Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy 3DS review This shares four-fifths of a name with the most recent entry to the series on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and squeezes a great many of that game's features onto the 3DS cart in a game of impressive technical competence.
However, while the console versions of Assault Horizon came under fire from fans for its storyline based on real world factions and Call Of Duty-esque set pieces, this returns to the series' roots, with a sci-fi storyline and more orthodox gameplay.
You play as Phoenix, an ace pilot who has to destroy members of the rebel ace squadron. To begin with you pilot the F-16C, a jet fighter plane equipped with a machine gun and missiles, but as the story progresses you earn money with which to purchase new planes, weapons and upgrades, while rising through the ranks.
It's a robust, if unremarkable, structure for a game that only starts to sing once you hit the stratosphere. The planes are fast and responsive, enabling you to fly a few feet from the ground before tearing upwards into a dizzying loop-de-loop.
Missions vary in their focus, but the objective is almost always destruction. Some have you flying high above the cloud cover as you take down enemy squadrons of bombers, while others require you to weave in and out of mountaintops as you pick apart enemy air bases.
As well as your stock machine gun and homing missiles, each plane has a slot for an optional extra weapon, which might be a long range missile that can lock onto targets far away, or perhaps air-to-ground bomb clusters that will carpet an area with fire and fury. There's plenty to choose from and the destructive potential at your fingertips is tantalising.
One innovation from the recent console versions that has made it into Legacy is the Action Manoeuvre. In the bottom left-hand side of the screen there's a gauge that fills whenever you are in dangerously close proximity to an enemy aircraft. When this fills you can tap the Y button and the game takes over momentarily, adjusting your position until you are behind the target for an easy takedown. While Action Manoeuvres make dogfighting a little easy early on, as your targets increase in speed and skill they rapidly become an essential part of your armoury.
The planes are detailed and from a high vantage point the vistas are pretty but fly close to the ground and there's an acute lack of detail to the world. The 3D effect works extremely well, however, especially as you are constantly looking into the far distance of the screen to search out your next targets.
While there is a sizeable campaign to play though, there are few extras outside of the story. There's some incentive to collect all of the planes and weapons just to try them all out, but the lack of any kind of multiplayer modes is a huge oversight.
The core dogfighting game element of the game is strong and enjoyable, however, and this sustains the package where the storyline and repetitive mission structure fail to inspire.
With smart use of 3D, an appealing amount of planes and some of the tightest flying seen on a handheld, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy mostly lives up to its name.
This is an edited version of a review that will appear in issue 77 of Official Nintendo Magazine. For more in-depth analysis and screenshots buy the magazine when it's released on 15 December.