Title: Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy +
Developer: Access Games, Namco Bandai
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
NA Availability: Digital | Retail
EU Availability: Digital | Retail
Block Usage: 5,536
Every time I reach a landmark with the site, I want to use it on a particularly memorable game, or that of a memorable series, to me. Today’s review marks the 350th review I’ve done on the site, and of my review queue games, I chose to do the review on a series I love, Ace Combat.
I’ve done one Ace Combat review before, with Ace Combat: Joint Assault for the PSP and PS Vita. I would’ve done more, but Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception never released on PSN for download on the PS Vita. A shame, as it was one of my favorite PSP games. To return to the series, we look to new handhelds, namely the Nintendo 3DS.
The 3DS got its own Ace Combat game back in 2011 in the form of a remake of Ace Combat 2. Not to make this review on a game too old for this landmark, Namco Bandai released an updated and modified version of the game just last year, in 2015. Unknown to me at the time when I bought it, I got that updated version. So, here is my official review of the Nintendo 3DS title, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy Plus!
The plot of Ace Combat 2 and this remake follows the Osean War, where several nations forge together alliances with two major military forces that are constantly at war with one another, set four years after the events of Ace Combat Zero.
Unlike Joint Assault, this takes place in Ace Combat’s original world structure and as such, doesn’t contain real landmarks, like Tokyo and London. The story is interesting for what it is, but there’s not much in it to really stand out, especially compared to the borderline-science fiction stories we see in Ace Combat X and Joint Assault.
Like all other games of the series and its original version, this is a 3D flying combat game that borderlines on the definition of an aircraft simulator. Each mission has you flying through various environments with the goal of shooting down target aircraft, defending locations, taking out facilities, escorting NPCs, among other things. Most of these, though, has you flying through at high speeds and shooting down enemy aircraft.
Two comparisons are to be made. First, AHL vs Ace Combat 2. Aside from gameplay changes due to this being on the 3DS, the game has a bit more content than the original version of Ace Combat 2. AC2 had 21 story missions and that’s about it. Assault Horizon Legacy has 23 story missions plus 10 extra mission comprised of Extra and Survival Missions. There is also more aircraft, including some from the PS3/Xbox 360 game, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.
Now what’s the difference between Assault Horizon Legacy and Legacy Plus? This update was mostly to make the game compatible with the Circle Pad Pro and the New Nintendo 3DS. It added controls for the Z buttons for alternate sources of acceleration and deceleration. The biggest addition was the ability to use some Amiibos to unlock Nintendo-themed color variations of certain aircraft.
The game proceeds in a linear fashion with unlocking mission after mission, similar to how it works in Joint Assault, but with less choices. When you select a mission, you go into an unlocked aircraft and go into battle, which takes place in a large 3D arena where you and enemy aircraft are placed.
Engaging in enemies is a matter of finding them and firing on them with missile-based weapons and a machine gun weapon. If you’ve played any of the other Ace Combat games, you know how this works. You fly to an enemy and fire on them with a machine gun, or set a ranged weapon and wait for a lock-on to appear on them before firing.
Navigation is mostly the same, but the way you turn is different, since this is based on an older game in the series. The method of tilting your plane vertically to turn is not present. Instead, you can use swift g-force turns by holding down the accelerator and brakes at the same time for high-speed turns. You also build up a gauge on the touch screen that can be used to make a cinematic about-face maneuver to get the jump on enemies directly behind you.
There’s also a Wingman feature that was in Ace Combat 2. Instead of having a ton of near-useless AI fighters going with you, some missions allow you to take a wingman with you to fight alongside you. They won’t be up to your level of fighting, but it’s certainly a nice thing to have, even if for a distraction so not all aircraft go at you at the same time.
This goes on across the 23 story missions and 10 extra missions. A trek through the entire story campaign will likely take you about 4 hours, give or take. It’s quite a bit shorter than more recent games, even with the extra content. This is good because the game isn’t full price anymore, but it’s still a wonder of if you want to buy that short of a game with your money. Joint Assault is still overpriced, but it still has a good 1-2 hours more content, yet fewer story missions than this game.
Controlling the game isn’t too hard, and it is plenty doable both on the old and new models of the 3DS. I tried it on my 2DS as well as the New 3DS XL. The New 3DS’ Controls are basically just being able to use ZL and ZR for Deceleration and Acceleration, just like the normal L and R trigger buttons can do.
Moving your plane around is done with the Circle Pad and the D-Pad is used to switch your missile weapon type. The shoulder buttons are used for, as said above, deceleration and acceleration. A is used for firing Missiles and B is used for the machine gun. X is used to change targets, and Y is used for the about-face turn maneuver.
Also, the touch screen can be used to manually change your aim.
Visually, the game doesn’t look bad, but it’s certainly not as polished as you’d expect. There is some detail in the environments and planes, but there’s a lot more detail in Joint Assault, and that was a PSP game. For the 3DS standards, it is acceptable, but nowhere near as polished as a game like this should be. Why it isn’t is easily explained by how the game performs, which I’m about to get to. Before, though, I will say that the audio and music is really well done, as the series music always is.
So what’s wrong with the performance? The problem is that there’s a lot of lag in the game. Even when there’s as little as three planes on screen, counting you, the game can easily fall into a mess of frame drops and laggy sections. The game clearly struggles with what it’s trying to play, and that’s not a good thing. Even with the lower visuals, it doesn’t perform very well in some missions.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy Plus is a fun way for 3DS fans to experience the Ace Combat series. It’s not all fun and perfection, though, with a degraded visual presentation, a story mode that isn’t very interesting, a short experience, and a lot of frame drops in simple missions.