Mech The Most Of It
Game: Assault Suit Leynos
Developer: Masaya, NCS Pte Ltd
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 (Review code provided by publisher)
An ‘Assault Suit’ sounds a bit like what happens when you get taken to court after you have a fight on a drunken Saturday night. However, it it is in fact a big, mechanised robot thing. Also I’m pretty sure Leynos is in Greece and not outer space, but here we are. This is a remake of a Mega Drive game that, to be honest, no one I’ve spoken to has ever heard of. So while this perhaps may not be the equivalent of Nintendo’s new micro-NES announcement, you could still find a decent arcade shooter that you, along with everyone else it seems, may have missed. It was called Target Earth in some regions, but to be honest they could have called it SHOOTY SPACE GAME and it wouldn’t ring any bells.
Assault Suit: Leynos is deliberately dated, like vinyl records or our political system. It’s been updated in some areas, but left alone in others. At its core, it still feels and moves like a game from the 90s. This isn’t just down to being a side-scrolling 2D shooter; instead, the whole thing has the feel and responsiveness of an arcade run-and-gun classic. It’s also no walk in the park, and you’re given very little in the way of tutorial, something which is surprising considering there are more controls than I expected. For a game that originated on a console with only three trigger buttons, it’s odd that every button on the PS4 pad is used here. This is an unexpected update, but one that works well. If there was nothing but moving and shooting, even during the game’s relatively short span, things would get old quickly. As it is, you’re given extra toys such as shields, jetpacks and multiple weapons, although arguably this isn’t much variation.
The controls aren’t the only thing to get an overhaul. While the visuals are improved, as you’d hope for at the least, it isn’t quite where it should be. The whole thing has a slightly washed-out look, lacking definition, and is rarely striking. This may be a fairly accurate representation of how things were on Sega’s only good console, but this is 2016, chaps. Much of the between-level screens are fairly disappointing, too. Menu screens, loadout HUDs and everything else look unimaginative and in need of reconsideration. The brief map-screen before each stage looks like something dragged from a Windows 95-based educational software programme about space. There are some good flying-only sections, but the more common ground-based sorties feel a little more sluggish. The movement animation while running looks a bit like someone doing a mocking impression of an ostrich, rather than having the feel of controlling a towering mech-suit.
As far as story goes, things aren’t especially involving, mostly appearing as a list of cliches from sci-fi games. You’re part of the Earth Defence League, who presumably don’t use their acronym, setting off to fight aliens with robots and all the galactic nonsense that entails. There’s a scrolling-text story thing, but frankly it goes too quickly, so whatever plot there may have been was somewhat lost. I think you’re just fighting off aliens from earth, but it never felt like I needed, or wanted, to know. This wasn’t helped enormously by occasional sections of mid-game dialogue in Japanese being minus subtitles, or at action-sequences when you don’t have time to read them when they are available.
The thing about big robots is they’re slow. Big things are always slow, like dinosaurs or your mum. So while having your metal man lumber around at a snail’s pace might be realistic (or as realistic as robots in space can be for now), it doesn’t feel tremendously exciting. It also leads to a certain sense of vulnerability you don’t expect in such an explosion-heavy game. While it probably doesn’t qualify as a ‘bullet hell’ title, things do get quite intense in terms of how much is thrown at you at once. Things do occasionally get a little overwhelming, and I’m not sure whether this is challenging or just frustrating most of the time. The shooting doesn’t feel particularly special either; the sheer quantity of bullets you need to fire, and the volume of incoming projectiles you have to dodge, make it all feel unremarkable and a constant necessity, rather than fun. I’m well aware that a lot of people are ‘quite into’ this, and probably rate games based on how much firepower is on screen at once, but with nothing else to do bar shoot and jump I didn’t feel especially inclined to return to Assault Suit Leynos.
One area where the game excels, oddly, is the audio. While the visuals in the intro may be less than interesting, your ears are treated to the sort of wailing, screeching-cat guitar shredding that you’ll have heard making a comeback in Transformers: Devastation recently. Not content with this level of throwback, there’s also some splendid funk slap-bass at points, and a wonderfully dramatic minor-key orchestral score over some of the menus and levels that I’d quite like to download and play whenever I walk into a room. Annoyingly, on some of the stages there’s also a bizarrely loud wind noise laid over everything else, that even continues when you pause the game. Honestly, it sounds like a strange thing to mention but it’s really loud.
Over-zealous wind effects aside, I’m not sure of how relevant Assault Suit Leynos is. If you’re a fan of the original, it’s a decent update in places. In other areas, however, it also still appears dated. There’s not a huge amount to it, either plot wise or mechanically, but as a quick retro blast it’s fine. It does, however, feature some dialogue that instructs you to “attack with lightning fury” during the intro, so that’s a plus, isn’t it?