Game Review

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Christopher Ingram

Nintendo finally lands its true Ace Combat title

When it comes to the long running Ace Combat series, Nintendo’s been stuck in the hangar bay with only the forgettable Ace Combat Advance releasing on GBA. For all those who’ve missed out on the excellent aerial dog fight action all these years, this disservice has finally ended with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy blasting onto 3DS. Combining elements from the series past along with the new, this 3D-fuelled outing should be considered the début title for Nintendo consoles.

Once again, political extremes and rebellious uprisings are tearing through the series' alternate Earth. In line with earlier titles in the series, the convoluted storyline does what matters and little else, giving you the engagement orders to ward off the power hungry rebel forces.

After a quick mission briefing and choosing your desired aircraft and weapons, it’s time to lift-off to the skies for a taste of aerial combat. Instantly noticeable is that the subtle 3D effect adds an extra layer of depth that creates stunningly beautiful aerial landscapes. Don’t gawk at the view for too long though, because this isn’t a peaceful flight simulation — when the enemy forces do come, they do so with blistering speeds and deadly intents. Taking cues from the recently released console title Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Legacy features the new close-up dogfighting action gimmick that stylishly QTEs you right behind the enemy. An on-screen meter fills as you pursue the enemy, and pressing Y at the instant it fills triggers a slick 3D cinematic, putting you in deadly range behind the bogey and initiating a frantic dogfighting sequence; come out victorious and you’re treated to a slow-motion explosion as you fly through the airborne wreckage to add a final bit of dramatic flair. The sound of jets cutting through the air, firing off machine gun rounds and missiles is superb, and the cinematic visual style of these dogfights is a sight to see in itself. Topped off with the series' typical soundtrack with everything from beautiful orchestral strings to heavy rock tracks that are stripped right out of the series' past, you’ve truly got the full thrills of an Ace Combat experience right in the palm of your hand.

Anyone who’s piloted an aircraft in a similar game knows that you’re not always the one that’s doing the shooting; many times you’ll find yourself getting shot at instead. Instead of constantly manoeuvring in all sorts of directions trying to dodge incoming missiles like in the series' past, an arrow prompt now appears on-screen for a short time; if you can move the Circle Pad in the right direction and press Y quickly enough, you’ll instantly evade the incoming missile in another stylish 3D cinematic. While AC veterans may sigh at these new gameplay gimmicks, the action is allowed to become so fast and intense because of these new gameplay changes requiring split-second reactions that you'll grip your 3DS for dear life.

Controlling an airborne jet past the speed of sound takes precision controls and Legacy delivers. A new user-friendly arcade control scheme makes up for the 3DS’s lack of second analogue stick, though the Circle Pad Pro is compatible with the Japanese version. Directional presses of the Circle Pad will simply turn the aircraft and holding the L/R buttons while doing so will initiate a High-G turn – rapidly decelerating the aircraft in the process. Mastering these turns without stalling the aircraft is absolutely essential to successful missions, but with the new control scheme even those new to the series will have it nailed down in no time. For those looking for a more simulation approach, the classic control method is also available: Left/Right on the Circle Pad rolls the jet, while Left and Right on the D-Pad control the yaw. In both control settings, the touch screen can be used to fire missiles with a single tap or to quickly lock-on enemies by pressing and holding the screen to bring up a cursor and placing it over the enemy. We would’ve liked to have seen the touch screen used to pan the camera around to distinguish enemy positioning like in the console versions of the game, but with the arcade gameplay style that’s featured here, it’s not a necessity.

The campaign mode starts out nice and easy, but it quickly turns into the frantic mix of aerial dogfighting and bombing runs that we’ve come to know and love the series for over the years. Where missions in the console versions of the game are quite lengthy – at times exceeding half-hour long stages with few checkpoints – here the missions are a good bit shorter and stay on the throttle the entire time; a perfect fit for handheld gaming. Much like Nintendo’s own flight title Star Fox 64 3D, the campaign offers a branching storyline and shorter campaign length of approximately four to five hours. In the second half of the game’s campaign, your piloting skills will truly be put to the ultimate test, as you’ll be careening around cliff faces through narrow channels, chasing down a launched nuclear warhead, bombing your way through an entire fleet of Navy vessels and even manoeuvring your aircraft through the narrow passageway of an enemy fortress. The intensity is as high as ever and beautiful in all its 3D glory.

