You wouldn't think a somewhat obscure 1990 Sega Genesis 2D run and gun shooter would translate well for today's standards. However, Assault Suit Leynos proves that retro games can be as good as any modern title so let's start shooting.
Shortly after beginning Assault Suit Leynos, you'll realise that this isn't your average decades-old action game. The first thing that contributes to this is the impressively presented story complete with a believable cast of characters who retain their Japanese voice actors. The plot involves a recovering Earth after World War IV. Just as humankind starts to get back on their feet, an unknown force begins to attack so it's up to a squad of Assault Suit pilots to save the day. Along the way, many tragic events unfold which frankly surprised me. I don't remember playing anything in the early '90s that had this much drama in it. Anyway, before I give too much away, I'll just say that the compelling story and authentic cast provide a worthy driving force for the action which makes gameplay feel all the more rewarding.
Assault Suit Leynos is played like most old-school run and gun shooters. It's not as fast as Contra, but it often requires more strategic thinking to take out enemy forces. Before each mission, you decide which weapons and upgrades you want to equip for the task at hand. Will you deploy a diverse selection of weapons or just stick to a couple favourites and use the rest of your slots for armour and evasive abilities? There is so much to consider, especially after you unlock a load of items further along the journey.
Stages are filled with tricky enemies and hazards as well as too many bosses to count. Each one from intimate mech encounters to battles with enormous flying vessels provides a unique challenge. Although most stages have you running and gunning, a few allow you to fly around which turns the gameplay into more of a classis shoot 'em up. No matter what the current situation involves, there's no denying that this is classic shooting action at its prime that any old-school or modern gamer looking for a challenge can enjoy.
Assault Suit Leynos features many extras that are rewarding to discover. The best feature is that you can play a mode that's almost identical to the 1990 original. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the retro graphics but the difficulty is back full throttle. For those not yet confident in their abilities, there are a few helpful tutorials and a stage select mode where you can practice entire missions or start at checkpoints. The ability to admire the background music, artwork, and original manual in the gallery are nifty additions, too. However, the neatest implementation is the fact that you can complete missions in different ways and watch alternate events unfold. Trying to discover everything you can do has the potential to add hours of replay value.
When it comes to downsides, the most notable is that the campaign is rather short. After beating all eight stages which will take a couple hours at the most, only hardcore fans will be compelled to play through it again. Another complaint is that a few objectives are unclear to the point where I found myself failing constantly without knowing why. For example, one early mission requires you to land on a ship and enter it so you don't explode. Even after listening to my comrades warn me, I still didn't realise that I had to go into a ship. I don't know, maybe I'm just not that bright. Finally, even though this is an easier interpretation of the original, it's still very difficult even on the easiest setting so I can imagine many modern gamers will be too frustrated with it to bother completing it.
Assault Suit Leynos is an odd game to both be modernized and ported to the west. That being said, I'm glad that it was as it shows just how fantastic retro gaming can be. Anyone looking for an intense 2D shooter should definitely pick it up.
- + Awesome story and characters
- + Retro run and gun action at its best
- + Plenty of extras and secret challenges help extend replay value
- - Eight stage campaign is a bit too short
- - Some objectives are quite unclear
- - Although it's easier than the original, newcomers will find it far too frustrating