The NES library covered pretty much all genres but conspicuously absent were games starring giant robots. No, Probotector doesn’t count. If you explore the Famicom library you’ll find far more SD Gundam games than should be allowed. I guess I can see the reasoning; with the system’s limitations they wouldn’t be all that big (although Godzilla: Monster of Monsters says otherwise). With the advent of 16-bit that all changed. Dreamwork’s Target Earth was an odd game to see a localization however western gamers received an awesome title as a result. Whether or not they ever finished it is a different story altogether.
Originally titled Assault Suit Leynos in Japan there is an extensive backstory that was sadly edited and altered during localization. 100 years ago an expeditionary group of humans were sent out into space and seemingly forgotten. After an unexplained number of years this group feels rejected and adapt cyborg technology. They dub themselves the Chron in the process. The Chron invade Earth in modern times as an act of revenge and to transform everyone into cyborgs like themselves. To be fair the gist of the plot is the same and only some bits of characterization have been cut. Compared to most action games at the time there’s a good deal of context given for your actions especially considering how short the dialogue exchanges are. That being said it would unfortunately set a trend that would continue with its sequel Cybernator on SNES.
As an Assault Suit pilot your mech equip up to six weapons at once from an overall selection of seventeen. However these options open up depending on your performance during each mission. The default machine gun and its upgraded variant is the only option with unlimited ammo so you’ll have to be conservative with your choices. This is because there are no power-ups dropped in the levels. Most of your options cover the usual suspects such as a spread gun, grenades, bazooka, and laser. However there are a few support items thrown in such as extra armor, shield, and boost pack to jump higher. Your health bar regenerates when left alone; you’ll absolutely have to exploit this to survive. On top of all of your armaments every stage has a number of NPC soldiers and ships that assist you. They die pretty fast when left alone but they really do add to the game’s war like atmosphere.
Each of the 8 levels has a specific mission objective and it is here where the game truly shines. These aren’t simple reach the exit fare but are fairly involved. The first level starts as a simple base defense but midway you must destroy an approaching warship in a limited window of time. Probably the most frustrating but in a weird twist my favorite is stage 3. Here you must destroy another enemy warship except this one is in orbit. You have full freedom of movement and the ship is heavily guarded. Success hinges on making strafing runs and descending to the Earth’s atmosphere to recover where the smaller mechs won’t follow. Even after that is accomplished you still have to make it back to one of the three departing shuttles. I won’t spoil it but needless to say it might not be a good idea to enter right away. This variety is maintained right up to the game’s closing moments but I doubt 90% of players ever knew that.
It is no exaggeration when I say that Target Earth might be one of the most difficult games you will ever play. From the game’s opening moments the enemy attacks are relentless and never let up. The regenerating health mechanic means very little seeing as you will rarely find a safe spot to use it. Because there are no power-ups during a given mission you’ll have to be stingy with special weapon ammo. That completely defeats the purpose of having such a large cache of weapons.
There is some great mission variety here unfortunately the difficulty ruins it. You have one life and two continues to see this monster to its conclusion which, to be frank, is bullshit. With a few lives you could use trial and error to slowly progress. But with the way the game is set up you’ll need perfect execution or its back to the start screen.
Yet even with all of that I still really like this game! Brainless action games were a dime a dozen back then. However the varied levels, blatant Mobile Suit Gundam style atmosphere, and the action in general really help to set Target Earth apart from the rest of its contemporaries. It is so well done in fact that I would recommend using a few game genie codes in order to enjoy the game. How often do you hear someone say that?
Target Earth is a good game that has all the necessary elements to be great. However the crushing difficulty will be off putting to the vast majority of gamers that try to tackle this beast. If the difficulty were toned down this would have been one of the best action games for the Genesis. As it is I can only recommend it if you plan on cheating in order to see all of its content.