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.)
This game seems like it presents itself very well in and outside of the disc. Adding a reversible cover and colored booklet was a nice touch.
Thanks for the impressions NoName. My interest in the game has been fluctuating a bit, but your review here gave me the push I needed to check the game out. And don't apologize about your word structure, because you write very very well. In fact, I could learn a thing or two from you being a novice writer myself. =P
Edit: Oh, and I'll hook you up with the Soundtrack as soon as I see it. I'm actually tracking a thread in regards to it, so it shouldn't be long before it's online.
I think I'm definitely going to check it out. A LOVE flight games.
Almost as much as I'm terrified of IRL flight.
About the soundtrack... I haven't played the game yet of course, but the song in the trailer... so freaking good. I watched that trailer probably 100 times. Well, sometimes it wasn't even "watched" I'd just turn it on to listen to the song. So IF you can find that soundtrack, let me know where!
Great write up, thanks for describing the game so well. I hope you go down a couple of levels soon because this kind of effort deserves to go on the front page.
It's funny how much difference a small amount of story and characterisation can add to a game. I like it in my puzzle games now, and it definitely sounds like I'd enjoy Sky Crawlers more because of it. I wouldn't normally pay too much attention to a flight-sim either. Ack. So many games.
Thanks to all for the positive feedback regarding my impressions (and thanks, Octorockin for the nice comments regarding my mess of words). I'm notorious for posting comments only to delete what I've just spent time typing out, so it's nice to see something I didn't delete sparking some interest into what is so far an excellent game. And thanks Y-Alpha for your words, and Zero for the level lowering (both of your postings here gave me cause to chuckle). Though, I guess the pressure's on to make certain I only post interesting things. Well, it's a good thing I don't post much in general. Non-interesting users such as myself have a hard enough time coming up with interesting things to comment on, let alone post topics about. Haha.
I didn't get time to play Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces yesterday (for shame), but hope to put some quality time into it today and this weekend. I'll add to this impressions thread if I have any noteworthy comments to add. Oh, and thanks for posting the reversible box art, Octorockin. That was something I intended to do, but ultimately never got around to doing. But no matter, I hope you are enjoying the game, and more importantly, I hope my impressions don't lead to regret on your part! The same can be said to anyone that picks up this game. May anyone that does so find something to like about it. I should think it to be an easy thing to do given how mighty fine the game most certainly is!
Picked it up for $20 from Amazon (along with Half Minute Hero on PSP). Played the first few missions. Geez, why did I wait on this one?! It's basically Ace Combat, which is one of my favorite franchises of last generation! Ok, so maybe the controls are a tad bit iffier (I'm playing with the Gamecube controller) and perhaps it won't have quite the variety of missions, but it still has that Ace Combat feel to it. Call it Ace Combat lite, if you want.
Actually, it is one of the few games I have played lately where I played until I had to put it down, and now I want to get back to it...
(And if you're wondering, yes, it is the Ace Combat team who made this game, a fact that is very, very obvious once you start playing it.)
I'm glad to read that a few others have picked up this game and have found just cause to have their purchase merited. I, too, was surprised at how enjoyable it was of a game, with this being my first time playing a flight simulator. While I haven't completed the game, I have certainly had fun with what I have played of it. Though I haven't played the game with the GCN controller, I can attest to the words of Simbabbad in that the Wii remote and nunchuk controls work quite well. Sky Crawlers was a bargain at its original price of thirty dollars and is a downright steal at twenty. I can't say that it's my favorite Wii game or anything, but I can most assuredly say that it is among those that provide delight.