Inside Pulse 12

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

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Project Aces
Genre: Combat Flight Simulator
Release Date: 02/10/2015

Confession time: I’ve never actually played an Ace Combat game before. Shocking, right? That said, I did partake in the Wii release of The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces (also from Project Aces), which I never did finish. Wow, this isn’t looking good so far, is it? But hey, new 3DS hardware combined with not having to use the Wii remote could lead to some good things, so let’s see how the latest Ace Combat game treats a newcomer!

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ wastes no time in throwing you into the thick of the action. There is a bit of plot here conveyed to you via short mission briefings, but they’re merely window dressing to the action that takes place. A retelling of Ace Combat 2‘s story, you are part of a squadron known shorthand as Scarface, tasked with putting down a rebellion that threatens the stability of the Usean government. You will quickly forget these details (as I did) and will instead resolve to blow up whatever it is you are told by your commanding officer.

The first few missions serve as a tutorial of sorts to get players acclimated to the flight controls. It does its job well, instructing in how to do a few basic things at first and slowly introducing new mechanics with each battle that follows. And even when the lessons stop, you will be exposed to hazards such as high altitude battles and destroying supply drops before they reach the ground, so as to keep the mission structure fresh. While I wasn’t terribly floored by the whole experience, I was impressed by the variety they managed to work in.

If you happen to own a New 3DS XL, this game takes advantage of the added functionality. If you stick with the default setup, the left analog controls the pitch and rotation of your jet and the face buttons fire your various weapons. The directional pad alternates between the weapons in your payload and the shoulder buttons will either speed you up or slow you down. The New system has additional shoulder buttons, though their functions are identical to the ones next to it, so they’ll likely go unused (unless you somehow find them to be in a more opportune position than I did). The right thumbstick/nub will move the camera so you can see on all sides of the jet, which is slightly more useful though not entirely groundbreaking.

I didn’t think I’d be comfortable playing a game of this style on my 3DS, but the controls handled admirably. Locking onto distant threats was automated and only required to fire when prompted and I found it none too difficult to give chase to nearby jets and gun them down with machine gun fire. Everything from turning to managing my speed could be done with ease. If a foe was close enough to me and the respective gauge filled up, I could initiate a sort of quick time action with the Y button that would circle my jet around and put me in prime position to blow them out of the sky. In that respect, it might almost be too easy to control to those who are looking for a more simulation feel than arcade.

As you complete missions, new jets and parts are unlocked to be swapped in as needed. Each jet has a base set of stats ranging from speed and mobility to defense and stability. These can be tweaked slightly by adding new wings or engine. Some will have to be purchased with funds earned from finished missions, though earning new toys isn’t the only benefit. You have companions that can sometimes be taken to combat with you to act as added firepower or support. A selection of items that you buy can be utilized by your comrades in order to balance out your current setup. The paint job is alterable too if you feel the need to match!

Each mission concludes with a replay mode so you can see what went down from various angles, plus you be treated to a simplified model of everything that took place. These replays can then be saved and viewed at any time if you played a particularly impressive run or if you want to look at possible ways to improve. Profiles of characters encountered, as well as medals (achievements) earned can be admired from this same menu.

Challenge Mode unlocks partway through the story, granting access to extra missions as well as challenge missions that put the player in a scenario where their actions are timed and only by destroying enemies does that time get extended. Any mission completed in Story Mode can be replayed from here, and each mission comes complete with alterable difficulty if you need more things to do. There’s a solid amount of content here if you don’t mind replaying some missions, though I’m sure some players will be miffed at the lack of a multiplayer mode.

Another feature that was added to Legacy+ was amiibo functionality. I’m one of those folks that is crazy enough to go after these things, so any excuse to use them is a welcome one. Ace Combat supplies you with new jets and parts for each one that you use, enabling access to new sets of wings modeled after Mario, Zelda and even Captain Falcon. It’s certainly not worth hunting these down just to use, but if you already have them, the resulting bonuses are great. There’s a few that are unlocked when you meet some in-game prerequisites as well.

While the various jets look and animate fantastic, the rest of the world is a little blah. It probably won’t surprise you then that this latest Ace Combat is essentially a reissue of the 2011 3DS title of the same name (minus the +). The cities that you fly over lack detail and look like they’re suffering from some up close mode 7 blurriness when you get next to them. And since you spend a great deal of time in the air, the sky doesn’t look a great deal different from mission to mission which is more an unfortunate side effect of being a game based entirely on flight than it is a blunder of the developers. The 3D effects were quite disappointing though. While it technically exists, the HUD doesn’t pop out at the player in the third person view (or even the HUD view), creating a sense of depth with everything else that’s going on. The cockpit view is a bit more successful in making a case for 3D use, though even that comes off as a bit awkward. There aren’t any cool visual effects that make it worthwhile to keep it on either. The soundtrack is pretty rocking though. It features enough upbeat tracks to keep you blowing stuff up for hours, plus the the voice work is rather solid.

Because Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ is effectively a Greatest Hits version of an already three-year-old game, it’s harder to recommend a full $40 purchase when its featureless predecessor can be had for under half of that. The additional content would’ve been better served as either a patch to promote Nintendo’s new console/amiibos or as a DLC pack. Especially since there is not enough here to justify the upgrade for people who have already played through the original release. This is one where “wait for a good deal” certainly applies.

Short Attention Span Summary
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ is an enhanced version of the 2011 game of the same name which is also a remake of Ace Combat 2. It adds amiibo functionality that unlocks new planes for use within the game, plus the additional buttons on the New 3DS XL can be used if you own one (or the Circle Pad Pro). The core game is still fun though if you enjoy a more arcade-like aerial shooter versus a simulation. There’s a decent amount of missions and they can be replayed to unlock in-game bonuses. Since there isn’t a whole lot new here to justify the + in the title, you may be better served getting the older, cheaper version instead. That, or wait for a steep discount. Especially if you’ve already played the game.

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