Assault Suit Leynos PS4 Review
Zero-grav levels are a blast
Great final boss
Interesting level design
Great Japanese voice-over
Only eight levels
Antiquated if not counterintuitive control scheme
Strange difficulty spikes and lulls
Dracue Software’s Assault Suit Leynos brings old-school-arcade-style mech combat to the PS4 though in a particularly underwhelming package. This reimagining of the original Sega Genesis title of the same name sticks close to its roots, modernizing the aesthetically but preserving several antiquated mechanics and controls to a fault. While new to series myself, I found the style of gameplay to be fast and exciting but all too often found fun moments stifled by counterintuitive controls, ambiguous mission objectives, and inconsistent difficulty.
The game basically uses an arcade-like control format: one button to shoot, one to jump, and a single joystick to move and aim. A few more button presses allow for weapon switching, a dash ability, and shield, but I’d like to focus on the essentials. The single joystick used for both aiming and movement is absolutely horrendous; it hinders precise gameplay to an incredible degree, making movements I’m sure many have grown to take for granted, such as moving backward while shooting forward or aiming upward while strafing right, extremely difficult to execute. While this may or may not speak to the control scheme of the original, it’s in dire need of modernization. A twin-stick-shooter control scheme – movement assigned to the left joystick, aiming to the right, and shooting to the right bumper – would’ve suited the fast, nigh bullet-hell setting perfectly and helped players achieve the swift piloting often demanded by the battlefield much more conveniently. A button config option in the menu lets you swaps out the actions assigned to buttons but doesn’t let you meddle with the joysticks.
Aiming aside, your mech moves nimbly, making dodging enemy attacks and weaving through bullet hells easy, a handy deployable shield, and a regenerating health bar forgiving enough to keep you in the action. Difficulty constantly shifts from the incredibly easy to the frustratingly difficult within single missions. Long stretches of a mission might feature a battalion of enemies you can one-shot, then suddenly you may find yourself in a loop of retries competing against a countdown. I found myself having to retrying most boss battles or objective sections two or three times along the way, yet I still managed to reach endgame in under two hours.
Compared to the final boss, the game was honestly a breeze. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the final boss featured an incredible difficulty spike that took me over an hour worth of retries to overcome. The last boss unleashes unforgiving, choreographed waves of drones that pursue the player, launching flurries of lasers that you must memorize before you can overcome. Even though it was on the frustratingly difficult end, it was the most fun I had during my entire playthrough. Really, Assault Suit Leynos earns major points for this guy. I was extremely impressed by his design but wish that the rest of the game had been as ambitious.
Most enemies are pushovers and prove challenging only when clustered. Most only take one or two shots to kill. I often saw them leap directly into my line of fire. A few bosses exhibit outright silly behavior; one of the later bosses, for example, stands still and loops an easily avoidable attack as long as you don’t move your character left or right. A single sidestep and he’ll launch a horde of homing missiles, but only jumping to dodge results in a sure however underwhelming victory.
An eight mission, single-player arcade mode is all you get with the base game. Players can fill their eight inventory slots with unlockable armor, gadgets, and weapons during each mission prep-phase. Most weapons play and work well in every setting and armor boosts can help subside some challenge. Environments have you fighting a cross mountainous regions, underground bases, then launching into space for zero-gravity battles. The pace of the space battles is fast and awesome, reminiscent of Armored Core 4, but makes ground battles seem slow and dull in comparison. Despite the large levels, there aren’t any secrets or pickups built into levels.
The game features some interesting objective based as a few well-crafted multi-phase missions that smoothly transition from a frantic flight mode to on-the-ground base infiltration. While the content of each mission is varied, no concept in the game ever ever feels truly fleshed out. A little taste is all you ever get. One mission sees you protecting a small convoy of transport ships from incoming mechs; another fighting back waves while defending strategic points. It was pleasantly unexpected, as I’m so used to side-scrollers to simply require players to progress “to the right.” However, the objectives themselves often aren’t presented in the clearest terms and remain pretty basic. A few defense missions had hidden time restrictions wherein I had to destroy an enemy gunship before it reached my fleet but wasn’t presented with a clear end of the line; as soon as the ship would reach an unmarked destination, it’d be game over. Ultimately, a little guesswork will get you through on your first run but a clearer presentation would’ve been appreciated.