Ace Combat Zero Review

I like dogfight games, especially this one - Ace Combat Zero, the Belkan War by NAMCO and BANDAI. Here is my personal review of this game.
Ace Combat Zero Review
Ace Combat Zero - The Belkan War
Josh Tam's personal review

As a creator of several Internet flash games including some air combat games like the Armada Assault series, I am quite a fan of this kind of air combat and dogfight games. But besides SEGA's Sky Target, I have not played any other dogfight games, well except maybe X-Com Interceptor but that was a space combat game so that does not count.

Recently, I played Ace Combat Zero, an air combat game by Bandai and Namco. I know for one thing that Bandai makes lots and lots of toys, Power Ranger toys, Gundam... And Namco is well-known for really fun games. Their motto is "Serious Fun". I thought, Ace Combat Zero, should be fun for a while. My first impression when seeing the game intro and demo was that Ace Combat Zero should be something real hard to play. And considering the game to be set in the skies, full 3D rotations along all 3 axes would be possible, so this game would definitely give me a light head after 2 hours of gameplay.

I started off with the first mission. Yes. Hard indeed. All I could see was clouds. Well there was a radar... OK... Then I learnt how to pilot the plane. There was no tutorial but I could just bang all buttons and see what they did. Sure enough that alone got me very far in the game. I picked up very fast. I could manuevre the plane in different directions to take me to my destination. However, I still ended up losing the mission not because I got blown up, but because the enemy planes I were supposed to gun down got away.

I learnt fast after that and finished mission after mission. I realized that this was no ordinary game. This was more that just fun. This game is an epic. As stated before, I haven't played many air combat games and maybe those of you who are dogfight experts may have a few complains about the plane controls but then again from my point-of-view, someone like me who just started could easily pilot an Ace Combat Zero fighter jet and that is a good thing. Playabilty gets a high score from me.

What about graphics? The interface is not so stunning but it is right how it is. Radar-looking, like a military base supercomputer screen or something. Suits the game just nice. Ingame graphics? Well, I could say it is really really realistic. Missiles, explosions and gunshots are all well-done.

Let us talk about sound. In the game, you can hear lots of friendly and enemy radio messages and this gets you the thrill and makes you feel like you are really in the scene. A lot of fun. And the music? Not all of them are superb or awesome, but they provide the correct atmosphere for the game. As a game maker I know quite a bit about this. You compose a super awesome song in a game but the song does not suit the game situation, it will spoil it. I have made the mistake before but in my case, it was still quite OK. I have seen some of my friends making this mistake in their multimedia projects and holy crap... Back to Ace Combat Zero. The music was all suitable, for example, in the game, some missions do not just finish off when I accomplish the tasks. I remembered a mission where I had to destroy one whole freakin map of Belkan military base. I did as told and then I could head back to base. The music was sort of stereotype and dull, well not dull as in boring but dull as in loopy. Then after I destroyed enough of Belka's military ground nuisances, I head back to base but a new movie clip started playing and the main character's partner, Pixy, said he saw a light flash. Then the light was some kind of laser beam that took out 3 friendly jets. From then, the music changed. The laser was targetting at me. Only me. Why me. I had to avoid every beam back to base. The music was like the type with a lot of suspense. Really a great choice. Another example would be the final mission. With the storyline going to a climax the song changed to some type of spanish tap-dancing style song. (I am not reavealing the story... or it will be a major spoiler!) Do not be fooled... it may not be a tap-dancing song, I am not quite good at categorizing music here, but it was like tap-dancing and it had guitar, much like some soundtracks you might hear in zorro, but then there was a huge choir singing to it and the tune was awesome. I don't know exactly how to describe it but it had a feeling of "humanity was at stake" in it and it fitted perfectly as the boss-battle background music. I was like... WOW!

The gameplay in Ace Combat Zero is also very nice. As I said earlier, piloting the plane needed some learning, but after that it was all skill. And it did not take me a lot to master the art of dogfighting and I also found several techniques to quickly destroy opponents. The game involves rotating your plane like crazy, so the screen might make you dizzy, or at least that was what I expected. But then when I was rotating my plane, I needed to focus on the radar and my enemies, which are indicated as only small icons on the screen and in the end I did not get dizzy one bit.

I noticed that at, Ace Combat Zero got a 7.9 score and when reading the review given there, it was stated that Ace Combat Zero was fun but not much different compared to its predecessors like Ace Combat 1, Ace Combat 2,Ace Combat 3, Ace Combat 4, Ace Combat 5, Ace Combat 6... but it also stated that Ace Combat Zero was a good example of "If it is not broken, do not fix it", which means that if the gameplay is perfect, do not change it at all. Therefore, the reason for the 7.9 score seems to be because there is not much different in the gameplay and they felt like they were playing Ace Combat 6 again, but then again, when I come to think of it, can a game's score be lowered just because it still feels similar to the old versions? My answer is definitely no. The guys at gamespot are professionals and experts at this, I think, so I would not like to say that they wrongly rated the game but then my opinion is that if the feeling when playing the game maybe similar to old versions but the whole game itself is completely different with new plane additions, new weapons, new storylines and all, then the game is still a different one. Saying that a game is not so good just because it is like its prequel is really not appealing to me. In my opinion, the most important thing is the fun that the player would have when playing the game. Ace Combat Zero was a lot of fun, and it still is, and in my book, a person who has played Ace Combat Zero as his first Ace Combat game, it would be around 9.4. I think it is not fair to judge a game like: "OK, I've played Ace Combat 6 and now Ace Combat Zero plays just the same, so it's score should be lowered. I want to see something different different different" (And the guy does not even know what difference he wants) I think it should all go down to this simple question: "How fun is Ace Combat Zero? Considering all aspects of the game like music, graphics, gameplay and feel, the more fun you have, the higher the score."

A sequel should be different in gameplay only if the developer finds a better game engine or a fix for the prequel's problems. Else, if the game engine is already perfect or somewhere near perfect, it would only be befitting for a sequel to have the same game engine and different game contents. We should not harp on unnecessary changes or a game engine that is better than the already perfect one. Nothing is perfect, why ask for something better than perfect? Just ask for a different story and contents, with the same old awesome game engine, and it would be another awesome installment, and that is how Ace Combat Zero is.

As for the storyline of Ace Combat Zero is mostly about war and the pain and suffering caused by war. It is deep and touching in the sense that it really drags you into the story and you feel for the war victims. The story is also full of twists and turns and suspense. Just when you thought everything was fine, your base gets attacked and such. The main setting of the story is in an alternate universe where there is a country called Belka that is trying to conquer like crazy and you play as an Ustio mercenary trying to break Ustio free from the iron clasps of Belka.

To conclude, Ace Combat Zero not only proves to be an awesome game but also packs in a lot of fun and action together with a thrilling story. For me. Finishing the story also lets you unlock various cool stuff to make you want to play again. And yes, I recommend this to all Ace Combat Zero fans or non-Ace Combat Zero players out there. This is good stuff. Unless you primarily want to play against others, then you can just play Ace Combat 5 or 6 if you already have those. Other than that, Bandai and Namco, you rock!

Yo buddy. Still alive?
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Posted on 2007-06-20 [Wed] 17:59 with 6634 hits
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