Here we investigate the overlooked, the underappreciated, the Shameworthy titles of the world. Jump in to an existing mission thread and give your thoughts, or start your own to kick off a discussion.
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Re: Reach for the Skies: Ace Combat

by Angry Jedi » Thu Oct 16, 2014 3:58 pm

Finished Ace Combat 4. Before I say anything more...



Holy shit that music.

Ahem. Anyway.

I've already said most of the things I want to say about this game, I think, though I was a little disappointed that
Spoiler: show
you never "speak" to Yellow Thirteen, even in the second-to-last mission where you shoot down and kill him
-- although I do sort of understand the reasoning behind that decision. War is hell, and it only takes one stray bullet or missile to turn a decorated hero into a corpse. Ultimately,
Spoiler: show
Yellow Thirteen is only human and just as capable of dying as you are, rather than the superhuman "villain" Markov is in Assault Horizon -- the breed that won't die until he's finished his monologue. One of the anonymous enemy forces on AC4's radio chatter even lampshades this in the second-to-last mission, saying something along the lines of "no plane is invulnerable; no pilot is immortal" (I forget the exact quote).


That last mission was great though. Completely unlike the rest of the game, but that's what made it effective; you had to use the skills you had built up through the rest of the game to finish the job in a distinctly unconventional manner. Massively enjoyable.

This game does a great job of making you feel like a badass fighter pilot. I've already mentioned the gradual change in the radio chatter as the game progresses -- from you being just another pilot to being someone whose ribbon insignia strikes fear into the hearts of your enemies. But the game has a good sense of more subtle drama, too; whoever determined that most planes need two missiles to shoot down has an inherent understanding of the fact that it's much more satisfying (and looks far cooler in the replay) to fire off two at once. Along the same lines, the planes' use of Hammerspace to carry several hundred times their own body weight in ordnance makes for a fast-paced game in which you can blow things up with gay abandon -- though the facility is still there for you to return to base, repair, restock and then return to the fight, too, and I was pleased to have the non-mandatory opportunity to manually land the plane on both runways and carriers whenever this happened.

All in all, then, fantastic stuff. Going to boot up Ace Combat 5 for a quick look now... see you in a few hours, no doubt!
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Re: Reach for the Skies: Ace Combat

by Angry Jedi » Thu Oct 16, 2014 6:20 pm

6 missions deep into Ace Combat 5 and I like what I'm seeing so far. I particularly appreciate that it feels somewhat different from 4 while still, essentially, being based around the same thing: flying around, shooting planes and things on the ground.

The addition of wingmen adds a couple of interesting elements to the mix. Firstly, it provides some more relatable characters to fight alongside you -- while Ace Combat 4 had recognisable "voices" from your allies throughout (including one who sounded distractingly like George Takei) none of them had names and you never found out anything about them; the only really "personal" story was that of the narrator, and by extension that of Yellow Thirteen.

By contrast, Ace Combat 5 sets the initial expectation that it is going to be a more directly personal affair -- though again, your protagonist character is invisible and mute, and the story is once again delivered from the sidelines, this time through the eyes of either journalist Gennette, or wingman Kei Nagase (who may or may not be related to Ridge Racer's Reiko Nagase, depending on whether or not you believe the character with the same name in Ace Combat 2 to be the same person). It's once again an interesting approach, and a noticeably different way of telling the story to its predecessor -- another means of keeping the game feeling somewhat fresh.

Combat feels nice and fluid once again, and the visuals are lovely (for a PS2 game). (Aside: it's nice to see some PS2 games with native 16:9 support.) Firing off missiles is satisfying, and so far the missions seem to be quite varied -- although the settings of Ace Combat 4's missions kept things interesting, what you were actually doing was repeated quite a lot: in a significant number of missions, you were attempting to blow up enough air and ground targets to cross a score threshold before a timer expired. Here, meanwhile, you're still shooting things down and getting a score against the clock, but there seems to be a bit more going on during the missions -- an early sortie where you're scrambled to defend your base is a particular highlight, as your three-pilot squadron becomes a four-pilot squadron partway through, presumably setting up the main ensemble cast that will accompany you through the rest of the game.

