Review: Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+

Flying the familiar skies.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 02/18/2015 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Same core game with plenty of planes, decent mission design, and accessible controls. The new Nintendo themed planes are a fun addition. 3D is fantastic on New 3DS.
Poison Mushroom for...
Same bland story and inconsistent presentation. Nintendo themed planes are over powered. Not enough content to really justify the upgrade.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ is somewhat odd. Rather than being a brand new entry in the venerable combat flight sim franchise, it is a moderately tweaked version of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy meant to take advantage of the New 3DS’s enhanced feature set. Furthermore, I had the pleasure of reviewing the non “plus” version of the game released back in 2011, so I guess I’m fairly well suited to discern whether or not this update is worth the cost of readmission.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Ace Combat is a long running series of flight combat games featuring real world, modern military aircraft with mechanics that usually walk the sim and arcadey. The series has never been a hugely massive success, but it has found its own niche in a genre that has largely been under-served in recent years, especially when it comes to consoles and handhelds. Assault Horizon Legacy was the series’ first real effort on a Nintendo handheld, and I thought it was a decent game, especially considering how little there was like it at the time.

This entry tells the story of a continent consumed by war as rebels do battle to overthrow the governing allied forces. You play as an Allied ace heading up Scarface Squadron on a series of missions that sees you bombing rebel bases, dog-fighting enemy pilots, and defending allied forces. The story is really little more than excuse to move you from one mission to another, though the developers were kind enough to give your commanding officer, your wing-men, and a few enemy aces some basic characteristics so they don’t come across as completely bland and pointless. By the time you lead your allies to victory, you are much more likely to remember the missions themselves, rather than the plot and characters surrounding them.

Thankfully, Bandai Namco put a lot more effort into the gameplay than the story. Assault Horizon Legacy+ definitely leans more toward the arcadey side of the spectrum thanks to special moves that can be pulled off with a press of the Y button, which can be used to swiftly dodge incoming missiles or quickly get on the tail of an enemy plane. Outside of these maneuvers, the game is a fairly basic aerial combat game as you boost, brake, dive, climb, and shoot your way from objective to objective. All these mechanics work perfectly fine, but outside of the Y button, nothing else really stands out.

The core campaign is relatively short and can easily be completed in four to six hours; however, the missions are designed well and encourage replay. Levels feature a decent variety of offensive and defensive objectives and most levels are designed to only last ten to fifteen minutes, which helps to keep the action flowing and works well for on the go play. Extra challenge missions are also unlocked as you play through the campaign. Completing a mission rewards you with a full length replay of the action that you can watch from a variety of camera angles, along with points based on your performance. Unlocking everything will require multiple playthroughs, however, as there are several instances where you have to choose between two available missions and you can’t just go back during your first time through.

Points earned in the game are an important part of the game’s other big success: the planes. Completing missions unlocks new planes that can be purchased and upgraded with your points, allowing you to choose just the right plane and load out for the mission at hand. Doing a bombing run on a fortified rebel base? The A-10 is a perfect choice. About to get in a dog fight with a dozen enemy planes? I recommend the Typhoon with long range missiles capable of locking onto multiple targets. The variety on display is pretty impressive, and fans of these types of the games will no doubt love it.

When it comes to the overall presentation, the game stumbles, though not completely. The game looks good in motion as you soar through the air and blow bogies out of the sky, but closer inspection reveals incredibly muddy textures and an incredible lack of detail in the environments. Thankfully, the planes are nicely animated and the aforementioned special maneuvers are presented with a much appreciated cinematic flair. The sound design also helps boost the experience, thanks to plentiful voice acting and music that has a surprisingly large amount of gravitas to it; I wouldn’t necessarily call it good, but it’s kind of charming just how sincere it feels even though everything that is going on is kind of cheesy in a 1980s, Top Gun sort of way. In other words, I think I appreciate what appears to be a total lack of cynicism.

Now, here is the $1 million (or maybe $40) question: how does this game differ from the original? A selection of Nintendo themed planes have been added to the game that can be unlocked by finding and shooting floating “?” blocks (from the Mario games) hidden in several of the levels. However, if you have a New 3DS, you can scan in a supported Amiibo to get the special planes instantly. Along with special, character inspired paint jobs, these planes also come with a selection of very useful weapons. Realistically, the special planes are on the verge of being broken, especially when you unlock them with an Amiibo and are able to use them from the very beginning. That being said, they are a fun addition. The only other major change is the ability to use the C-stick to rotate the camera around your plane, which can let you looks at some decent vistas but doesn’t serve a real, practical benefit to gameplay.

Altogether, these changes don’t really add up to a hugely compelling argument for Assault Horizon Legacy+ over its original version. The core game, while not particularly exceptional, remains a solid, enjoyable experience that benefits from the simple fact that there really isn’t anything else like it on 3DS. The additions do add some value to the game, but some overpowered planes with Nintendo paint jobs don’t necessarily justify the cost of upgrading if you own the original game, or can pick it up for cheaper.

However, I feel there is one more thing worth mentioning that specifically pertains to New 3DS owners. I felt that the 3D in the original version of the game was exceptional; however, the narrow 3D viewing angle of the 3DS proved to be a bit of a hassle. Thankfully, the enhanced, head tracking New 3DS easily resolves this issue and makes playing either version of Assault Horizon Legacy with the 3D turned all the way up a much more accessible and enjoyable experience. So, if you have a New 3DS, feel free to bump up the score for both versions of this game.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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