Genre: Action Developer: Masaya Publisher: Dreamworks Players: 1 Released: 1990
Mechs. Big, hulking behemoths of metal, armed to the teeth with enough weaponry to level a small city (unless you’re Metal Gear, then big cities are more appetizing). America has long had a love affair with these giant war machines, stemming from the days of Mazinger. One of the first games to do them justice was Dreamwork’s Target Earth– known as Assault Suits Leynos in Japan- and it has sired a franchise that has appeared on multiple systems over the years.
Target Earth brings together all the qualities needed for a thrilling, frantic sci-fi adventure. Centered around a group of outcasts that have returned from the fringes of space to conquer the Earth, the game takes you through eight stages of pure combat and adrenaline. If you’re thinking that’s not a lot, be warned that each stage is quite long and damn hard. I’m not talking about Contra-memorize-the-pattern-to-dominate hard; I mean brutal, tear-jerking difficulty. Chances are that you won’t make it halfway through the first stage on your first half dozen attempts. That’s not to say that the game is impossible, and with a little patience and strategy, it can be beaten.
The sheer diversity of the missions keeps the game from ever getting stale, and the environments are both colorful and highly detailed. Defend outposts, participate in a full-blown orbital assault, or penetrate a planet’s atmosphere to take out one of the outcast’s bases. There’s plenty of variety, and the scenery looks great, with no slowdown and little flicker.
Even with its high difficulty level, Target Earth never gives you reason to put it down. You have seventeen different weapons at your disposal, and you’ll have ample opportunity to test them all out. Shields and armor can be installed and upgraded (you choose all your equipment before each level), and the jet pack rounds out your utter badness. The fact that most of the stages are several screens high makes this all the more fun, and you’ll be tempted to explore and test out your new toys. The better you do in each stage, the more armament you’ll have for the next mission. Rain explosive death from above and watch the outcasts be driven before you! Within a few minutes, you’ll practically hear the lamentation of the women.
Through it all, the top notch presentation carries you through each battle in style, from the initial assault of the outcasts on your Ganymede defense station, to the explosive retaking of a shattered space colony. There’s plenty of chatter between characters during missions, and the soundtrack is simply amazing. Top it off with one of the best endings of the 16-bit eras, and you simply cannot go wrong here.
Even with Assault Suits Leynos 2 on the Saturn and Cybernator on the SNES, I still find myself coming back to the one that started it all. I was excited at first when Assault Suits Valken 2 was announced, but the revelation that it was a strategy game took the wind out of my sails. I like my mech games to be action-oriented, and that’s probably why Target Earth is still so darn much fun.
If you’re in the mood for some all-out combat between armies of huge, metal machines of death, Target Earth is definitely the way to go. The high level of challenge takes some getting used to, but once you’ve established yourself, the outcasts won’t stand a chance.
SCORE: 8 out of 10