Legacy’s storyline reportedly connects to other games in the series, but as a standalone it is also fairly straightforward. Taking control of the head of Scarface Squadron, codenamed Phoenix, you’re tasked on behalf of the Allied Forces to take on missions that would weaken and ultimately release the grip of rebels on the country of Usea. Each mission is briefed before and after with explanations on what you’re tasked to do and how it will affect the standoff between the two opposing sides in the fight. The story development is also urged along with some excellent voice acting, not only from your commanding officer Keynote, who keeps up a regular channel of advice during your flights, but those of allies and enemies too.
Though levels ultimately boil down to ‘find enemy and blow the heck out of them’, the game uses varying scenarios and locations to keep things interesting and fun. They range from guiding your craft through a narrow valley to sink an enemy sub, to chasing down a rogue missile, to taking out defence turrets to reach key building, and even facing rival enemy squadrons. Backdrops often take place over islands situated in the sea, but many go over inhabited land and urban areas.
Not many games manage to balance on the tightrope of realism and fun, often tipping to one side more than the other for varying results, but here is a game that has managed it to an extent. Ace Combat manages to be an effective flight simulator game, in that the aircraft maintain a realistic sense of movement and collision reaction, and not to a surreal degree as in a game like Star Fox. It also doesn’t overcomplicate things, like putting complex axis and pitch controls on the touch-screen for example, instead leaving the tried and true methods of button and stick control for player movement, which accumulates into an arcade-like feeling. The lock-on feature of your missile weapon and helpful target reticule add to this.
That isn’t to say that control is perfect however. The Circle Pad on its own does a respectable job of manoeuvring your chosen aircraft, but can’t fully replicate all the 360 degree freedom a plane would have, and the touch-screen is largely forgotten as an input device. There are two choices for button mapping, and each of them deals with one forgotten movement aspect like tilting or turning, but not both in one scheme. Legacy provides a helpful tutorial during your first mission, so players won’t ever be lost on what to do. Control is largely solid and functional, and rarely will it be the cause of the player crashing and burning, but it doesn’t offer the range of freedom a flight simulation like this one truly needs. Assault Horizon Legacy is reported to support the Circle Pad Pro accessory, so check back with Cubed3 soon for an update on how well it works.
Legacy largely ignores the touch and gyro aspects of the 3DS, instead preferring to focus on the digital input and the top screen’s main trick. The bottom screen keeps track of your radar, your current time, and the number of primary and secondary special missiles you have left at your disposal, but up top is where the good stuff happens. Simply put, here is a game where the 3D truly shines and is truly an aid to gameplay with measuring distance, instead of just being a graphical enhancement. The scope of the world around your plane will amaze the first time you adjust that right-hand slider, and it only gets better in later levels.
The game offers three viewpoints, of which the cockpit view is easily the most impressive, with the regular third person ‘behind-the-plane’ view and the HUD view (essentially first person) not far behind. Legacy’s developer Project Aces has fully capitalised on the 3D effect with multiple ways of showing it off, like full replays of each mission that you have completed and a range of viewpoints to watch them at. Staying on an enemy’s tail long enough initiates a possible flashy sneak attack to get behind them and let loose, further adding to the show-off nature of the game.
Like the 3D effect, Legacy’s music is also a standout feature, providing a surprisingly excellent mix of dramatic and compelling symphonies to surround the levels with. Project Aces have given a nod to some of the older games in the series by including a few standout music pieces from them, but nearly all of the 30 tracks are original, with most deviating between hard rock, electronic, and orchestral for a varied range. The aforementioned voice acting is well done, and rarely gets in the way of the song being played. It isn’t very often that the separate music player section of a game becomes one of the most essential unlockables.
Legacy is primarily a single player endeavour, so sadly you won’t be duking it out online with friends, but what the game lacks in community skills it makes up for in solo accolades. The main campaign is no slouch in the longevity department, providing over 25 fairly lengthy missions with a branching pathway letting you select which of two undertakings you want to try, thereby encouraging repeat play to see everything. Completion of these missions nets you reward money to spend on new aircraft and weapons with varying statistics, handling and parts, with your grade opening up extras in the separate challenge mode. This mode offers the players a chance to replay missions they may have enjoyed and want to play again, or take on more advanced assignments with scoreboard rankings as the reward. Add up to four difficulty levels on top of all this, and you have a game that will keep any budding pilot content for a long while.