First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces
Based on the Mamoru Oshii's animated film of the same name, Innocent Aces is a prequel of sorts
- Unique controls, original story, great anime cutscenes
- Not very much extra content, campaign is a little short, in-game graphics are a little bland
One of the few flight sims currently available on the Wii, Project Ace's anime-based dogfighter won't revolutionise the genre by any means, but it's a solid title with some of the best aerial combat currently available on Nintendo's console.
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The Ace Combat team is no stranger to anime-based games. Having previously worked on the Japan-only mash-up Another Century's Episode games, they've returned to the realm of licensed entertainment with Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces. This time, however, they're playing more to type, crafting a game that plays like an Ace Combat set in an alternate World War II.
Based on the Mamoru Oshii's animated film of the same name, Innocent Aces is a prequel of sorts. Like the film (and the series of light novels upon which it is based), the plot centers around a war organized by a pair of corporations and its young participants. In a departure from Ace Combat, there are no heat-seeking missiles or ultra-modern jet fighters. Instead, battles are close-range dogfights between variants of classic World War II fighter planes.
What really sets it apart from other flight sims is the way it controls. Being a Wii game, the development team has done their best to implement the obligatory motion controls, with some interesting results. In the default setting, the nunchuk functions as the flight stick and the Wii Remote serves as a throttle, with the result being an occasionally frustrating but ultimately entertaining experience. For maximum effectives though, try switching to Control Type E, which shifts both the flight stick and the throttle to the nunchuk. Being able to grip the nunchuk with both hands made it feel much more like the real thing, and the analog stick made for a great throttle. The unique controls make Sky Crawlers the closest thing you'll experience to a genuine flight sim on a console. It's possible to switch over to a GameCube controller, but you're much better served sticking with the motion controls -- after all, they're what help set Sky Crawlers apart from the competition.
Of course, being a Project Aces game, the term 'flight sim' ought to be used loosely. Sky Crawlers is extremely forgiving, with stalls that almost never prove fatal and manoeuvres that ought to prove fatal. Particularly unique are the Tactical Maneuver Commands. This gauge essentially allows you to automatically lock-on and swoop in behind your enemy with the press of a button, making it possible to knock out some very tricky foes. It's not automatic by any means, but it does help to relieve some of the frustration of keeping up with enemy aces, and as with most of this game's features, more experienced pilots can take it or leave it.
Features like the TMC make it seem as though Sky Crawlers was designed with casual players in mind, which makes sense given its pedigree. Fans of the movie will find a game that's forgiving enough to be fun, but is also a good extension of the film. They'll definitely like the lush anime cutscenes Innocent Aces serves up between missions, which stand in marked contrast to the relatively bland in-game graphics. Aside from the fact that it features an original story, it's almost worth it for fans to check out Innocent Aces just for those animated interludes.
Sadly, the experience as a whole doesn't last all that long, and the only extras to keep fans going are the medals that come with getting better ranks in previously completed missions. It's clear that this game is primarily for Sky Crawlers fans, and it does an admirable job of that while it lasts. Mindful of their roots, Project Aces has seen fit to ensure that veterans can crank up the difficulty and leave most of the crutches behind. Such players should think of Innocent Aces as a distant cousin to the Ace Combat series, with unique controls and gameplay.
Ultimately, Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces is a game that deserves to be in the library of anyone who enjoyed the film, and a worthwhile purchase for flight sim fans as well. The Wii could use more games like Innocent Aces, which fills a niche while making good use of its unique capabilities. Hopefully this won't be the last time we see a game like this from Project Aces.
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