Assault Suit Leynos 2

You need a fair few consoles if you want to keep up with Masaya’s Assault Suit series: There’s Leynos on Mega Drive, Valken on Super Famicom, Leynos 2 on Saturn, Valken 2 on Playstation, a decent-enough remake of Valken on Playstation 2, and finally the most recent of all, another remake on Playstation 4 of the original Leynos.

Is the series worth all that effort? Sometimes. And luckily for me this is one them.

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Leynos 2 is a return in spirit to the over-the-top mech action of giant cannons and lasers and screen-filling explosions that everybody remembers the series so fondly for (and by series, we all know I really mean Valken), while also bringing in two fresh ideas of its own – deep, deep, assault suit customisation and a really strong focus on score/ranking.

Let’s start with the customisation. On a fresh save you start with a mere handful of parts and just two different assault suits to use them on, giving you the chance to become familiar with the system without drowning under more options than you know what to do with. After successfully completing a mission you’ll more than likely be granted a few new bits and pieces to play with, opening up all new strategies or giving you the chance to augment a current favourite. In total there are eight different assault suits, seventy-six weapons and shields, forty different devices (these grant passive boosts to stats, extra weapon slots, enemy analysers – that sort of thing), and ten types of armour to keep you busy – although you won’t unlock anything close to all of them in a single run through the game. Leynos 2 has been designed more like a traditional score-based shmup than anything - a game to be played over and over until it’s mastered; unlocking new parts and tweaking your favourite weaponry until everything’s exactly how you want it.

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You see Masaya weren’t content with just throwing an army’s worth of equipment at you and calling it a day, they also gave players the opportunity to tweak things like your suit’s basic statistics, deck yourself in whatever attachments you like best even if they aren’t practical (want to dive into battle with nothing but a variety of shields to your name? Go for it!), and then add on a few devices that can enhance your speed, reload time, cut energy consumption… if it’s in the game, you can fiddle with it. Heck, this is a game that offers two modes of manual aiming and three different auto-aim options! Want to prioritise weaklings or incoming missiles over whatever’s close by? Leynos 2 has no problem in letting you decides what’s best for you. The only minor fly in the ointment here is that with all the potential it has for creating some really exotic builds I can’t help but wonder how much further players could have taken it if only there’d been a co-op mode. Not being able to build a ‘tank’ to cover a friend’s ‘glass cannon’ or a cooperative short/long range team feels like something of a wasted opportunity in my opinion, but in the grand scheme of things that really would have been nothing more than a juicy cherry on top of a an already delicious cake.

What was the other special thing I said Leynos 2 brought to the table? Oh yes, scoring! Playing for score in an action game isn’t anything new or unique, but there’s a special penalty system, time-based multiplier and even dynamic difficulty levels used here that makes for a game as keen to knock you down as it is to encourage you to come back for more.

In fact Leynos 2 is so tough that at first you’ll do well to score anything at all as it takes a while to adjust to a system that not only awards points for making things explode but will also take them from you based on the amount of damage you’ve received. This leads to a great two-tier style system where gamers only interested in playing for survival can use the brilliant automatic health replenishment feature as much as they like, players who start to take an interest in their end-of-mission rank will want to play with more skill and dodge or use a shield to block damage instead of simply absorbing it and waiting for your health to refill.

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Leynos 2 is seven short yet very distinct stages of intense action that really show off just how effortless great 2D was on the Saturn – just watch as the view zooms out to give room for an enormous articulated boss to stroll on in at the end of the first mission, it’s a spectacle that’s rarely been matched, let alone beaten. It’s all go right from the start, with what feels like an endless supply of enemy dropships and flame-throwing tanks trying to turn your assault suit and the rest of the 12th Special Force into scrap metal. It’s certainly not in any danger of being Alien Soldier hard, but it’s definitely in ‘Pay attention or die quickly’ territory.

If you dream of nerding out over tech-specs but would also like to play a solid action game where your gaming skills matter just as much as your equipment – this is the game you need. Unlocking new parts and testing them out in battle is always a pleasure, opening up new strategies as well as an granting obvious reward for your continued efforts. It looks like Masaya may have invented the score attack mech action genre entirely by accident but, like NiGHTS, if you can take the time to get into the right frame of mind you’ll find a game that’s just getting warmed up after you see the credits roll for the first time.

Need a hand understanding the status bar and customisation menus? Try this!