Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy brings the popular flight franchise to the 3DS in impressive fashion.
Take the role of Phoenix, a skilled allied pilot who is tasked with combating terror around the world. Whether flying solo or with an AI partner, players get to sample a significant selection of real fighter pilots, customize them, and take them into battle.
Controls are straight-forward and work well, although it took me a few minutes to get used to press L and R for brake and throttle, respectively. Other controls include the circle pad for turning as well as ascending or descending, X to cycle between targets, Y for performing Maneuvers, B for the machine gun, and A for firing primary weapons. Additionally, if your plane has autopilot, you can enable this with X+L, while the d-pad is used to increase/decrease radar range and switch between primary weapons.
Available modes of play include Story and Challenge, and players can also enter the Data Viewer to examine unlocked/purchased aircraft and get more details on weapons and medals. Saved replays, which are one of the coolest features of the game, are also available for viewing here. At the end of each mission, you are able to instantly view a replay of the action from a variety of angles, and save the capture for later viewing.
Challenge mode opens up after completing a few missions in the story mode, which is your only actual playable option to start with. You're put right into the hot seat with a mission to destroy some bombers and their escorts. From the start, I liked the graphics, which only got more impressive as I continued to play through the story and the developers got more creative with lighting and weather effects. Ground based objects understandably get the least amount of detail, as if you're close enough to see those in detail, you're probably too close to the ground to survive long. Enemy aircraft, the horizon, and the landscape all look quite good though, and the framerate stays consistently smooth.
Another nice graphical and also gameplay aspect of Legacy is the HUD, which looks, and more importantly, operates, very well. The bottom is packed with information, including mission intel, which often changes during the course of a mission, ammo supply for the primary weapons, a radar image, the 'health' status of your craft, as well as your speed, mission time, and earned points. The top screen does a good job of avoiding clutter, and shows a targeting reticule, throttle meter, altitude indicator, and the objective pointer. It may sound like a lot to keep track of, but for anyone who has played a flight game even for a few minutes, you'll feel right at home before long.
After your first mission, the Maneuvers feature is explained and it's quite nice. As someone who has played through the HAWX games, and played a few other flight games, one of the most annoying parts is getting the right angle on a crafty enemy. HAWX did a nice job with the route-mapping and evasion system, where players had to fly through gates to setup their attack or to avoid a missile. In Legacy, things are simplified, and I think that works to the game's advantage, especially on a handheld. The way an Attack Maneuver works is that if there is an enemy plane in the area, a meter begins to fill up on the lower right of the top screen. Once it's full, just press Y and a seamless, quick, in game cutscene shows your plane performing some advanced moves, and suddenly you're behind the enemy. This doesn't set things up for a simple one shot kill, but it nearly does. You still have to briefly fine tune the aim, but you're in perfect position to establish a lock for your missiles or pepper them with machine gun fire. The Evasion Maneuver works similarly. When an enemy has you targeted, the HUD lets you know about it, and you have to press the indicated direction plus Y at the right time to avoid taking serious damage. If anything, this was maybe a little too easy.
Overall, Legacy is a well put together, enjoyable flight. To the summary...