Originally released all the way back in 1990 on the SEGA Genesis, Assault Suit Leynos – or Target Earth as it was known in North America – is a 2D side-scrolling mecha shoot-'em-up that still holds up well today. Remade for the PlayStation 4, this new version comes with high definition visuals, a remixed soundtrack, and some slight gameplay tweaks. If you're looking for a bout of retro mechanical carnage on your current-gen system, then you can't really go wrong.
Suiting up in your Assault Suit in order to push back cybernetic enemies from the depths of space, it's actually quite remarkable how well the game's able to make it feel like you're piloting a big heavy mech. Your suit stomps around with satisfying sound effects, your boost jump is barely enough to lift your metal shell off the ground, and the close-range punch that you can throw out always connects with a crunchy weightiness.
Heck, even the weapons have a nice impact to them as you tear opposing suits apart with your rifle and watch ships smash into the ground after a well-timed shotgun blast. As far as 2D titles go – especially retro ones – we're struggling to think of many games that are as punchy as Assault Suit Leynos in this day and age.
At its core, the release is an uncompromising shooter. It's not total bullet hell, but you're almost always punished for your mistakes, with your foes able to take away chunks of your health bar with just a few bullets. Most of your time will be spent jumping over barrages and returning fire while you're still in the air, or letting loose with an automatic weapon from distance, hoping that you've done just enough to stop the enemy's march.
Aiming does take some getting used to, though. Rather than using the right stick to angle your gun like numerous other 2D shooters, your aim is controlled via the directional pad or left stick – both of which also govern your general movement. Moving forward while also holding up, for example, will see your suit aim towards the sky – it's a tricky system to wrap your head around, and it's even trickier when there's often so much action going on around you.
Fortunately, there is a way to lock your aiming in place while moving, but even that can be a bit of a struggle at first. Holding down L1 keeps your gun in its current position so that you can move more freely, but it's still perhaps a shame that an alternate control scheme isn't an option. That said, having a simpler way to aim might make things a little too easy – and Assault Suit Leynos enjoys being anything but easy.
On the Easy and Normal difficulties, the game's far from being soul-crushingly brutal, but it still provides a sturdy challenge. A brief lapse in concentration can see your suit explode into flames if you find yourself surrounded, and beefier boss opponents can take a heck of a lot of punishment before they finally fall.
And as if watching your own big metal butt wasn't intense enough, you'll also have to keep an eye out for your allies on occasion. The campaign features varied mission objectives, ranging from escorting supply vehicles to destroying an invading force before they reach their destination. Some levels even hurl optional tasks your way which can impact the narrative, so there's potential for increased replayability if you want to see everything that the plot has to offer.
There's only one real gripe that we have with Assault Suit Leynos, and that's that at times, it can become overwhelming. Trying to read the important dialogue text that's either providing critical mission information or sharing details on the game's surprisingly competent story while fending off hordes of cyborgs is a very tall order, and it makes trying to dodge or defend against the sometimes tiny enemy projectiles even harder than it already is. Mix all of that in with escort missions and time limits, and you're going to want to set the controller down and take a cool shower before retrying the stage that just completely overloaded your brain and sweat glands.
Perhaps it's a good thing that the campaign doesn't last too long, then. Each mission only takes around 10 to 15 minutes to complete, meaning that a full playthrough falls somewhere in the region of one to two hours. Of course, you can always revisit to try and set new high scores, and there's an equipment unlock system that allows you to customise your loadout if you're in the mood for experimentation. What's more, fans of the original release will be happy to know that the full SEGA Genesis title is also included, complete with pixelated graphics and retro beats.
Sporting a varied campaign that's bolstered by satisfyingly weighty gameplay, Assault Suit Leynos is a good way to enjoy a hardcore classic. It isn't especially friendly to newcomers and at times its overwhelming mission design can be a burden, but it still stands strong as a solid mech shooter that'll put your piloting skills to the test – even 26 years after its original release.