Hello all! It's Tuesday! So, last week I covered an awesome DS JRPG about time travel.
This week, I replayed a PS2 flight sim that proves these games can have great stories too.
Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies dates way back to 2001, and, naturally, was the fourth in the Ace Combat series. On the surface, you play as a silent ace pilot; in this case, Mobius One. As Mobius One, you're tasked with various, pretty standard dogfighting missions, like "destroy all enemy jets" or "destroy all ground targets." Or a combination of both.
AC4 is a solid combat flight sim to this day. That is, it's a simulator the way Call of Duty is a simulator. Your jet of choice (you get to pick from real jets as well as prototypes) carries a ridiculous amount of missiles and can take a beating (on normal difficulty). Generally, you end up taking out dozens of enemies over the course of a mission. And at the end, you go up against a superweapon, which you take out in complicated and most epic fashion:
Skip to around 6:50. Also SPOILERS.
For me, AC4 is really where the series started. The first three were pretty okay for their time (though 3 was dreadful). But 4 brought something new to the table.
You see, the story in AC4 isn't told from "your" perspective. At all. You never learn anything about Mobius One. Your character is utterly silent; a blank cipher with which to project yourself onto. The one thing you do know about Mobius One is he's an ace pilot, which draws the attention of the enemy ace pilot, known as Yellow 13.
On a side note, AC4, like almost every Ace Combat, takes place in a fictional world. In this case, you're an Independent States Allied Forces pilot fighting against the Erusians.
Back on topic, Yellow 13 shoots down a fighter jet that crashes into a house in the town of San Salvacion. A boy who lived in the house and is now orphaned goes to live with his uncle, who lives above a tavern.
The story is told through great hand-drawn images like these.
The whole story is told through a letter written by this boy to you, Mobius One. He tells the story of how Yellow 13 eventually took up residence in the tavern, as San Salvacion had been occupied by the Erusians, a.k.a. the enemy. We learn more about our supposed arch-enemy than we do about our own character. Hell, we learn more about the Erusians than we learn about the ISAF, the group we belong to. They're supposed to be the good guys, that's all we know.
And yet, we see the "bad" guys for what they really are: people. People who strongly believe in their cause, and who may be misguided in going about it, but people nonetheless.
There's a great scene where the narrator finds Yellow 13 for the first time. He's playing a guitar in the tavern, and everyone's watching him. Because of Yellow 13's actions, the narrator is an orphan, his parents killed. Yet the song Yellow 13 is playing happens to be the narrator's father's favorite song. And so the narrator accompanies Yellow 13 on harmonica.
Also there's jets.
Imagine if the enemies you killed in Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto each had their own story. They must have stories, right? They're people. AC4 is like that. It's a tale of a war fought mostly in the skies, with cool jets and insane weapons, but at it's core, this is the story of Yellow 13 and the narrator who formed a strange friendship.We're watching a war story from the point of view of the people who are affected the most: the ones caught in the crossfire.
It's a plot idea Namco would try again, with just about as much success, in Ace Combat 6. And which they would promptly ditch in Assault Horizon, but that's probably why that's not a numbered entry.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention my other favorite part: the soundtrack (although, yes, the game is quite pretty). Ace Combat always has a great soundtrack, going for an epic feel while smartly avoiding a heavy rock guitar feel, which you'd expect out of something like this. In case you couldn't hear it in the clip above, this song, which plays during the last level, is nothing short of epic:
Ace Combat 6 has a fantastic "ground-level" story as well, but Ace Combat 4 remains my favorite in the series. It tells a heartfelt tale, and mixes it with high-flying action. See, you can have your cake and eat it too. Seriously, go check it out if you can, though AC6 will do in a pinch.
Thanks for reading! Question, comment, and suggest future games for this article series! And Tweet me @WingZero351
Next Week-Did you know Bungie made games before Halo? Let's check out one of 'em.