[As we wind down production of the ezine we now begin to publish our articles online. If you’ve followed the ezine during the past year then you will be aware of our Retro Respect feature where we pay respect to the forgotten classics, the misunderstood and the underdogs. This time it’s time for some Assault Suits Valken respect on the Super Famicom.]

Presented by Run Tings

In the future, Earth’s natural resources have begun to dwindle. A massive war rages all over the Earth for control of fossil fuels, as well as for territorial rights on the Moon. The two warring governments, the Axis and Federation, have the ability to go into space and create giant space stations and weapons of mass destruction. The Federation assign “Jake” and his team of expert Assault Suit pilots from the United Pacific States Marine Corp to foil the Axis plans for domination.

Known as Cybernator when released in the Western world, Assault Suits Valken was released in 1992 on the Super Famicom, and is the prequel (in story) to the Mega Drive game Assault Suit Leynos (a.k.a. Target Earth). The series was a great success in Japan but in the west it failed to gain mass appeal.

In Assault Suits Valken, you operate a 50ft tall robot with a plethora of weapons such as laser cannon, flamethrower, missile launcher, and a trusty shield thrown in for good measure. The robot’s abilities are excellent, very quick, agile, and great booster function for high/long jumps when needed — thanks! The shield is a vital function for the robot as you can prevent damage from enemy attacks at all angles enabling you to plan on your next move. Your robot also has the ability to power slide, which can be very useful in times of extreme attacks for that quick getaway. Your robot has a lot of features so in due time after some practice you will get used to the controls, the controls are fantastic and respond very well during the action.

There are a total of seven levels, some can be more difficult than others — for example, level one is the easiest as it sets the bar for the player but level two and upwards gradually increases in difficulty. The bosses look amazing, have fantastic sprites, great animation, and some are very tough to defeat and requires skill and patience. The graphics in Assault Suits Valken are excellent and show great attention to detail, especially in the backdrops. The sound and music — which was even later released onto CD in Japan — really do justice for the game, adding to the enjoyment.

This is certainly the best port as the officially released SNES version in the West, Cybernator, suffers from censorship and changes, for instance, a suicide seen on the end level is cut. The Super Famicom version features dialogue accompanied by an anime portrait of the speaker, but these portraits were later removed on the SNES version. The ending differs on both versions as well. So, if you are interested in purchasing the game then you really need to get hold of the Super Famicom version and experience the game in its whole entirety. If you like Japanese Anime then you will appreciate the box art and manual as the artwork was done by Satoshi Urushihara, a renowned hentai artist in Japan.

This is an all round excellent game and Konami knew its potential hence their reason for acquiring the rights from Masaya to publish it onto the US market under their banner. I thought nothing could come close to my favourite action shooter Contra Spirits, but I have to admit that Assault Suits Valken is in the same league, but even more challenging. Having a robot makes a real change from the standard protagonist character with a gun, and gives depth into the game, but above all, it’s different and a break from the norm. It could be argued that the game would have been a lot better if the dialogue between the characters had been removed, as it does feel like it alters the flow of the action when it stops the gameplay. This is a minor thing as the dialogue does give the game a Manga feel. Anyway, Assault Suits Valken is a fantastic game and a classic Super Famicom shooter from the golden era — worthy of a “Top Shelf” title, totally recommended. Come on, you get to control a robot!

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