Ace Combat veterans know that once the campaign is over, it’s not the end of the war just yet. Once you complete the campaign, even the best fighter pilots will only have been able to acquire enough cash to purchase a handful of the aircraft and weapons. Not only that, but upon completion you’ll also unlock a handful of Extra and Survival missions, as well as the über-challenging Ace difficulty to put these top tier fighter jets to the test. Another nice perk is the expensive upgrades (e.g. engine, wing, armour and cockpit) that can be purchased that’ll carry over to all of your purchased aircraft and running multiple sorties with any of the aircraft will unlock its alternate paint schemes as well. And for the ultimate throwback to Ace Combat’s past, a certain World War II plane awaits those who are up to the challenge to earning the rights to fly it.

What Legacy does leave behind on the launch pad is any sort of online or multiplayer mode. While there’s definitely enough content here to make the game worth enlisting in, an online mode would have easily elevated Legacy into the 'must-have' range of 3DS titles and is nothing short of a missed opportunity for Namco Bandai.


Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy brings a touch of the series' new gameplay elements along with a few of the old, establishing itself as the true Ace Combat début title for Nintendo consoles, making up for 2002's GBA misstep. Fuelling up with a boost of beautiful 3D graphics and a cache of unlockable content, Legacy brings the series' high intensity aerial combat action right into the palm of your hands in a way that’s only possible with the Nintendo 3DS. Strapping yourself into the cockpit of Legacy as a fighter pilot, there’s only one question that still remains: do you have what it takes to be called an “Ace”?

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Get behind the sticks again with some portable Ace Combat action on 3DS, out now in North America

User Comments (48)



Shiryu said:

This was more then a surprise. This was Game of The Year on the 3DS for me, and I'm still enjoying it. This made me stop playing "Mario Kart 7". As a big time fan of the franchise, I was not expecting this entry to revolutionize the series, but that's just what it did thanks to the L+R High G turn mechanics. We can finally pull off the moves we have been seeing ace pilots do in previous entries of the game. I also quite enjoyed the upgraded version of "The Skycrawlers" manouver system and the neat reminders of previous Ace Combat games like Scarface Squadron from AC2 and Nagase from AC5. Even if you're not a fan, do not let this one slip past you. I give it a 9/10 and only miss the wasted opportunity that was the omission of multiplayer. Maybe for next time, Namco?

PS: I would LOVE to have this on the Wii. There is a lot of games on the 3DS I would love to own on the Wii, but that's life, companies know they wont sell well on the machine, so I better start saving up for the Wii-U and hope things go a little different for the hardcore side of gamers.

PPS: MINOR SPOILER There is more then one WW2 era plane to unlock out there...



Robo-goose said:

Will pick up for sure, I still can't get over how great the 3DS's lighting looks!



bro2dragons said:

I've never played one of these games, but this sounds great... I'll be giving this a good look sooner or later.



AVahne said:

Waiting for a price drop, to about $20. No multiplayer at all, and not much reason to replay.



Shiryu said:

@Koto you are wrong if you don't mind me saying, this game has TONS of replayability thanks to to huge selection of upgrades, planes available to purchase, secret enemies aces to discover in every mission and the insanly hard extra missions. The lack of multiplayer is a missed opportunity for sure (and it worked so well on the PSP) but is by no mean a deal breaker.



Spoony_Tech said:

The lack of online doesn't bother me at all. I think its actually one of the better games for the 3d effect. It really does it well in this game. Solid game play and tons of planes to chose from. My only draw backs are the voice acting isn't all that great at times but that's about it. One of the better looking 3ds games for sure. Good review Chris (is this slapshot BTW)!



cyrus_zuo said:

I really enjoyed Skycrawlers on Wii. The arcade-like maneuvers with quick cut scenes made the game a LOT of fun to play.
I haven't played a game like it...maybe ever (does After Burner or Top Gun [NES] count?). I was worried about the complexity of controls, but really enjoyed Skycrawlers and have been watching reviews of this one, my only worry about having to use the stylus to aim (which I find painful).
Looks like it is worth checking out, thanks for sharing, especially Shiryu, I was hoping there would be some reference to Skycrawlers.



