Author Topic: Assault Suits Valken Declassified (Switch) Review  (Read 444 times)

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Offline riskman64

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Assault Suits Valken Declassified (Switch) Review
« on: March 30, 2023, 09:51:09 AM »

A 2D run-and-gun featuring janky mecha, a harrowing difficulty, and a bevy of bonus materials.

Brought to North America on the SNES as Cybernator, Assault Suits Valken is a 2D action game that offers a punishing challenge across its seven stages. As pilot Jake Brain, you’re at the center of a war over the miniscule supply of resources left on Earth. In a Federation Assault Suit, you’ll run, jump, float, and shoot your way through enemy mecha, tanks, and vehicles intent on your destruction. The Declassified edition on Switch adds plenty of extra bonus materials that detail the history of the game and its inception, but the addition of features like save states don’t stop the game from feeling dated.

Every stage begins with a wall of text describing the current state of the war between the Axis and the Federation. As you play each level, dialogue boxes pop up regularly to add flavor text mid-mission, but because gameplay stops during these exchanges, they end up becoming more of a hindrance to the pacing than an interesting interjection. The end-stage bosses provide a stiff challenge, but reaching them with enough health left in your tank proves to be the greater feat. It’s possible to fail certain missions by not completing timed objectives, and this ultimately leads to the game’s bad ending; one such example involves destroying a series of engines within two minutes, but inexplicably there’s no on-screen timer for the objective.

While you start out with a standard vulcan cannon (machine gun) and a punch, you can collect a few different weapons by finding them at specific points in some of the levels. The missile weapon arms you with heat-seeking rockets, and the laser provides a powerful, straight-shooting beam that works well against large targets. Your weapons can also be upgraded to bolster their firepower once you’ve collected enough P items. At all times, controlling the Assault Suit feels pretty janky, especially when it comes to jumping, turning, and aiming your gun; you can lock your direction of fire, but doing so requires some demanding manual dexterity.

Given that it was also published by Konami and features similar looking mecha, comparing 1995’s Metal Warriors to Assault Suits Valken seems a fair practice. The three years between their releases were much kinder to Metal Warriors, though, as its controls and gameplay are arguably superior. While Assault Suits Valken should be lauded for its combination of side-scrolling shoot-’em-up style levels and more traditional free-roaming action, there’s no denying the frustration of trying to finish its enemy-laden stages on but three credits. Again, save states are helpful here, but the omission of a rewind function is a curious one.

What’s undeniably impressive about the Declassified version is the absolute bounty of bonus materials outside of the main game. These include: a translation of the game’s 80-page Japanese guidebook, an interview with Satoshi Nakai on the mecha design, new artwork from the game’s character designer Satoshi Urusihihara, and a recording of the full game and good ending, among other things. I love to see extras such as these that really flesh out the creative process of game design and help to preserve, like a time capsule, the moment in game history when Assault Suits Valken was born.

Assault Suits Valken Declassified is a love letter to a series that wasn’t as represented in the West as it was in Japan. This 2023 re-release adds a lot of fascinating bonus materials that are sure to excite fans, but the main game itself is a tough one to recommend given its difficulty and awkward controls. That said, I’m all for revivals of titles from the 2000s, ‘90s, and earlier, and therefore very supportive of the work done by M2 and Rainmaker Productions on Assault Suits Valken Declassified.