5 July 2009 | spiden
One of the best combat flight simulators.
"Amidst the blue skies, a link from the past to the future. The sheltering wings of the Protector... The flames of hatred scorch the skies, igniting Gaia's funeral pyre..."
These words usher you into "Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies" with a grandeur foreshadowing the next 30-some hours, because once you become attached to this game, you can't put down the controller. Very simply, the entirety of this game is engaging in a personal way. It has one of those rare stories you find in a video game that makes you feel like you just stepped out of a movie theater showing a four-star film. Of course, the gameplay is equally on par with its plot. However, while you play as a fighter pilot, the story is seen through the eyes of a man writing a letter to someone. The various experiences he puts on paper unfolds in still images drawn like a color manga, with the man narrating his life story.
The man recalls he was "just a child when the stars fell from the sky." By this, he means that as a boy, meteorites pounded the Earth. In response, the Erusians built a superweapon to combat the deep-space attackers. After the danger subsided, the Erusians realized the power of their weapon and turned it towards the rest of Usea. Here, a war ensues with fighter planes playing a crucial part. During a dogfight in the Narrator's hometown, a plane is shot down on his family home. Still a child, the boy was left to fend for himself in a wartime society. He found a job at a local bar where he played the harmonica and developed a crush on the barkeep's daughter. The boy also becomes attached to the squadron responsible for his family's deaths. The rest you must experience for yourself, it truly becomes heartfelt and intense.
During gameplay, you play an ace fighter pilot designated Mobius 1. Throughout a series of cutscenes the boy occasionally sights Mobius 1 during battles in and near his town. He idolizes the fighter pilot along with the rest of his town.
The gameplay itself is smooth and easy to learn. The handling corresponds to your plane's statistics, which are precise and accurate to the actual plane on which they're based. The different enemies, especially the superweapon(s), are varied and have unique fighting abilities. There is a choice of a couple dozen planes with special weapons and different ammunition capacities. Their statistics are based on several criteria including air to air combat, air to ground combat, mobility, stability, durability, and speed, if I remember correctly.
The graphics look fantastic for a 2001 game. In fact, it's one of the best looking games on the Playstation 2. The planes are detailed and often dirty, with different textures contrasting vibrantly with the rest of the colors on the ground and the cities. In a night battle, it's difficult to distinguish the sky from the ocean, so the graphics, in a sense, are acting as your enemy along with other vehicles.
The game features an incredible, grand soundtrack that, personally, made me want to look it up online and listen to it over and over. The music sounds like techno, but also has beautiful non-lyrical vocals that makes a great combination. This game isn't just for viewing.
Trust me, folks. I tried. I really tried to find a disappointing aspect in this game. However, I'm blown away by the sheer excellence and enjoyability of "Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies." 10/10.