BulbasaurusRex said:

It's about time this game got a review. I was afraid you actually weren't going to give it one.

Anyway, I'll definitely be picking this one up within the next few months.



Shiryu said:

@Cyrus_zuo, @Tech101 beat me to it, disregard that stylus to aim affair, I never used the stylus a single time when I'm playing this. In fact, I advise against it, specially if you're playing with the professional setting (I can't play any of the Ace Combat series games on the beginner setting, feels very unnatural) you will need both hands on all the controls. Have no fear, you will be right at home with this, I also love "The Skycrawlers" and still play it from time to time. Project Aces totally delivered on Wii and 3DS. Are you paying attention, Project Soul guys?



Slapshot said:

@Tech101 Indeed it its.

@Shiryu Thanks for sharing your input. Many of the things that you've stated were little things that I had to cut out because of length of the review.

@noblo601 As for the arcade controls and gameplay it's similar, but Crimson Skies story is what made it so fantastic.

For the concerns about the lack of online gameplay, Ace Combat has primarily always been about offering a solid single player campaign. The online multiplayer is indeed fun, but it's the campaign that has always shined the most in all my time with the series over the years.

Oh, for the record, I use the Classic control method. I'm too much of an old-school Ace Combat veteran I guess.



Supremeist said:

Looks like I'll have to pick this one up later on. I had Ace Combat on the Xbox 360 and I wasn't too big of a fan, but maybe the 3DS version will change my mind. Nice review Chris!



JohnPhilipSousa said:

I'll wait until the Circle Pad Pro comes out to see if it's supported but just not active yet since the Circle Pad Pro is not yet out here.



Slapshot said:

@MagicLink95 In everything that we've found, the only version that will support the Circle Pad Pro is the Japanese version of the game, Ace Combat 3D: Cross Rumble. Even the game's NA manual doesn't show support for the peripheral. But, the gameplay style that's featured in the game works great without it though - even on the Classic control settings.



JohnPhilipSousa said:

@Slapshot: Well, if works great still, I guess I'll get it. I'm not a series fan, it just looks fun and I kind of wanted it because of the CCP, but oh well, if still works great I'll take it. What are the control settings though and what is each one like? Thanks!



alLabouTandroiD said:

It's great you guys and many other review sites like the game. It's games like this that made me excited for the 3DS. (Metal Gear Solid, Ridge Racer and RE: Revelations as well) Games that either weren't as much fun because of "archaic" graphics and horsepower or that didn't even make it to a Nintendo console. Which is why i bought the game a few days after its release.
Now here's the part where i'd love to say it's an amazing game. But thanks to the insane amount of releases during the holidays Mario Kart and some other games have my top priority right now. I don't really know when i'll find the time to play it.



PinkSpider said:

Whats with Namco not putting online multiplayer on there games first ridge racer 3d and now this. There is no excuse this day and age to not have online multiplayer. It just seems like laziness on namco's part.



Shiryu said:

@Slapshot My pleasure. Always nice to find new Ace Combat fans around here.

I was afraid that this game would be hard to control without the Circle Pad Pro but I am fairly certain now we are not missing out on much without it. @MagicLink , go get the game right now!



Tate24 said:

Ive been telling everyone how great this is since i bought it at launch!

seriously am on my 10 play through and while ive nearly got all S ranks on all difficult settings the game keeps on giving!

There lots planes, parts, extra missions, survival mission and reviewer DIDNT talk about ability to record your replays!!! and custmise colours on your plane when you unlock edit paint job.
My favourite challenge was surviving 100 plane deathmatch were you have one life to live and must go through an on slaught of different planes increasing becoming more difficult!

But there are check points that refuel weapons but not health! :
if manage to do it! you will given very cool plane;) But not telling which one.

So what waiting for!




I remember the days fondly when I was into flight sims. Now I'm afraid I'm not. Glad it turned out good though.



Shiryu said:

@Tate24 Did you know I have the game since launch and only yesterday I found out about the customizable color schemes? Silly me. Now, then, black on black F-14 it is, then.



KAI7321 said:

S Ranked all missions on ACE Difficulty, was not easy! VERY good game! Definitely one of my favourite 3DS games of 2011...hope they make more like this!

Also I love the little half-easter egg they use when you die:

"No!!! Phoenix Down!"



