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Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Nintendo console loyalists could be forgiven for not being familiar with the Ace Combat brand. A series of flight-and-action arcade flight games from Namco Bandai, Ace Combat took off on the original PlayStation, and since then has graced roughly every games console brand not under the umbrella of the big N, a Game Boy Advance entry aside. The Wii’s motion sensing ability persuaded many fans that developers would bring top-name flight games to the machine, but aside from a few lesser efforts and mini-game collections it didn’t really happen. It’s fitting then that a handheld that could give even more of a boost to the air style of gameplay is being graced with only the second Ace Combat to appear on a Nintendo machine, and the first presented in three dimensions. Ultimately the question is, does Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy nosedive into a cocoon of flames, or burst through lines of criticism in a blaze of glory?

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.

Screenshot for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

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.

Screenshot for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

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.

Screenshot for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

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.

Screenshot for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy on Nintendo 3DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

A good variety of control and display options coupled with responsive and accurate tactile feedback ensure players can get to grips with things rapidly. Dogfights and scenarios become intense in no time at all, even without the full input sensation of flight.

Graphics

Respectable visuals with a reliable, if not infallible, framerate, greatly boosted by the 3D ability. Mission briefing menus and areas outside missions seem rather bland and lifeless, but mission locales themselves serve the backdrop requirement well.

Sound

A superb array of tracks accompany the levels; some familiar to franchise fans and some new, but all with top quality delivery. Voice acting is used sparingly, but effectively.

Value

Strictly for solo pilots only, but Project Aces have added in a fair bit to accompany a good-sized campaign; challenges, leaderboards, purchasable aircraft and parts, and a gallery depicting the design and history of the planes.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

With Project Aces’ first foray onto the 3DS comes a build that, despite a few engine hiccups, manages to provide more than its fair share of entertainment value, albeit as a sole skycrawler instead of a squadron force. The 3D effect complements the game wonderfully, as do the accompanying themes, and these together with the extra modes on offer ensure this one won’t rocket out of your 3DS for some time.

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03.01.2012

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Developer

Project Aces

Publisher

Namco Bandai

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

This game is stupidly difficult to find at retail here in the US. Most places didn't receive a single shipment of the game (even now). The rest received only one small shipment that sold out on launch day, and they haven't gotten anymore since. You gotta go online to get it.

...freak'n Namco... Smilie

Chance favors the prepared mind.
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Same here in Europe, which is crazy since those that have played it say it's mile better than the PS360 version.

I also heard this is like a remake of Ace Combat 2 - is that right?

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
mustangfreak (guest) 04.01.2012 00:04#3

Took out Mario Kart and plugged this in. I haven't taken it out since. Great game!

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

The situation with this game in the US, being hard to find at retail, seems to be the same as with Tales of the Abyss in Europe. What's wrong with Namco ?

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Staff Member

jesusraz said:
Same here in Europe, which is crazy since those that have played it say it's mile better than the PS360 version.

Dunno about that, I've seen shitloads of copies in GAME for fifteen quid. Abyss is definitely criminally rare though.

jesusraz said:
I also heard this is like a remake of Ace Combat 2 - is that right?

Apparently so from what I've read, but since I've never played that game I judged this on its own merits, and its a damn good game which I highly recommend. Made me more eager to try Starfox 64 in 3D that's for certain. ^^

( Edited 04.01.2012 09:07 by Phoenixus )


Yeah, I hear Assault Horizon Legacy is a sort of remake of Ace Combat 2. And it's quite stellar. I want!

Now, if only LucasArts would get off their arse and put the Rogue Squadron series on 3DS...

Kafei2006 said:
The situation with this game in the US, being hard to find at retail, seems to be the same as with Tales of the Abyss in Europe. What's wrong with Namco ?

Hopefully, it's not so they can say, "Well one of our greatest franchises didn't sell very well on 3DS, so we're cutting support for it." That kind of crap happened all the time with 3rd parties and GameCube. It still pisses me off.

( Edited 07.01.2012 01:57 by MechaG2 )

Chance favors the prepared mind.

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