After months of average titles and mediocre releases, the Nintendo 3DS is finally beginning to morph into the handheld system that Nintendo always claimed it was. The biggest issues was (and continues to be) the software, but that is slowly beginning to change as more and more franchises are looking to dip their collective toes into the potentially lucrative pool of Nintendo’s waters.
Adding to the list of long-running franchises that are now 3DS alumni is the Ace Combat series. Namco’s aerial fighter series has made the transition to the handheld 3D world with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy. But despite the new title that connects it to the recently released console version of the game that shares the same name (minus the Legacy subtitle), this Ace Combat has a distinctly retro feel to it.
Rather than taking the series into the real world as the latest console version did, the game returns to a fictional setting facing a fictional rebellion. If you have played the older games in the series, then you should feel right at home. The missions typically have you attacking ground or air targets, usually with a wingman in tow. The objectives sound varied, but in execution, it generally means that you follow the target on the radar, blow it up, then move on to the next.
Adding to the campaign are a series of challenges, which are variations of the story missions. They add a bit, but as there really isn’t a ton of narrative holding the game together, they aren’t much different from the campaign. They do help lengthen the otherwise short campaign, but mainly do so through repetition. Surprisingly, there is no multiplayer to speak of.
The flight controls are solid for the 3DS. Using the analog nub controls the plane, the trigger buttons handle speed, while the buttons offer targeting and firing options. The touchpad can also be used to fire missiles, but you probably won’t use it too often. The 3D is integrated well, although it is best used when in the chase cam that displays the full aircraft, rather than the cockpit view, which is a bit easier as it gives you more screen.
There is also a maneuver button, which is essentially the best button ever created. Anytime you are in a dogfight, when you get near your opponent, you can hit the button and the game will take your hand and magically maneuver your fighter right behind your target. This magic button can also whisk you out of the way as missiles streak towards you. It is one of the few holdovers from the current console version, and it is your best friend and constant companion.
The maneuver button almost feels like a cheat. If you time it correctly, you can use it to avoid being hit. Ever. You can also ruin an enemy squadron in seconds if you manage to line it up correctly. As the game progresses, the enemies will try to fight back and avoid a lock on once you appear behind them, but you will always have the advantage. It is fun, but somewhat cheap too.
A bigger issue is that this game looks and feels like a PSOne game. The plane modeling is fairly decent, and the wide variety of craft to choose from all look good, but the ground graphics are simplistic. The missions are also a throwback to the PSOne games, as you fight a fictional battle in a fictional world. Story is not a driving force, which is odd, since it played so heavily into the recent console game.
Putting aside the console version, the game is still dated, and feels like a retro throwback to Ace Combat 1 or 2, which debuted on the PSOne in 1995 and 1997 respectively. Those games offered more variety in the battles, and looked just as good, if not better.
Legacy does not utilize the hardware to its fullest, and despite the use of the new “Ace Combat Assault Horizon” name, it shares more with its 16-year-old predecessor.
Legacy is a fun game, but it is limited and dated. The mechanics are decent, although you will come to rely on the maneuver button more than a flying game should, and it ends up taking away from the gameplay a bit. Despite the decent use of the 3D, the game does not make good use of the 3DS’ hardware, and as a result Legacy feels primitive by modern standards.
That being said, it is still fun to tear through the air and dominate waves of enemies. Just as you have been doing for 16 years.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS on a copy provided by Namco Bandai)