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RTTP Analysis Ace Combat - 25th Anniversary |RTTP| Remembering the highlights of this amazing franchise

Komatsu

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2020 is the 25th anniversary of the Ace Combat series, which started with the release of Air Combat on June 30th, 1995. Developed by Namco, it now consists of over nineteen games in nine different platforms. To this day it is one of Namco's bestselling franchises, with an internal team (Project Aces) and a dedicated series producer, Kazutoki Kono. There are way too many games to discuss individually, but now is a good time as ever to go over some of their highlights:​

Ace Combat 03 - Electrosphere

After the runaway success of "Air Combat" and its sequel "Ace Combat 2", this is the game that brought the franchise to maturity. Directed by Takuya Iawasaki (that would later produce the RPG cult hit Nier) and Atsushi Shiozawa (a guiding hand for the NAMCO neophytes once they started working on Nintendo's Star Fox Assault), Ace Combat 3, released in 1999, came out in Japan with animation and characters by Production I.G., of Ghost in the Shell fame, a fascinating, technothriller-like plot and great graphics for what was then an aging platform.



The anime cutscenes also took the level of storytelling miles beyond a simulation-like game of that era would normally endeavor to tackle. With branching narratives and multiple ending - one of which, a bizarre and fascinating breaking of the fourth wall, would prefigure some of the most mind-bending aspects of Metal Gear Solid 2.

The art director, Takumi Kudo, would go on to work on the Resident Evil franchise (Dead Aim, Umbrella Chronicles) and on Contra: Rogue Cops.



NOTE ON THE WESTERN LOCALIZATION: Ace Combat 03 had one of the worst Western releases of the late 90s. The US version cut out the vast majority of the plot, the branching paths and served players with a more generic "jet fighters in the near future!" kind of plot. Thankfully, a group of fans released a full ENG patch for the original JP version a couple of years ago.

It also had a pretty good soundtrack, which would not feel out of place in a Mamoru Oshii movie:


Ace Combat 04 - Shattered Skies

Ace Combat 03 was the turning point - 04 was the blockbuster, with more than 2 million copies sold. The first iteration of the franchise in a sixth generation console, it introduced us to protagonist Mobius 01 (who would come back for a mini-campaign in 5, as well as for the VR Mode in 7) and told a story of bonding and betrayal over enemy lines. Using "static" cutscenes that were easier and cheaper to produce than the full motion animation videos of Ace Combat 03, Namco's Project Aces was able to focus on the title's gameplay, which now sported slightly more realistic physics and a greater diversity of planes, environments and biomes.




Ace Combat 05 - The Unsung War

Possibly the best story mode in the franchise, with a more grounded plot than 03. The Unsung War features several nations engaged in a war that broke a fragile peace that followed a previous, even more devastating conflict. It's incredible how the developers at Project Aces managed to meld its story and gameplay together, as the missions you fly during the game mesh with the plot in the background in ways that had not happened before in the franchise. Slightly more arcade-y than 04, the Unsung War was the first title in which one could actually interact with the other members of your squad. 05 basically laid out the groundwork that all the "HD" installments in the franchise would later follow.





Tell us, GAF: What is your favorite Aces title? What games in the series did you play? What would you like to see in the future?
 
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Haven't played them all, and I download AC 7 on Gamepass which I'll try one of these days.

AC4 was phenomenal. I think it even ran at 60 fps? KIlling all the planes at Riley base was slick and the mission where you zoom around a port city with naval ships was nice.

AC 2 was great too. I remember getting perfect S-score ranks on every level. I think that was the top rank where you kill everything including the hidden S-ranked planes. Some reason I kept replaying mission two with the snow mountains.

I thought the two 360 games were ok at best. AC6 was good, but the 30 fps speed was sloppy. AC: AH was crap. Wan't even an AC game half the time. And the enemies had stupid boosts you could barely hi them sometimes. When AH had the AC-130 scene, I was like WTF? This is a total copy of Call of Duty 4 from years ago. ONly thing they did was adjust the colour pallete a bit.
 
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You failed to mention Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation had a weird Idolmaster crossover where you could have idol decals on your jets. This is because it was 360 exclusive and at the time Idolmaster was the single biggest selling franchise on 360 in Japan and was singlehandedly propping Xbox up in Japan.

I haven't played 7 yet but it got generally positive reviews. I'll need to pick that one up before this generation ends.
 
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Komatsu

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I thought the two 360 games were ok at best. AC6 was good, but the 30 fps speed was sloppy. AC: AH was crap. Wan't even an AC game half the time. And the enemies had stupid boosts you could barely hi them sometimes. When AH had the AC-130 scene, I was like WTF? This is a total copy of Call of Duty 4 from years ago. ONly thing they did was adjust the colour pallete a bit.

Assault Horizon was trash and to this day I don't know what Namco was thinking naming their (very good) 3DS remake of Ace Combat 2 as "Assault Horizon Legacy".

I did like 6 and it looks absolutely amazing on the One X - you'll need a physical copy as unfortunately they are not selling it on the Microsoft store.
 

V4skunk

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Great series. I started at AC2. AC3 set the tone for the entire series.
And AC4 was the big one. Liked all of them except AH. AC6 on x360 was also a real looker, among the best gfx on that system.
 

Komatsu

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Great series. I started at AC2. AC3 set the tone for the entire series.
And AC4 was the big one. Liked all of them except AH. AC6 on x360 was also a real looker, among the best gfx on that system.
AC4 is an amazing game, but of the “holy trinity”, I do prefer AC5. Story is meatier and it squeezed everything out of the PS2.
 

Aion002

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5 is the best, 0 and 4 were great, 3 was good.

And 6 I finished a couple of missions at a friend house, but it felt weird being exclusive to 360, it felt like kinda of a slap in the face, I always played this series on PS and then MS moneyhatted as an exclusive and Namco said fuck you PlayStation users, so even after buying a 360 I never got interested in buying 6.

7 appears to be awesome, but I just lost the interest after 6...
 

Komatsu

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5 is the best, 0 and 4 were great, 3 was good.

And 6 I finished a couple of missions at a friend house, but it felt weird being exclusive to 360, it felt like kinda of a slap in the face, I always played this series on PS and then MS moneyhatted as an exclusive and Namco said fuck you PlayStation users, so even after buying a 360 I never got interested in buying 6.

7 appears to be awesome, but I just lost the interest after 6...

7 is glorious - a big return to form for the series. It's on game pass as well, for those who have it.
 
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4 is still my favorite or at least it has my favorite story, I love the Strangereal setting, it's fascinating.

You know what I'd love to see? An Ace Combat game about on the ground warfare with tanks or a prequel game with biplanes about Strangereal's World War 1 esque conflict.
 

A.Romero

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I started at 3 with an imported version and never looked back.

5 is my fav.

There is a special place in my heart for the PSP AC.

I liked 7. I wish I could play the VR missions with Oculus on PC.