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

By Shane Jury 06.03.2015

Review for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ on Nintendo 3DS

Throughout the long and illustrious history of Nintendo handhelds, there has been one constant element in each line's reign: that of the hardware upgrades, done to boost sales with renewed interest and open up new possibilities with game design. This process began with the Game Boy Color, it being the machine to bring a dosage of the colour spectrum to portable Nintendo fans and also bring a hefty processor boost to the limited number of exclusive games for the revision. The Game Boy Advance's short shelf life didn't allow for an upgrade but did result in the most portable gaming device of all time with the Game Boy micro. Next up to complement the DS line was the DSi, packing not only bigger screens and more juice under the hood, but a whole new Operating System and cameras to boot. Now there is the New Nintendo 3DS and 3DS XL, once again with stronger innards, but also eye-tracking for the 3D effect, the Circle Pad Pro accessory built in, and even an amiibo reader. Naturally, with a system upgrade comes software to take advantage of it, and Bandai Namco has stepped up with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+, an upgraded take on the title of the same name from two years ago. Does this craft put on a glorious show for Nintendo's new hardware or is it again a swandive away from obscurity?

Ace Combat Assault: Horizon Legacy+'s storyline remains the same as the original version, and for fans of the series it does connect to other titles in the series, but as a solitary experience it is also fairly straightforward. Sitting in the cockpit as head of Scarface Squadron, the player is tasked on behalf of the Allied Forces to take on missions that would weaken and ultimately release the grip of a Rebellion faction on the country of Usea. Each mission is briefed before and after with explanations on what the main task is 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 the commanding officer Keynote, who will keep up a regular channel of advice during each flight, but those of allies and enemies, too, adding some personality to what would otherwise be just pure dog-fighting.

Although levels ultimately boil down to said dog-fighting, the game uses varying scenarios and locations to keep things interesting and fun. They range from guiding the craft through a narrow valley to sink an enemy sub, to chasing down a rogue missile with seconds to spare before it reaches civilisation, to taking out defence turrets to reach key buildings, and even facing rival enemy squadrons. Backdrops vary between islands situated in the sea, to going over inhabited lands and urban areas.

Screenshot for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ on Nintendo 3DS

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ manages to be an effective flight simulator game, in that the aircraft maintain a realistic sense of movement and collision reactions, and not to a surreal degree of barrel rolls and twitch movement as in a game like Star Fox. That isn't to say there's dozens of switches and controls to learn like in more dedicated simulators as the game prioritises easy access and play, by putting complex axis and pitch controls on the touch screen, for example, and 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 the missile weapon and helpful target reticule add to this, plus a helpful tutorial during the first mission.

The actual control input does, however, have its downsides, and this is where Bandai Namco missed a trick with the New Nintendo 3DS. In the original version, aircraft manoeuvring was dedicated to the Circle Pad, but as simple and fluent as it was, it could not truly replicate the full 360 degree freedom that other flight games have nailed. The C-nub on the New Nintendo 3DS would have helped this immensely, but the team has left it to take over the Circle Pad Pro's function in the original Japanese version of the game, by simply allowing the player to pan the camera around their ship instead of moving it directly. 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, which a second nub could have allowed for. Even the ZL and ZR triggers feel like an afterthought, with each mimicking the function of their neighbour.

Screenshot for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ on Nintendo 3DS

The game somewhat glazes over the touch and gyro aspects of the 3DS, instead preferring to focus on the button input and the top screen's field of view. The bottom screen keeps track of the radar, current time, and the number of primary and secondary special missiles there is left at the player's disposal, but up top is where the action occurs. Although there has not been a notable frame-rate or visual upgrade with this version on the newer hardware, flicking the 3D switch upward on a New 3DS will quickly tell players why this game was chosen as one of the games to show off the Super Stable 3D effect. Even just cruising over the ocean will impress many a sceptic, but when in aircraft fights and pulling off manoeuvres amidst explosions and ricocheting bullets, the 3D is fully justified.

The game offers the choice of three viewpoints, of which the cockpit view is easily the most impressive, with the regular third person 'behind-the-plane' view and the HUD/first person view not far behind. Developer Project Aces has fully capitalised on the 3D effect with multiple ways of showing it off, like full replays of each mission that have been completed and a range of perspectives 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

Like the 3D effect, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon 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 has 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 but it does so here, and becomes even more special coming out of the improved New 3DS speakers…

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ is primarily a single player endeavour, so sadly the game lacks an online component, 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 either, providing over 25 fairly lengthy missions with multiple branching pathways letting gamers select which of two undertakings they want to try, thereby encouraging repeat play to see everything.

The newly added amiibo function unlocks special skins for the fighters, depending on the figure that was scanned in, and special Question Mark boxes hidden in the stages will unlock them the old fashioned way as well. Mission completion nets reward money to spend on new aircraft and weapons with varying statistics, handling and parts, and the resulting Grade Boost opens up extras in the separate challenge mode that offers increased challenge on previous missions and a scoreboard to note totals. The original game flew under the radar in regards to acclaim, but with the backing of new hardware, this version should generate many new fans for the series, even if the end product isn't much of an upgrade from a software perspective.

Screenshot for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Although this version of the game changes very little and only really adds in a bit of Nintendo fan service, the quality of the original still shines though in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+. A true example of how the 3D effect can enhance games, with both a compelling narrative and gameplay structure, and plenty of reason to take back to the skies after finishing.

Developer

Project Aces

Publisher

Bandai Namco

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   

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