IN 1995, Namco released one of the very first, 3D aerial arcade combat games to grace consoles, Ace Combat. Debuting first on the PlayStation One, the game soon became a “Greatest Hit” for the platform, as distinguished by the neon green labeling on the side of the case. The game was praised for its visual design, roaring soundtrack, and exciting gameplay. Featuring real-world licensed aircraft, players flew a large variety of missions, attacking air and ground targets, in an effort to defeat enemy armies and terrorists. Following the first game, it went on to have multiple installments, including a full, new take in 2002 with Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies for the PlayStation 2, several highly successful sequels, and the spin-off, ” Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy Plus is a full remake of Ace Combat 2 for the PlayStation One, first released in 1997. Taking place in the world of the “Strangereal,” a fictional earth that is inspired from our real-world earth. Players take to the skies as Scarface squadron, a mercenary group hired to destroy a massive, rogue army. This army is skilled, having been born out of the fires of The Great “Erusian” War established in Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies, released in 2001 for the PlayStation 2. They have ships, tanks, helicopters, and hundreds of aircraft loaded with ace pilots. It up to you take them on. Utilizing the technology of the Nintendo 3DS, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Plus makes for an engaging and action-packed aerial thrill-ride, wherever you are.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy Plus features a combination of mechanics for Ace Combat veterans and newcomers alike. The game combines the free-range, white-knuckle aerial combat established throughout the series while borrowing some mechanics seen in 2011’s Ace Combat: Assault Horizon for the PS3 and Xbox 360. The console game introduced close-range aerial combat, which involved a quick button press when engaging a fighter from a certain range. At that point, players can rip apart their target through a hail of gunfire and missiles. Traditional gameplay involves players flying their fighter craft across the battlefield, engaging in a large variety of primary and secondary targets.
Players embark on a large variety of missions, ranging from defense, escort, search-and-destroy, and attack. Each mission contains their own set of objectives, as well as enemy types. Players will engage bombers, fighter craft, warships, and military bases loaded with anti-air defense. Each mission is set to the backdrop of thrilling music and radio chatter, settling you into the delicate battle taking place in the skies.
Combat engagement is open, flowing, and unexpected. Enemies are aggressive and will not hesitate to open fire. Some will maneuver to get onto your six, firing missiles and machine guns. This is further made intense by AA guns, SAM launchers, helicopters, and potential defense from warships and bomber tailgunners. The skies are dangerous, but so are you.
Players use the analog pad to fly their aircraft in every direction. Using the shoulder buttons control the brakes an throttle. Players can maneuver around their opponents with little fumbling. The HUB displays your range to the target and when you are close enough to fire your machine gun. If players continue to track their target, their “assault” gauge fills to the bottom right.
Players can choose from a large variety of real-life licensed aircraft from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrup Grumman. The F-15 Strike Eagle, The F/A-18 Super Hornet, the A-10 Warthog, the F-4 Phantom, and many more are all here. Players can choose from a variety of these crafts, equip any number of special weapons for the mission, and take-off. Each mission has changing objectives, so players have a large list of choices for what they want to fly into battle, as well as what will best to complete the mission.
In each mission, there are special enemies to target. These special targets are hidden in the battlefield and can unlock special challenge missions to be played outside the campaign. In addition, most missions feature boss fights with elite units. These units will try their absolute best to shoot you down. Destroying them will require using close-range combat and memorizing their patterns in order to defeat them.
Exclusive to this version of the game is the use of Amiibos. The action-figurines, laced with microchips, allow for special features to be unlocked in the game. Depending on which amiibo is scanned into the game, unique fighter-craft, with special skins and capabilities can be unlocked. For example, using a Captain Falcon amiibo from F-Zero will unlock a special F-16 C Fighting Falcon for flight. That particular craft will have a skin of Captain Falcon, including enhanced capabilities in speed and firepower. This special support goes for a variety of characters, including The Legend of Zelda, Starfox, and Metroid. For those without amiibos, players have the chance to come across hidden item boxes, hovering over certain parts of a level. Shooting these and claiming the infamous star from Super Mario will unlock other aircraft as well, including an F-22 Raptor with the color palette of the legendary plumber himself, Mario.
A drawback to Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy Plus is the lack of multiplayer, or co-op. The campaign is rather short as well, which is underwhelming compared to other campaigns in the franchise. However, the real focus is on the replaying of missions and the unlocking of everything the game has to offer. The gameplay is a blast and keeps inviting players back into its unique thrills.
Part of the charm of Ace Combat is the eye-popping presentation and the sweeping soundtrack. Visually, the game looks amazing, with solid textures and great renderings of the aircraft. From up high, the environments can look photo-realistic, as if players are realistically flying over plains, mountains, and water. However, up-close the environments can become pixelated and messy. This is consistent when engaging ground targets, but the gameplay is too immersive to be tremendously distracted by it. The soundtrack was composed by Namco’s in-house sound team, NamcoSounds. it consists of a variety of traditional orchestra, Japanese arrangements, heavy rock, and even rap. When engaged in combat, hearing the roaring chorus, along with the whooshes of jet fighters, and the taunts of enemy aces on the radio all make for an incredibly engaging combat experience.
Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy Plus is a fantastic action experience for the Nintendo 3DS. From its engaging aerial combat gameplay to the emotionally roaring soundtrack and solid presentation, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Plus is a great game and a good point of entry for those new to the franchise. It’s time to strap your helmet on and go ballistic!