Shiryu said:

@KAI7321 That one always makes me smile.

Another easter egg (I think): the YF-23 Ace called "Max&Goose". Definitely Maverick & Goose from "Top Gun", no?



Mattiator said:

Definately been watching this one for a while, and waiting on reviews. Now we just need the dern Nano Assault review!



Kisame83 said:

Shiryu, this is actually a remake of AC2 (which I think rocks). So the Nagase/Edge in this game is actually the original Edge from AC2 who shares the same name with the AC 5 character (and another character from AC 4 lol).

One thing that I think is funny is how many reviews take issue with the lack of multiplayer. While a fun multiplayer mode in general would be cool, I don't see it as a detriment to Ace Combat. First off, the game this one is based on had no multiplayer (AC 2). Second... MOST Ace Combat games don't have mutltiplayer. I think just the two current-gen console titles, the second PSP game, and a local split screen versus mode in Ace Combat Zero right? Someone correct me if I left something out. But really, AC6 is the only one I spent quality multiplayer time with, so I'd say the vast majority of my time with this franchise is spent on single player. I'd go so far as to say it is why I play the games- the flight combat and story. Multi is just icing on the cake, if it happens to be there.



RR529 said:

I picked up Ace Combat 4 about 5 years ago in a garage sale for a couple of bucks and absolutely fell in love with it. Unfortunately I hadn't been keeping up with the series since then, but I decided to pick this game up, and am loving it. Brings back all sorts of good AC4 memories!

Now if only Namco would go ahead and announce a Soul Calibur game for the system. Nearly every other major fighter is coming to the system, or already has, so I don't see why not to do it.



alLabouTandroiD said:

Well there is a huge potential for great multiplayer modes like team battles to guard / destroy a frigate, big co-op missions or a "All attack player 6 ! Player 6: survive until you reach your allies.". But i'd say it's not easy to make them exciting.
So it's better to have a meatier single-player than to have a bad multiplayer / online mode instead.



Shiryu said:

@Kisame83 And that mission where you have to shoot vents inside a canyon at angle is lifted straight from AC2 (the same where you find Max&Goose). Ah, simpler times... x)



sidekicksauer said:

I have this game and all i can say is that it is definitely a top notch 3DS game! I bought it and it's amazing. I couldn't put it down!



Slapshot said:

It's great to see that we've got some hardcore Ace Combat fans here! I'm glad you guys are enjoying the game and it's because the game isn't focused on the multiplayer aspect that the game wasn't drastically docked for the lack of it.

Hopefully the next 3DS Ace Combat will include Circle Pad Pro support, the deep story-line of Ace Combat 6, the classic Ace Combat gameplay formula and online multiplayer. Namco Bandai has the opportunity to really gain some fans with the 3DS. Let's hope they do so!



kdognumba1 said:

I have yet to play an Ace Combat game but I had a friend who loved them. Was considering of picking this up because I haven't played any flight sims in a while now. Looks like I'll have to now



metalpants said:

This game is pretty addicting actually. I'm still playing it and I bought it when it came out last year. It was so much fun, I replayed the story mode on every level to unlock as many planes/weps as possible. Definitely recommend.



B-Ray97 said:

Nice review,
I will defintly buy this game soon,

  • Nice graphics
  • A lot of action
  • In 3D!

I will be flying to the shop when I have enough money!



AVahne said:

I've learned to be pre-disappointed in everything Namco does now. Assault Horizon on PS3 coupled with what they've done on Wii (with the exception of Sky Crawlers) and some of their choices on 3DS has left me not expecting much from Namco. I've repeatedly gotten over it and have again and again gotten excited for new Namco games, but I tend to get disappointed again and again as well.
Weird, probably deep down I'm a Namco fan who wants to keep playing more of their games even if it means the game doesn't live up to my expectations, I don't know.
Well, Sky Crawlers for Wii doesn't have multiplayer. Maybe with that in mind I'll go out and buy this game for 3DS sometime very soon. Used. Because I bought Tekken 3DS brand new and don't think I want to buy another Namco game new for a while.



AVahne said:

Well now that 3DS is getting a firmware update that allows patches, maybe Namco can add CPP functionality to this game since the Japanese version has it?



Foot77 said:

I played the PSP game demo that came out in 2010. This game looks great.

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