Many will look at the release of Assault Suit Leynos without realizing that it is, in fact, an HD remake of a classic SEGA Genesis title and a massive hit in Japan. In North America, it was released under the name Target Earth, but failed to gain the same type of notoriety and not to mention the eventual sequel was released under the title Cybernator. The game was heavily criticized due to the amount of censorship from the original Japanese release, and also marks the last game in the series to release in North America.
I do have some experience with the original 1990 Japanese release, and I can safely say that the PlayStation 4 version is just as fun to play as it was 26 years ago. Assault Suit Leynos still features the same old-school game design, and all-out robotic war that made the series popular. The improved high definition visuals and revamped game audio are just a start. The game includes two different game modes, allowing you to pick 'Classic' if you want to play as close to the original game as possible, while 'Arcade' changes things up. Both modes include the new visuals, audio, and controls, but 'Arcade' features revamped stages, as well as new bosses, and content not seen in the original release.
In each of the game’s eight stages, the mission objectives will change, as you are tasked with protecting a base, destroying a specific amount of enemy units, escorting a convoy of vehicles, or destroying enemy cruisers before it reaches a friendly base. Your mechanical suit feels straight out of an ‘80s anime, with the ability to slowly walk across the environment or soar through the emptiness of space. Before launching your assault suit to utterly crush your enemies, you’ll need to fill six equipment slots. You can use less equipment if you want, but there isn't any benefit in doing so. You can equip different types of weapons, such as machine guns, shotguns, rockets, and bazookas, as well as defensive components, such as improved armor, a shield, jetpacks, and more. Completing secondary objectives mid-mission as well as receiving a higher rank at the end of the stage will yield better rewards for you to utilize.
Across all stages, you’ll be doing your best to destroy countless enemy units. I was surprised to find just how useful punching has become in the game. With the sheer amount of smaller units that swarm towards you, melee combat is highly effective. Not to mention the crunchy sound effects behind meleeing robots to death, along with explosions that are so satisfying to hear. Controlling your suit does take some getting used to however. You are free to aim in a full 360-degree motion, but holding down the shoulder button (L1) locks your aiming position in place. Mastering this technique allows you to shoot larger enemies continuously without having to manage aiming and allows you to solely focus on avoiding getting hit. The right stick could have been a solution to remove the need for a aim lock, so I’m not sure why the developers didn’t include this as an option. The back shoulder buttons (L2 & R2) cycle through any of the weapons you have equipped.
While I wouldn’t classify Assault Suit Leynos as a bullet hell shooter, completing all eight stages is an arduous task. If we aren’t careful, even the first stage will lead to a quick game over. Your health bar regenerates as long as you stop taking damage, so temporarily retreating is a good idea, especially when facing overwhelming odds. Even if you are on a ground mission, you’ll want to make use of your jetpack whenever possible. Not only can you climb cliffs and over environmental hazards, but it is the best way to avoid incoming enemy fire. Some larger enemies can decimate your health quickly, and the shield can only help so much.
All of the game’s narrative is written in English, however, all of the voice work has been kept in Japanese. This makes it more complicated when objectives change mid-mission if you aren’t reading the written dialogue. Thankfully, giant on-screen arrows will point you in the right direction as needed.
The two game modes in Assault Suit Leynos Classic mode still challenges players across eight stages, as you battle against an unknown enemy across the stars. The game can be completed in a couple of hours, but you’ll want to replay stages to improve your score and unlock new equipment and bonuses. I thoroughly enjoyed customizing my loadout based on the mission objective, as well as mowing down countless giant robots. Assault Suit Leynos is a solid return to a classic game series, especially for players in North America that haven’t seen the series since the sequel in 1993.
Note: The Assault Suit Leynos review is based on a digital PS4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.