I picked up my copy of Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces this early evening, and I've come to post impressions for anyone interested in reading the thoughts of some noname poster such as myself...
Two hours in and five missions accomplished I have come to a conclusion regarding this game. I really, really like it! It's easy to get swept up in the story and the various missions at hand, yet so very hard to put down. It has exceeded my expectations thus far. I must admit that I was a little hesitant about getting this game as I've never played a flight simulation before (save for Pilotwings 64), and just didn't know how I'd take to it. However, as the release date drew near, and a few semi-glowing reviews made themselves known, I started to warm up to the game quite a bit. Many times when I pick up a preordered game I don't get to trying it out right away, but Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces had my curiosity peaked to an intensely impatient degree. Off went its protective plastic wrap in a matter of moments.
And what a wondrous surprise to behold upon a closer inspection... The box art is reversible! I so very happily flipped over the hideously unattractive American version to find the Japanese art with translated title and all. Very nice. The back cover section features a black/blue and white graphic of some of the main characters. So, thank you, XSEED, for offering up an alternative. Color me joyously surprised. If only I came with a reversible cover.
Now onto the game at hand. Starting up, things are quite nice, though the menus are a little on the basic side and can be a bit confusing with it always wanting to default to the retry/back/replay option. The training mode is a little too broken up and bland, yet still, it's nice to have, and very nice in that it isn't mandatory. Yay! In very little time you're into the thick of the story mode, and thus the real fun begins.
The story does take a bit to kick in, but still from the very beginning my interest was piqued. I wanted to find out more and see the characters develop. The voice acting really does add such great value to the story, so much so that I couldn't imagine playing with out it. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the voice work is truly top notch. And speaking of top notch... Wow, what a soundtrack! While I've only heard a handful of tunes, they're totally tubular. Some somber, some intense, and some terrificly epic in scope. Even the menu music is fantastic. Sound effects are right up there as well. The chitter-chatter of the various pilots while engaging in battle can get a little bothersome – but that's all part of the experience I guess. So, all in all, the audio shines. In fact, I'm frantically searching online for the soundtrack. So far, no dice.
To complement the audio are some very nice visuals. The animated cut scenes, while a bit stiff, are nicely done and add a lot to the story. They also add life to what could have been your average, run of the mill, flight sim. If this game were just that, I am most certain I wouldn't have bought it. Though even with it being fun apart from the Sky Crawlers theme (as in just blasting away targets), the characters and story at hand add so much to the experience. I couldn't imagine playing without the theme in place. Oh, and regarding the in-game visuals, they're really great, actually. Sure some of the environments can look a little dull texture wise and layout wise, but overall the game looks very, very good. And flying above the clouds... Amazing. Truly amazing.
The controls had me a bit worried, as I read some early reports of them not working out so well, but I didn't have too much trouble with them. Granted, initially I had my arms all twisted trying to maneuver my plane during an intense battle, but by mission three I was well on my way to controlling things in a semi-sophisticated manner. The only problem I'm still working with is aiming at targets faraway. The nuchuck could stand to be a little more precise, though I believe I can tweak things a bit. By mission five my aiming had improved significantly. So, I'm not going to consider the controls at fault here. At least, not completely. Plus, if you want, you can play via the classic or GCN controller. I haven't tried either, as I'd rather stick to the intended method of play, but it's good to see that other options were made available.
While I'm not super hot at accurately aiming, the auto and manual maneuver ability is a very nice touch – almost a saving grace for me. When you are in close proximity to an enemy for a brief amount of time, you can trigger an auto maneuver which will have you swirl your way behind your enemy for a direct shot. The longer you stay in proximity the greater your chance will be in having a clear shot once you're out of the super quick auto maneuver mode. You can also activate manual maneuvers by choosing a variety of options via the control stick. Maneuvering is key to quickly successful missions (at least for me anyway), and are easy to pull off. However, they don't make things too easy.
