Michael Leparc On December 16, 2011 at 11:20 am

Ace Combat Horizon Legacy 3DS ScreenshotAce Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy shares most of its name with its current console sibling, but actually little else. That’s actually not a slight towards the game, but somewhat of a compliment. The word “Legacy” at the end means exactly what it implies. Instead of chasing the audience of Modern Warfare, the 3DS version sticks to Ace Combat’s fictional roots. The result is a no-nonsense arcade flight sim with a pure focus on the dogfighting. Unfortunately this also leaves the title lacking a bit of depth.

When I say no-nonsense, I mean no-nonsense. Assault Horizon Legacy doesn’t suffer the pretense of a serious plot here. You’ve got your rebel forces and your established government squaring off after a potential peace treaty falls apart because of a sudden military coup. Political explanations? None. It is simply taken for granted that the rebels are the bad guys in all this, and you’ll be doing everyone a favor by liberating them from their grip. As Phoenix, together with Scarface Squadron, it’s your job to utterly demoralize the rebels by foiling every one of their devious little plots, while shooting down all of their arrogant ace pilots. There’s some minor intrigue with a mysterious red jet that keeps reappearing more powerful than the last time, but other than that there’s nothing worth pondering about once the briefings are over.

Once the talking is out of the way, you get to choose your jet. Only jets. No helicopters or bombers need apply here, fortunately. Each one is rated for speed, maneuverability, stability, defense (how many hits it can take), and air and ground attack capabilities. While the setting is completely fictional, the planes are real. You’ve got F-16s, F/A-18s, Mirages, MiGs, and even the experimental Grumman X-29 with its forward swept wings. As you advance through the missions you gain XP which can be spent unlocking new planes and upgrades which can tweak each one of the rated traits, as well as on new paint schemes. If you are allowed to bring a wingman you get to select which one to take, the only difference being whether the AI supports you or tries to attack targets on its own, really.

Controlling things once you’re in the air is quite natural and familiar. The L and R buttons control your speed, braking and accelerating, respectively. Holding both allows you to make a sharper turn, but risks stalling if you over do it. X button cycles your targeting, B fires your guns, and A deploys your missiles. Each plane comes with standard mid range seeking missiles and a specialty weapon of your choice, the former of which comes in ample supply while the latter is typically limited to 8 or 10 shots of mostly longer range weapons and guided bombs. You switch between these using left and right on the D-pad, while up and down control your radar range. All of that is handled on the bottom screen of the 3DS.

Finally you have the Y button, which is basically what you press to win, for it executes all the fancy maneuvers. When you want to get in right behind an enemy jet, just target it and keep within range and pointed in the right direction, when the maneuver gauge in the lower right fills up either halfway or all the way, you can press Y to close in after a brief cutscene. This allows you to unload with either your guns and missiles without worrying too much about missing. The more you fill the gauge the closer you get to your target when you hit Y. The other key function of the Y button is to evade enemy missiles. When an enemy gets a lock on you, a warning flashes on the screen. After they fire a missile, you will get an indicator of which direction you need to evade in. At this point you need to push left or right on the circle pad along with the Y button in order to execute the evasive maneuver in time, or take a big hit to your health. This part sounds easy, but it can get difficult to respond in time in the latter stages where you face a squadron of aces, all getting missile locks on you while you’re trying to bring down someone else.

All in all though, the game isn’t too difficult, at least on Normal. I got through the game with only a few retries and handful of hours. Your performance is graded and there are branching missions so there’s a little bit of replay value in that, along with the unlocks. There’s also a challenge mode where you can redo certain scenarios as well as try new ones. Conspicuously missing is a multiplayer option, however, which is an inexplicable shame and would have given the game a lot more life. Perhaps they couldn’t figure out how to balance it with possible overuse of the Y button. Hopefully a sequel will provide this feature.
Graphically the game is fairly appealing. Since there’s not a lot on the screen most of the time, the planes can afford to be a bit more detailed. The 3D effect isn’t too pronounced and besides looking at your own plane in 3rd person, is most noticeable in the HUD and between missions, since your enemies are normally too far away in the horizon for perspective to matter. The portions where you have to fly closer to the ground do a better job of showing off, though the texturing and modeling below are not as gorgeous as your plane.

The sound does a good job of immersing you as far as the flight goes, with the roar of jet engines and missiles zooming by your ears as you struggle to orient yourself among a horde of foes. The explosions come off a bit lackluster, however. The game employs voice acting for briefings and during missions as your partners make quips and enemies try to intimidate you, and it’s all quite passable if not spectacular. The music unfortunately fares a little worse and doesn’t stand out at all.

If you’re looking for space/flight shooter on your 3DS that is not Starfox 64 3D, you could do worse than Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (if there is an option out there yet). Heck, if you’re looking for anything good that’s not from Nintendo, this is probably one of the better third party titles available right now, period. And if you’re missing the classic Ace Combat experience after being disappointed by the console offering, then this game is for you. But don’t expect a fully fleshed out triple AAA offering here, this game is just here to satisfy your single player dogfighting urges, nothing more.


Gets the basics right, even if the Y button seems to do all the work. Lack of multiplayer a disappointment. Some replay value at least.


The jets are pretty up close, and so is some of the scenery from a distance. Not the best showcase of the 3D effect, through no fault of its own really.


Nothing offensive to the ears, but some of the effects could use work and it’s lacking the epic score of its console brothers.


A solid game that fulfills its offer at face value, but isn’t as deep as it could have been.

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