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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ace Combat

Sorry for the late post. Party + Sleeping late = not a great time to wake up. Before I get started, I'm just gonna update you guys a bit.

Ar Tonelico 2 has been delayed till Jan, 20 2009. Oh well.
Eternal Poison has now been sent to a distributor within my city at 3:00 AM. That means I should be able to receive it probably by today. The thing that bothers me the most is that Eternal Poison was supposed to be shipped on the 11th. If I went to a store now, and pre-ordered from them, I would've gotten the game faster. I mean, doesn't this kinda defeat the purpose of a pre-order? Meh.

This is another title I can't really understand why I never went over. The entire series so far consists of eight or nine games I believe starting all the way back from the Playstation. The one to really note however is Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, because it's Japanese release made the players realize Namco was going for a very strong story-based game rather than just a dogfight arcadefest. It had over 50 missions and an enormous amount of anime cutscenes that really wanted you to get involved with the game's story. Unfortunately, I think they removed all of that in the US release. They probably thought US players couldn't understand an aerial dogfight simulation having a story...

So then comes Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies for the PS2. The first ace combat title for the PS2 that came out in November 2001, very closely after the release of the PS2. FYI, no, it wasn't a blue bottom. It was strictly DVD. For a game so old, it's graphics were actually very surprising. Planes had very crisp detailing and explosions varied depending on which special weapon you used (To this day, the F-15's Fuel Air Emission Bomb has got to STILL be my favorite). I'm not raving about this game because it's my first simulator either. I've played a lot of tank and dogfight simulators, and this just happens to be the most fun.

I normally hate simulators, but Ace Combat really changed my view. I ran the tutorial and did the basics, then started the single player mode. To my surprise the opening scenes, the intense radio chatter, and the progression of the story and how it feels like you're doing something in the game kept me hooked onto it. This game was really fun.

The music is phenomenal. Part-orchestra, part-synth edit, it always fit every mission and each track helped set the gravity of how important certain missions were. It wasn't ambient music persay but it felt nice having a very tense symphony play in the background as you fought.

Like I said before, the story really hooks you. It doesn't feel like a compelling story at first but in Ace Combat 4, you're looking through the eyes of a boy as he lives in his occupied town. He talks about the various things he hears and the people he meets. You also then see some of your own "feats" in their newpapers, which goes to show you that everything is inter-related.

Another great part about the game is that there are difficulty levels for everyone. It can start off easy, and then get to extremely hard where all the enemy pilots have almost about as much skill as you do while some of the aces have as much or even more.

The major drawback to the game is that it's time consuming. VERY time consuming. Each mission on average lasts around 30-60 minutes. Sometimes I think I saw the timer at 90. You'll be playing for a long time on a single mission. It actually may not feel like much since getting from point A to B and then circling around for a better shot at a ground target will kill some time, but you'll play for a long time.

There's also a bit of travel time involved. Most battles don't start you off right in the heat of the moment. Almost always you're launching from your carrier and getting debriefed en route. I'm not bothered by it since the radio chatter is something I actually enjoy but the first minutes or so of a mission may be boring.

Money is pretty restrictive, you have to know be smart in what planes you buy. No doubt you'll get a good feel for what a fighter, attacker, multi-role should do but regardless, you'll need a few good playthroughs bombing key points to rack up the highest score and thus the most money for planes and weapons.

By no means is the "the most realistic game ever." It's a fun game. It's arcadeish. There's no possible way for a plane to carry 50 sidewinders and not crash into the ocean.
It's also a simulator. If you're not into that kinda stuff, I'm not forcing you. It just so happened to be that this game changed my view. That's all I'm saying.

I know I've been talking about Ace Combat 4 for a while, but after playing nearly all of the games in the series the rest are similar. It seems weird that simulation games with a very similar premise could so much fun. I mark 4 and Zero as my top because 4 was the one that opened the road for the continuation of such a good series and Zero has been able to incorporate nearly all the strengths of its predecessors. Here's a brief overview of each game.

4: Multiplayer mode, First game for the PS2
5: Single player, Squadron commands, Choose your path (You can only play 28 of 32 missions linearly)
Zero: Multiplayer, enhanced wing man command, reputation ranking (depending on which targets you destroy and "what you say" in the cutscenes, you're considered a Mercenary, soldier or knight.)

I'd honestly suggest you get all the games to see the difference but I say get 5 first, then 4 and then Zero. I've yet to play 6 (For the XBox 360) I can't say for certain how it's like but with a special edition containing the two joysticks, I'm pretty sure it's also extremely good. Not to mention with a better GPU, the graphics would probably get a nice bump.

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