Target Earth / Assault Suit Leynos



The Glowing Red Eye of Disappointment



Boba Fett 2099



PUBLISHER: Masaya (JP), DreamWorks (US)


GENRE: Action/shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 03/16/90 – (JP)

                                             06/90 – (US)


Back in the day, any game had the potential to turn into a full-fledged series. To wit: Assault Suit Leynos, otherwise known as Target Earth to US audiences. As was the style at the time, Target Earth was a meaningless title given to trick American gamers into thinking they weren’t playing a Japan-developed game; in other words, there is no Target Earth II. The series continued as Assault Suits Valken or Cybernator on the SNES. After Cybernator, no other ASL games made it to our shores. Assault Suit Leynos II and Assault Suits Valken II emerged in Japan on the Saturn and Playstation respectively in the late ’90s, while both Europe and Japan received an Assault Suits Valken remake on the PS2.


Target Earth (U) [!]001

Lousy outcasts, always gumming up progress.


Why do I bring up such arcane history? Because there is no way this series should have continued. Assault Suit Leynos is a joyless, awkward mech shooter released on the Mega Drive. Not only is the game itself underwhelming, but the platform it was released on wasn’t popular in the slightest in Japan. And yet, somehow, the franchise persevered into the 21st century. Crazier still, a PS4 remake of Assault Suit Leynos was released only a month ago to moderate acclaim. Perhaps there’s more to Target Earth‘s joyless awkwardness than I realize?


Target Earth (U) [!]000

“Only 34 miles to a better game…”


You control a shrunken mech otherwise known as an Assault Suit, and you’re tasked with fighting alien forces and defending Earth. Before each level begins, you’re given your choice of weapons: spread shooters, bomb launchers, machine guns, etc. Your mech has six slots for weapons, and in the early stages, you’ll be able to take all weapons with you and switch between them in the heat of battle. As the game progresses, you’ll obtain more weapons and be forced to decide which ones you’ll take.


Target Earth (U) [!]002

“Check again, doll face.”


Once you’ve selected your weapons, dialogue boxes at the bottom of the screen guide you to your task. These tasks are usually simple: destroy the approaching warship, get to the shuttle, kill enemies for two minutes, etc. It’s keeping yourself alive that’s tricky. While your life bar is relatively long (and can be extended by equipping ARMOR powerups), a cluster of enemies shooting you in unison will destroy you if you don’t take them out quickly.


Target Earth (U) [!]003

Walking on brain meat unnerves the bravest of mech captains.


Target Earth‘s difficulty is unreal. You only have one life and two continues to make it through eight increasingly chaotic outer space scenarios. In true retro game fashion, the game is only balls hard because it’s so short. Once you get a feel for each stage’s layout, you can clear most of them in less than two minutes. That is, if you can endure the unwavering enemy onslaught.


Target Earth (U) [!]005

“Would you guys lay off? I’m trying to destroy your base!”


The game has a couple bits of innovation: a regenerating life bar and player evaluation. The latter is given at the end of each stage and is determined by your score. The more points you get, the more armor and weapons are unlocked for you to use in the next stage. Player evaluation is interesting and would become a crucial Japanese game mechanic in the survival horror genre, but I’m shocked to see a regenerating lifebar in a game released in 1990. Originally made popular in Halo, the regeneration isn’t just a neat quirk: it’s imperative for survival. Unfortunately, bars only go up after a couple seconds of not getting hit, and it’s rare for you to have that kind of peace here.


Target Earth (U) [!]004

Suddenly, Rambo appears!


Surprising innovation aside, Target Earth couldn’t be more mundane. The level design is unvaried (yet another space battle!), your enemies are all bland robots, and your mech, despite being hyped up in the manual as the savior of Earth, is short and weak. The action is intense at times, and it is thrilling to finally fell a boss that killed you dozens of times before, but you can get that sensation from any number of superior platformers and/or shoot-em-ups. God help me, Japan, I just don’t get it.




10 thoughts on “Target Earth / Assault Suit Leynos

  1. I so wanted to like this game. Remember it’s an early title so looked like an amazing premise at the time. But the only way to survive is it to do well on the stages. It goes back to the grading system. If you don’t score extremely well, you can’t get the best gear. And then that makes latter stages essentially impossible. It’s an extremely punishing system. I cussed this game many a time when I rented it. In the YouTube era I’ve seen videos on how to properly play the game and you have to be extremely good. It’s similar to in Gradius that if you die your toast. Except more punishing. If you don’t get on the best upgrade path you can more or less forget getting to level 4. Maybe there is some kind of appeal to such a technical punishing game? Well not for me. I often list this as one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. And I also never could get past level 3. It was just too much.

    But man it was like something out of an anime at the time, big giant space armadas attacking you with large ships with smaller mechs flying out. Too bad it’s so technically demanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “But man it was like something out of an anime at the time, big giant space armadas attacking you with large ships with smaller mechs flying out. Too bad it’s so technically demanding.”

      I could understand the appeal a bit more if the visuals were cool, but I don’t think they’re that impressive, even for the time. Everything is dark and bland, and the character designs are nondescript. Maybe I’m looking at it from contemporary eyes, I don’t know…


      • Pixelated mechs instantly made anything cool back then. I’m thinking, what other games had mechs! Orguss on the Sg-1000. Ok sure, we didn’t get it. Transbot! Ok that was maybe the only cool thing about that game. Uhh phantasy star 2 had some mechs. I’m talking any console now. Metal storm on the NES is like a year or two away! I guess side arms on tG-16 and Section Z on the NES kind of count.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Here is a good play through. It makes it look deceptively easy. But the guy uses a trick to not kill anything else on the first stage and only kill the warship. Gaining him enough points to access all the weapons. If you read the comments there are some other tricks I. The game to max out your points. None of which I knew about. There is actually a lot of cool stuff you do in this game. A lot of varied missions. But I never saw them. You really have to know what your doing. Some people swear by this game. I think the weapon management, and the game not really telling you what weapons do what and ammo limits really screw you. So for me I’d say screw this game. But I guess if you knew what you were doing and spent enough time with trial and error figuring out the best loadour]to and what to kill , you could do well. Maybe it’s somewhat ahead of its time in an era of straight shoot em ups. If you play the game that way you’ll fail.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really liked this game when it first was released as long as you used the cheat code so you cant die. Even now I still enjoy playing it every once in awhile but I think it is mostly nostalgia.

    If I would rate it today I would probable give it a C-.

    Thank you for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved this game as a kid, but I always used Game Genie to play it (bless that wonderful device).

    I’m sure the game isn’t that good if I visit it now, but as a kid, all those little bits of window dressing, like the the little pauses mid-level for dialog, and having allies flying about the screen (although they don’t really doing anything) seemed like the coolest thing ever.

    Liked by 2 people

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