besides the point as it's clear the objective here was for a retro looking title. Still, Mechs are fun and this is probably the reason you're interested in Assault Suit Leynos.
Gameplay works as your typical side-scroller. You begin every mission on the left side of the screen and have to work your way farthest right to complete the mission. In most cases there's a boss waiting for you at the end, halting your progress until you defeat it. On your suit you have six equipment slots to play with. Some weapons run out of ammo while others (although needing to be reloaded often) have infinite. Being able to boost around in midair is only made possible by the booster pack. You can also equip a shield, multiple sets of armour for if you want even more defensive capabilities, as well as your assortment of guns you'll be unlocking over the course of the game. Equipping more armour and abilities means you have less weapons to have for each mission, so there's a risk and reward feature there because if you're playing a mission for the first time, you won't know what's coming. You could end up being well prepared or not prepared at all.
Space missions were the most fun for me, because you weren't so limited. You could freely move in all 2D directions and had no option but to keep moving unless you wished for your suit to explode from the immense amount of damage it would be taking. With the booster equipped, you can boost around space dodging projectiles and racing towards your next target because the movement here is a lot faster than when you're grounded (even with the standard booster, dash and aerial boosting abilities). The one issue I have here is that although you can shoot in any direction, it's not hugely responsive. This is mainly due to the awkward controls.
For whatever reason, the developers decided movement and weapon aiming would be performed with the same analogue stick. When you fire you can lock the direction in place by holding the fire button as you move in whatever direction you please, only it doesn't stay locked for long and you're constantly having to re-adjust your positioning as you can't just rotate the analogue around to shoot in one direction while moving to another. Technically you could boost forwards, drift with the momentum and then aim behind you, but it's just too fiddly. Assault Suit Leynos really needs a better control layout and perhaps some multi-directional boosting because at times it really felt like in order to survive, you need to be able to boost side to side and not just in the direction you're travelling.
Jumping back to the music, it does replicate what we've come to know and love from games of old well, but there aren't any standout tracks. Nothing will keep you humming for hours on end as all of the audio is very much forgettable, even if you just sit at the main menu listening to the entire soundtrack of background music. On the plus side, the artwork you can unlock is pretty nice, not just showing level and character designs, but also script (in Japanese only, mind) and storyboards.
Overall, for me personally, Assault Suit Leynos felt like an incomplete game. It wasn't terrible and had its fun (though brief) moments, but the characters were sadly just as forgettable as the music, the text issues almost made me want to give up caring for what little story the game had and with such little depth due to how short the campaign was, the game simply felt like it was missing something. It needed more content and although there is a classic mode, more akin to the original, it's not likely to keep you playing once you've beaten the campaign mode.
My final thoughts on this are that it's a nice nod to older games, but doesn't really do much to immerse or excite you. It even has a reward system, levelling you based on how many points you've accumulated overall, additionally giving bonus extras to help when replaying missions, but it feels to me the content is lacking to such a degree, there is literally nothing left to keep you wanting more once you've finished your first play-through.
What did you think of Assault Suit Leynos? Agree with the article? Let us know in the comments below or hit me up on twitter @CaptainCortez
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