Assault Suits Valken Declassified Review
Assault Suits Valken Declassified is a remaster of Assault Suits Valken, which was released for the Super Famicom in Japan in 1992. North America got the game in 1993 as Cybernator on the Super Nintendo. Its actually the sequel to Assault Suit Leynos, which was a Sega Genesis title, released in North America as Target Earth in 1990. Assault Suit Leynos has been available on PS4 since 2016, and it’s taken almost 7 years for its more beloved sequel to follow on the Switch.
Assault Suit is a series of run and gun games developed by Masaya. Many think of Cybernator as a Konami game, but they were just the North American publisher. Masaya is mostly known for their Langrisser tactical JRPGs, and their shoot ‘em ups Gleylancer and Gynoug. The common thread of these games is that they all have an emphasis on story and artwork. The games feature more text and story elements than other games in their respective genres, and Assault Suits Valken is no exception. There’s a ton of lore surrounding these games as well, which was supplemented by print material we didn’t get. Many of the in-game story elements were reduced, when Assault Suits Valken was released as Cybernator. Assault Suits Valken Declassified is a very successful attempt to offer the game as it was intended to North American audiences.
Unique 2D Run and Gun
The run and gun gameplay in Assault Suits Valken Declassified is very unique. The player controls a mech, and the game does a great job of allowing the player to feel the weight and physics of it. The mech walks slowly, but can dash forward quickly. It needs to charge a bit before dashing, and takes a bit to slow down before stopping. It has a jetpack assisted jump, for a little extra hover and height, but it’s not springing around like Mario or anything. The mech’s weight starts to pull it out of its hover. Its momentum prevents it from stopping on a dime. This might feel slippery to some expecting precision platforming, but it’s a surprisingly interesting game element.
Assault Suits Valken was developed at a time when it wasn’t a given that developers should normalize game controls. The expected buttons jump and shoot, but jumping and shooting don’t feel the same as they do in similar titles, like Contra. If the player aims the gun up, the gun doesn’t automatically get pulled back into a forward position. This isn’t a problem, but it takes some getting used to. Players familiar with modern 2D run and gun titles, will definitely have to put some of their gameplay assumptions in check. Also, because of Assault Suits Valken Declassified’s narrative focus, the action can halt for longer periods than one might think. Text conversations appear while playing, and gameplay might pause mid jump for a conversation. Some will hate this. Players who enjoy rare narrative-heavy side scrollers like Valis, or Popful Mail are in for a real treat though.
Varied Level Design
The game’s level design has some great variation. Some sections are quite open, and take advantage of the mech’s hover controls. Other sections are quite linear. There are some sections where the game becomes a horizontal shmup. And some of the bosses feel more like shoot em up bosses than run and gun bosses. There are 7 levels, which theoretically only take about an hour to beat, but the game’s difficulty provides an old school challenge. Assault Suits Valken won’t be beaten on a first try. The 2D pixel aesthetic and world design have also aged incredibly well over time.
The “Declassified” subtitle in Assaults Suits Valken Declassified refers to the game being presented as it was originally intended. Lots of Japanese videogames were censored, and altered to be more appealing to North American audiences in the early 90s. Assault Suits Valken has a new translation, and features all of the story content cut from Cybernator. This remastered release also has a remixed soundtrack, an unlimited continue option, save states, control change options, optional gun settings, and a Japanese language option.
Translated Japanese Literature
Assault Suits Valken Declassified has lots of extras, in addition to its remastering. There’s an image gallery that features pre-production art, the Super Famicom manual, an 82 page official guidebook, and a CD booklet. Although the booklets are all the original Japanese materials, they are translated into English. The guidebook is a real treat, and feels like an old Nintendo Power magazine, with a walkthrough, tips, expanded game lore, etc. There’s also a 17 song music player with the original and remixed soundtracks. The movie gallery has an interview with Satoshi Nakai, the game’s graphics designer, who also did the concept art. This was a real treat, and was more like a fully produced documentary about the game, than a talking head interview. The movie gallery also has a game playthrough players can watch.
For some reason, Assault Suits Valken Declassified, isn’t available in Canada. As a Canada-based reviewer, I had to change the region of my Nintendo Switch account to United States, which was suggested by the publisher. After downloading the game, I changed my region back to Canada, and was able to redownload the game as I pleased. But it’s worth noting that any Canadian Switch owners will have to go through this bizarre process. Most devices see the United States and Canada as the same region, and this was definitely the first current gen game I’ve seen without Canadian availability.
Essential for All Cybernator Fans
Assault Suits Valken Declassified is an incredible remaster. Having all the cut material with a new translation is going to be a dream come true for some. The translated guide book, and making of documentary are incredible extras. The game itself won’t be for everyone. It’s a 2D side scrolling run and gun, with a unique feel. Because it plays so differently, it’s a niche offering in an already niche genre. But any Cybernator fan, or anyone remotely curious should know this remaster goes above and beyond expectations.
***Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher***
- New translation with all story elements restored
- Bonus guidebook and documentary
- Impressive mech physics
- Short length
- Unique controls take getting used to
- Lots of dialogue