GrayGhost81

Posted on Oct 21st 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under ace combat, ps2, psp, reviews


Before I dove back into the numbered series of Ace Combat games, I decided to take a look at another handheld entry in the series with Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception for the Sony PSP. The game certainly starts out promising and converts elements from the console games to handheld very nicely, but it does have a few shortcomings. Ace Combat X is seemingly going for the same dramatic presentation of Ace Combat 4, but it can't quite reach the high bar set by that title. For one thing, the voice acting is pretty poor. For a series with anime-influenced futuristic war stories, the presentation has to be really authentic to be effective. In this game it was difficult to take the story seriously at times.





The gameplay here is largely the same as its console brethren, with only a few concessions being made for the PSP's more limited control scheme (for example, changing the view is done in a menu as opposed to it being assigned to a face button). I think the turning of the planes is a little slower in this game, but nothing that hampered my overall enjoyment. One thing I really am not in love with about the series so far really reared its head in this title though. In all the games I've played so far, there is no checkpointing within missions. For the most part, I haven't had an issue with this as I'm playing all the games on easy difficulty and with the exception of Ace Combat 4 most of the missions in these games are extremely short. In Ace Combat X I did find myself wishing some of the more complex missions had a checkpoint or two as objectives began piling up. I can admit however, that this is more than likely a result of my low skill level and perhaps a little bit of a lack of patience. Ace Combat X is a definite recommendation for PSP owners looking to try a portable Ace Combat game.

Next, it was time for me to dive back into the main series console titles, with Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, once again on the almighty PS2. This game would prove to be the ultimate bump in the road regarding my overall enjoyment of the series to this point.

I'll start with the good. Once again, the presentation of the game is absolutely top-notch, though you can throw away what I said about human characters in the series, as this is the first title to feature them (and it does so heavily) in cutscenes. The graphics in these cutscenes hold up pretty well to date, but that may not always be the case. The voice acting, which is available in both Japanese and English this time around, is very good, and when it borders on cheesy it is only in the best way. The story is way more involving than the previous main title. Though I loved the way Ace Combat 4's story connected the dots between the narrative and the player very slowly, I felt immediately involved in Ace Combat 5's storyline, as this time around the player character is one of the main drivers of the story. One of my favorite characters from Ace Combat 2, Kei "EDGE" Nagase, makes a prominent return as well. The story is very gripping and is a good step forward for the series. I only wish I could have had a smoother time experiencing it, which brings me to my complaints about the game.

Gameplay sample courtesy of Tomcat171

I mentioned above that Ace Combat X would have been better for me if it had mid-mission checkpoints. I had no idea how much bigger of a problem this would be in Ace Combat 5. Like Ace Combat 4, many of the missions here can be quite lengthy, and quite a few of them have a significant amount of unskippable dialog in the first few minutes of them. When there are no checkpoints and many objectives in a long mission, it can be amazingly frustrating to have to replay the bulk of a mission over and over if you're having trouble with one of the later objectives. I wish there were checkpoints in this game. Better yet if they were optional as to not turn off hardcore players. To make matters even worse, there are few instances in the game where a few missions will be strung together without the ability to save in between. If you don't have a good loadout for all of those missions, you're in trouble. About halfway through the game, I hit a wall and had to start over using a walkthrough. I should note that there are four difficulty options including "very easy," which is what I played on, and though this increases the amount of ammunition as well the durability of the airplane, it only makes small changes to the mission objectives. Though I play video games primarily to relax and get away from the stress of real life, I don't mind a little bit of a challenge now and then. Playing Ace Combat 5, I was damn near my breaking point and if I was not writing this article I would have definitely given up. Further, as great as the story and its presentation are in this game, I found it harder and harder to care about it as I got angrier and angrier listening to those aforementioned expository dialogue segments at the beginning of any troubling mission over and over again.

Despite all this, I can still recommend Ace Combat 5 as long as you know what you're getting into. Don't expect to bust through a bunch of missions in one sitting like the previous titles. This game feels like work a lot of the time and so far is my least favorite in the series by very large margin. Still, like some kind of dysfunctional relationship, I kept going back to it to see what it could offer me.

After Ace Combat 5 I needed another break from the console titles. I jumped back into the PSP offerings with AceCombat: Joint Assault and to alleviate some of the issues I've brought up with checkpointing, I played this game on an emulator so I could utilize save states for a smoother experience. Joint Assault is basically a continuation of Ace Combat X, only with added cooperative multiplayer. I'm not able to evaluate the co-op play, but I was able to play through the story campaign by myself. The presentation here is exactly the same as the previous PSP title, but the story of the game takes place in the real world. Oddly enough, many of the missions are broken up into phases with actual checkpoints in between. It may seem at first that my prayers had been answered, but I still relied heavily on save states during my playthrough of this game. Even broken down into phases, there is too much to do to not be able to go back to a point within that phase. After all, this is a portable game!

Although Joint Assault boasts the same graphical prowess of Ace Combat X, I definitely got the impression that the developers got a little lazy with the mission structure here. In previous games, most notably the first one, the concept of a flying fortress was meant to impose intimidation in the player as a formidable opponent. In Joint Assault the flying fortress, known as the Spiridus, seems to appear in every other mission. To make matters worse, sometimes there are two of them, and many times they have regenerating primary targets on them. All of this makes the game a little tedious.

It is not without its bright spots, though. One mission has you flying an unarmed commercial jet through a small ravine populated by many enemies. Another has you flying in and out of the range of a super powered rail gun that will kill you in one shot. All in all though, there is simply not enough variety here to recommend this game over the first PSP game. If you played Ace Combat X and absolutely need more of it, give Joint Assault a shot. However on its own I have a hard time recommending it.

In the next installment, I will return to the main console series with Ace Combat Zero as well as Ace Combat 6. See you then!


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Comments
 
I really liked when Ace Combat stuck more to awesome combat sim, and less to telling a story. I'm hoping that the upcoming title just focuses on what the series does best.
 
I think I will be keeping an eye out for Skies of Deception, if not Joint Assault as well.  I am a little curious about Assault Horizon as well, but I've been avoiding it, mainly because the Ace Combat series has impressed on me the need for superior graphics, and as much as I love my 2DS XL it just isn't a graphical powerhouse.

Anyway, great article, and looking forward to the next one.
 
Thanks for the feedback here, my friends!

Duke, I enjoy the stories, but if you don't, I would would say straight up skip all the cutscenes and you wouldn't notice the difference really.


 
Reading your articles on this series kind of makes me want to dig out my Ace Combat games and play them.  I've not been much of a flight sim guy, but throw in combat, and that makes things more interesting.  I might have to succumb to the temptation one of these days Smiley

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