For the first time since becoming a fan of the series, I fear the skies ahead...
The original Ace Combat was my third PSX game. We call it "Air Combat" over here in Europe for some reason. Namco pretty much ruled my living room back on those days, with my first two purchases for Sony's 32 bit wonder being "Ridge Racer" and "Tekken". Truly for the firs time ever, we had arcade at home quality conversions running in our TV sets. Having said that, I have been a huge fan of the series not unlike some other nameless TAY admin from around these parts.
Oh yes, I am indeed that classic case of "watched 'Top Gun' as a kid // was raised on 'Area 88' manga and anime // wanted to grow up to join the Air Force" (or the ''Air Farse" as my ex-Navy grandfather called them... ahem). This was indeed the reason why I always got good grades in school. Sadly, that particular dream came to an end when at age fifteen I discovered I would have to use glasses, result of a combination between genetic heritage and spending my free time playing video games.
And video games I kept playing even more after that. Namco's "Ace Combat" series climbed on top of my favourite franchises ever, it combined the frantic arcade action of something like "After Burner" with the impressive visuals of PC flight simulators. I really can't choose a favourite of the franchise, I like how they took risks with the third game of the series (severely butchered for the western releases, sadly) and I must admit a special place for the PSX second outing, it was the closest the game ever was to Area 88, a series that Project Aces admits having played a huge influence in making the game on the first place. I got good at it. Really damn good:
I still remember fondly the day I picked up both "WipEout Fusion" and "Ace Combat 4: Distant Thunder" (or the more dramatic "Shattered Skies" as it's know in Japan and USA). This and the following two entries in the series mark a very high peak of quality for the series. I would have bought a PS2 just to play those 3 games alone. Graphics, music, plot... everything was top notch! I am often sad this series is so niche, I am sure a lot of people who are not aviation nuts would enjoy it, like people who are not gear-heads can enjoy an arcade racing game.
I have never had the chance to play to completion the Xbox 360 exclusive "Fires of Liberation" but do understand it's one of the best. I am however not much of a fan of the recent "Assault Horizon", I understand Project Aces trying to appeal to a more "Call of Duty" crowd and I have no problem with that at all, expanding the public of the game would ensure further new games in the series... but the game was already near perfect IMO, having it's core gameplay often imitated but never bested so why fix what wasn't broke? Things have been much better on portables, with two perfectly solid entries on the PSP and my current favourite entry so far of the series, the 3DS exclusive "Assault Horizon" that has absolutely nothing to do with the home console versions and apart from the lack of any sort of multi player, the ability to shut off the fighter's engine by pressing L+R and freely turn anyway you want before igniting the engines again is an absolute delight in both offence and defence. If you see the game cheap on a bargain bin, feel free to take a chance, it's truly quite special!
Tomorrow "Infinity" beta arrives. I don't own a PS3, but I gave one to my dad a few birthdays ago (or the "Gran Turismo" machine as he refers it... I do try to make him play other games to no avail so far) and he will download the thing for me to try. Truly "Infinity" has me incredibly confused. I know I will love it because it offers an HD upgrade to all the stuff that make me love the series on PS2 and even has some "Fires of Liberation" content along with quite an hefty plane choice. Yet... play two missions for free with a four hour cool down period? I don't want to rent "virtual fuel" to be able to play the thing! I want a boxed, full "Ace Combat" that I can play any time I want, for the amount of time I choose... Namco, you are giving the game for free but you are removing my proper ownership in the classic sense of the game!
Perhaps it's just me. I'm just too old, too used to an old ways, the old system, the old market, the way things were... the old Ace Combat. This truly scares me a bit, because I always perceived myself open minded and willing to try new things, but even without having played this a single time, I am not at all at ease with the whole thing. Considering the time I played the previous games... this game would become far more expensive then a brand new, 70€ boxed game in less than 2 or 3 months. I'm not even counting on the surely addictive online multiplayer, something I always looked forward the series evolved into.
But will we ever see a a new boxed Ace Combat in the future? Allow me to dream even higher, for my dreams do truly take me really high: I want a Wii U version! I know Namco-Bandai (oh sorry, it's Bandai-Namco now, right?) isn't a charity, but I loved the way the 3DS game used both screens, I can't but dream of a home console version on that Gamepad.
That's enough from me. What about you, fellow virtual Mavericks, Gooses and Icemans? Will you be playing "Infinty"? Do you agree with this F2P? Is the sky truly mine if I can but rent it a few missions at a time? Onwards to the virtual blue skies ahead, let us see if "Infinty"turns into a roaring success or is just writing checks it's ego can't cash.
Shiryu signing off nearing bingo fuel, RTB. Play Hard, Play Loud!