The game's already done a great job of getting across the fact that while certain aspects of war might seem glamorous -- being a fighter pilot, say -- there are plenty of other, more horrific things going on, too. An early mission where you defend an aircraft carrier as it escapes and hear people expressing horror at all the bodies floating in the water particularly drives this home -- especially the odd moment mid-mission where everything fades to black, and there's a brief moment where someone (I believe Gennette?) talks about how he "wishes he hadn't looked". War is hell, kids.
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Re: Reach for the Skies: Ace Combat

by Raven2785 » Fri Oct 17, 2014 2:42 am

Gotta love how you finished AC4 then decided to "Take a look" in AC5 just to find another post 2 hours afterwards going "Alright guys, 6 missions in"

If you're talking about bad things about war being conveyed, I gotta talk about my favorite line of the intro sequence, before you even touch a plane Gennette mentions how an entire squadron of rookies was lost because the command room misplaced a zero, which always gave me a bit of a "...Man" moment.

This game has a few more moments that will give you pause, specially if the mission you're about to try is the one I am thinking of.
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Re: Reach for the Skies: Ace Combat

by Angry Jedi » Sat Oct 18, 2014 5:51 pm

Ace Combat 5 continues to be excellent. While 4 was an excellent game, well worth playing in its own right and featuring an interesting, unconventionally told story, I feel that 5's narrative and storytelling is a cut above.

I've just done the mission where
Spoiler: show
you have to sink the second submarine that carries the "burst missiles" superweapon.
Although challenging -- I got shot down more times in this mission than I think I did in my entire playthrough of Ace Combat 4 -- it was a particularly good example of Ace Combat doing what I've learned that Ace Combat does well: playing with your expectations, and making you think about what you're doing.

Of particular note was the introduction of the "Razgriz" legend prior to the mission's storyline -- the tale of a demon that lays waste to a war-torn land, whose "existence" (or at least the existence of the myth) is teased right from the very beginning of the game through the poetic quotes on the loading screens. I really enjoyed the gradual build-up of tension in that mission, beginning with
Spoiler: show
Chopper worrying that you're flying off to meet the Razgriz itself -- you're flying over the Razgriz Straits, after all -- and gradually, as you inflict more and more deadly damage on the enemy submarine, the panicking Yuktobanian forces come to regard you and your wingmen as the demon of legend.
It's a subversion of the treatment of Mobius One -- who is indisputably a hero -- in Ace Combat 4; here, you may be just as much of a badass fighter pilot as Mobius One was, but whether or not you're doing the "right thing" is much more questionable.

Ace Combat 5 is reminding me of two very different games for two very different reasons: firstly, the thought-provoking nature of the conflicts you find yourself embroiled in that I've discussed above reminds me very much of Nier, particularly on a second playthrough and beyond where
Spoiler: show
you are finally able to understand what the shadowy "enemy" figures are actually saying
, and consequently realise that you might not be quite as heroic as you previously thought you were. Although you can play Ace Combat 5 purely as an experience where you shoot down tons of planes -- there's even an Arcade mode to slake that particular thirst -- it's a lot more rewarding when you take a step back from what you're doing and realise that it's really making you think about what you're doing.

Secondly, as Mr Connolly hinted above, the experience is actually reminding me somewhat of space sims like Freespace and its ilk. Not only are the mission briefings abstract and the overall story much more about the war itself than the individuals involved in it -- although Ace Combat 5's main narrative is a lot more "personal" than 4 was, the narrator's cutscenes aside -- but the variety of objectives is reminding me very much of flying through the inky blackness of space on patrol, escorting a vessel or attacking a capital ship. Indeed, there are numerous missions where it's a lot more than "fire and forget" when it comes to destroying things; already in Ace Combat 5 I've had to carefully fire missiles down tunnels, destroy submarines a piece at a time and escort damaged transports carefully through anti-aircraft fields. It's good stuff.

About halfway through now, I reckon.
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Re: Reach for the Skies: Ace Combat

by RedSwirl » Sat Oct 18, 2014 11:41 pm

Yep. I haven't played AC4 but that definitely seems to be an Ace Combat storyline it has there. Like I said before, to me it seems very similar to anime war dramas like Gundam, particularly in its insistence in painting wars through shades of grey, humanizing characters on all sides. And yeah, pretty much every Ace Combat game is about you becoming a mythical pilot. AC6 in particular sets this up very similarly to how you describe AC4, but it does it entirely from the perspective of people on the ground. AC5 is more like you guys becoming a mythical team of pilots. ACZero in particular I think has an interesting spin on this.
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