During the Playstation 2 era, Bandai Namco’s Ace Combat series hit its peak. Games like Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies, Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War and Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War are still highly praised PS2 titles that still hold ground thanks to its narrative and solid Arcade-style dogfighting. However the series has received its fair share of critism starting with the Xbox 360 Exclusive Ace Combat 6: Skies of Liberation and its attempt to follow the Hollywood Blockbuster format of the Call of Duty series with Assault Horizon.
“A few years ago, I got a questionnaire to the users and got the worst answers,” said Kazutoki Kono, producer of Ace Combat 7 and head of the Project Aces team in an interview with Gamespot. “Now we want to listen to the users’ voice more closely so we can get back to the roots of the series: Strangereal.”
Strangereal is a term that came for the universe that was created for the Ace Combat games, litterally meaning Strange and Real in the sense that the game, while set in a strange fictional world similar to ours, featured items that were available in our time like the many fighter jets you could play with.
If you’re a fan of the Ace Combat series, then I don’t need to convince you that this is a great move. Strangereal was an interesting world to tell two solid stories through both Shattered Skies and Unsung War/The Belkan War, which aside from focusing on the War at hand filled with political strife and conspiracy, also told a human element of those affected by the battles.
“‘Real world’ is very easy to make credible, easy to believe. But there are so many constraints as a game. On the other hand if it’s a hypothetical world, lots of additional setup is needed, but there is a lot of freedom within it.” Kono continued in the interview. “It’s our 20th anniversary, and that is sort of a milestone for Ace Combat, using ‘7’ is really important for the brand, as it’s setting our position for future direction.”
Another amazing factor for Ace Combat 7 will be the return of lead writer Sunao Katabuchi who worked on 4 and 5, as well as Kiki’s Delivery Service and Black Lagoon. “What makes Ace Combat 7 more exciting, interesting, and intriguing for us, is that with Katabuchi, we can weave the empathy of the human beings–the deep sensitivity, the feelings–into the game, and we can think about what war really is.”
So aside from the return of Strangereal and the announced Playstation VR Compatibility, what else should we get excited about for Ace Combat 7? How about Clouds. While on the ground, Clouds are innocent enough, but in the middle of a Dog-fight clouds could mean life or death. “In the open sky, when players get into a dogfight, they tend to just loop around and around all the time [in the process of evading enemy fighters]. But this time we can cut off that loop by giving aircraft an option of banking into a cloud to escape.”
“You have to be careful because you don’t just worry about the size of the cloud. In it, there’s a difference in wind currents, and the temperature changes.” Siting that staying in the clouds can cause vision to be obscured, moisture in the cockpit, as well as freezing the plane causing it to stall, and the very real possibility of crashing into another pilot.
Clouds are a surprising factor when it comes to Ace Combat, as past games had used the trick over having overlapping texture plates to make them, rather then fully rendered 3d items. It’s something even as a big fan of the series I haven’t really thought about when playing the games back on the PS2, or even with the more recent Assault Horizon. Clouds had no effect on the game itself, however this may be a big deal for 7 when the game releases in the future.
No release date has been given for the upcoming Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, and information has been lacking since it’s reveal at PSX 2015 where it was confirmed as a VR Compatible game. Hopefully we’ll hear more in the near future because I will take any excuse to write about the Ace Combat series that I can get.
Side Note to Bandai Namco: Would love to see the PS2 era Ace Combat games as a PS2 classic on PS4.