The way the missions are setup and how they flow seems to work out rather well. At first I thought the game felt a bit broken up by the stopping and starting of missions, but that was before the story kicked in, so now the breaks aren't forming as seamless a picture as they once were. The briefing beforehand and afterwards is helpful, and the ability to see the lay of the land is a nice feature. The missions are basically to take out targets (TGTs), but do vary by in large. One may have you taking out cargo planes while another has you dropping bombs on tanks. And to keep things even more interesting, another has you taking secret pictures of enemy facilities (the mission I ended with for the night). Most often, however, you'll find yourself blasting away enemy fighters via air to air combat.
Upon completing a mission you're graded on how many enemies you destroyed, how quickly you accomplished the mission, and so on. I haven't quite figured out the scoring system, as on some levels I thought I did okay, but scored all Ss. And another I thought I did really well, yet scored As and Bs. I just need to check the manual, I suppose, to see what's what. (The manual, by the way, is in full color, and is rather beefy.) Depending on your score, you are able to unlock a variety of things. For example, I've thus far unlocked: three planes, four types of secondary weapons, a couple of new plane colors, and the like. There appears to be enough stuff to unlock to keep things interesting and fresh until the end. Unlockables make for a very happy play experience for me.
I feel like I'm leaving something out, but I don't see how that's possible when I glance above and see what all I've typed out. Sorry, I tend to get carried away. But, there's a lot to this game, and it's easy to speak highly of. This game, so far, is an amazing value. I still can't get over the measly $30 asking price. I almost feel as though I've “gotten” my money's worth already.
Verdict based on my embarrassingly limited time spent with the game: It's fun!
Check out the trailer here and/or here, if interested. Also, if you have this game, please feel free to post your thoughts/impressions as well. The more the merrier!
(My apologies for the child-like structure of this mess of words. My mind is not too sharp at the moment, and I'm too pooped to be overly concerned with sentence structure and word selection.)
I haven't tried the tilt. I probably will eventually, but these games seem to frustrate me enough as it is so
Speaking of which, I spent literally like 3 hours on the first photographing mission where you have to save 3 of your friends from enemy ships. 3 hours saying to myself how do they even expect me to do this!? because you have like no time at all before they get shot down... and then I remembered the game had those special movies you could do once you get close to an enemy. Then it only took me a couple tries to get it.
I'm not sure how I feel about the special moves. It sort of takes all of the fun out of a dogfight when all you have to do is get close, press a button, and end up right behind the enemy...
I miss missiles! The fun thing about missiles was you really needed to TAIL an enemy, as in, read the direction they are flying and get up behind them and really line up a shot. With this as long as you stay in that little circle long enough you press a button and you're basically done.
It is a bit annoying trying to shoot enemies down on your own but again, it makes you tail an enemy (or lead shots which is super tough on a moving enemy) which makes you feel pretty good when you take one down.
I don't necessarily mind the special moves, but they do make it more "arcadey" which is kind of weird since nothing else about the game is arcadey at all.
Yeah I did actually beat her earlier tonight and that was what I did, I realized if you can hit her before she shoots while she is playing "chicken" that she backs off (and then you can hit her a few more times). Even so, it took me like 5 tries to beat her tonight (AFTER fully upgrading my plane with all my best parts) and when I did I was red and blinking...
Definitely an awesome fight. Though I'd say the game is a step down from Ace Combat 4/5 (while still being well worth playing) the one thing those games didn't really have is one totally epic dogfight.
As for the special moves, I agree they are too powerful, but I sort of got around that by barely using them. I really only used them on the one mission where you have to take out a bunch of fighters before your friends die, and then on the two dogfights near the end.
I played the whole game on "normal" (wish I would have known hard was more normal than normal, though as you say, it's basically the same game anyway) and beat it tonight, played the EX mission once... and I'm done. Was a fun purchase but nothing I need to come back to.