"Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy is a conventional plane game with straight-up aerial dogfights, taking place on Earth with a fictional alternate history, with a NATO-like organisation fighting to reclaim a member country usurped in a successful coup d'etat by rebels. Doing so takes you through 22 stages of action, some intense, some deliberately more passive."
I was excited when Star Fox 64 3D was first announced. Being a fan of the franchise based solely on the strength of the original N64 fan, I was hoping to reunite with long-lost furry animal friends in outer space for another gallant battle across the Lylat solar system. That it was being 'remade' instead of ported was simply icing on the cake.
Then it turned out that 'remade' meant to make the graphics (very) slightly better, redub the voicing with intentionally cheesy voice acting (as opposed to the hammy seriousness of the original), and strip out a bit of the multiplayer function. Whoops.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy also happens to be a remake, specifically of Ace Combat 2 for the Playstation. I never played an Ace Combat game before, however, so I did research prior to purchase: although the remake loses a slick opening video, it has sharply improved visuals and about a dozen story-extraneous trial missions, along with some new gameplay mechanics. In dropping the money down, I made a fairly good choice.
Assault Horizon Legacy, which is more of a conventional plane game with its straight-up aerial dogfights, takes place on Earth with a fictional alternate history, with a NATO-like organisation fighting to reclaim a member country usurped in a successful coup d'etat by rebels. Doing so takes you through 22 stages of action, some intense, some deliberately more passive.
The very first stage lets you loose, flying through an open map high up, soaring through the cloudless skies, able to move every which way through a map that takes over two minutes to go from one corner to the diagonal opposite. As you soar along, enemy fighters intercept your path in multiple waves, the vanguard for enemy bombers. You must strafe the fighters with gunfire to take them out so you can accomplish the mission objective, downing the bombers with missiles and longer-range special weapons.
By the third mission, your fighter, of which there are over two dozen named types in the game (and some are modelled after real-world designs with permission from defense contractors, such as Lockheed Martin's F-35 or Mikoyan's MiG-31), is forced down from the heavens as you assault the harbour of a sea-side city. In doing so, you must fend off other low-approaching fighters, along with numerous anti-air turrets on the ground and cruisers stationed in the harbour.
Stage six is where things finally get heated up, as for the first time you face an Ace Squadron, a platoon of elite-level mooks headed up by a named character. The Ace Squadrons often move around in formation, splitting up and swarming in on you from every which way. The adrenaline-pumping thrill of swooming in for the kill is especially pronounced in these missions, as heavy rock music complete with lyrics plays in the background.
It is in scenarios like these where Assault Horizon Legacy offers something that Ace Combat 2 did not: Attack and Evasive Maneuvers. In the case of the former, as you lock on an enemy and turn, dip and weave, a gauge fills up. Once it turns yellow, you can press the Y button to automatically move into position so the target is between your crosshairs, ready to snipe down. Similarly, if a foe pursues you, Evasive Maneuvers allow you to dodge enemy fire and missiles. Purists, beware, as they can make the game easier in tight spots.
Mission seven offers up a bevy of new gameplay twists all at once. First, it takes place at night, making it more difficult to pick out lone targets from the sky. Secondly, the rebel forces within the battle employ aircraft with intermittent radar-jamming capabilities. During the time your radar is jammed, you cannot lock onto enemy fighters, nor use missiles or special weapons, instead forced to rely simply on your gunfire. Similarly, you must hunt through the rebel fleet to take down the radar-jamming aircraft when the radar is online. Finally, a mysterious gunship appears at the end of the level - a red-coated craft called the Z.O.E. that is extremely difficult to successfully strike, takes far more hits than any other plane in the game before going down, and is due for several reappearances in subsequent missions.
Your typical all-guns blazing will not suffice for the thirteenth level, wherein you must cruise through a steep, but incredibly narrow ravine. If you fly too high, you will be locked on and blown out of the sky, so you must keep your approach low and stay hidden from radar while moving forward to destroy a prototype enemy submarine at the end of the ravine. This is where the function of your plane to brake and speed comes in handy as you navigate the tricky contours of the ravine walls.
The overall game is fairly short, only around four hours to do a full run-through (longer if you attempt a Hard Mode run). Assault Horizon Legacy may be a pain for completionists - to get every plane in the game requires at least two playthroughs, while each plane has individual upgrades (special missions and six separate coats of colour) that can only be unlocked after several missions. More specialised jet, wing, armour and cockpit parts for your plane are located by hunting down special named units on each map that may show up only for thirty seconds, or require certain conditions to be met (time, score) prior to their showing up. Some of the extra trial missions can take over twenty minutes to finish - a pain to redo if you want to successfully S-Rank every level.
But that was alright for me, as while Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy was frustrating at time, it was never boring. Finally culminating in two action-packed missions with an assault on the capital of the rebel forces, a very dense urban area filled with skyscrapers, followed by a strike on the remaining enemy fortress, where you must enter the interior after disabling exterior defenses to blow up the core power source, Assault Horizon Legacy offers up a very complete package.
And its voice acting isn't cheesy, either.
Community review by darkstarripclaw (October 27, 2012)
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