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Game Review – The Sky Crawlers : Innocent Aces for the Wii

14849 Now, I’ll be perfectly honest here. I have only played a handful of flight related games. And all of them are too old for anyone to have really cared about. I remember attempting to play the original MS Flight Simulator when I was a kid. And I got F22 Interceptor recently for the Sega Genesis just because I was curious. And that’s about the extent of the flight games I’ve played aside from Star Fox … but to me that doesn’t really count.

So this review is going to be a little different from most of the ones I do being that I have no prior knowledge of games like this. And I can’t comment too much on the motion controls because I have issues with them with ANY game because I can’t hold my hands steady enough to make that style of a control scheme a viable option. What I’m going to do for this one in particular is relate my experiences playing the game … of which I used a Gamecube controller to play. And of course my opinion of various things such as the gameplay and the graphics and all that neato stuff.

2009-06-19_16-58-00 This game was made by Project Aces … the same people who did the Ace Combat series of flight combat games. Now, whether you know anything about flight games or not if you’ve even HEARD of these games I doubt you’ll find anyone who has said anything bad about them. So this particular game has a hell of a pedigree behind it. And it really shows, because this game really surprised me. Despite it’s relatively short length (I finished it in about 6 hours) it is very well done and very accessible to new players, which is great for me because … well … I’m among them.

The first thing I did when I popped the game in is let it sit, and after a little bit you get a little video that acts as sort of a trailer for the game showing off a little bit of the excellently drawn cut scenes animated by the same people who did the film the game is based off of, Production I.G. But regarding the story itself in the game, while it’s very well written and really makes me care about the characters in the game … I can’t help but feel I’m missing something having never seen the anime before. The story itself came off as kind of a blur to me and I found myself following the characters themselves and their constant chatter during the missions then the actual plot itself. You may get a lot more out of this if you’ve seen the movie in other words.

2009-06-19_16-58-00-1 But back to what I was talking about … the first thing I did was go through the tutorial, which does an excellent job of showing you how to fly your plane using the Wii remote and the nunchuck. I myself, like I said, have issues with this control scheme. But it’s not the game’s fault by any means, it’s a physical problem on my end getting in the way. Thankfully it supports using either the Wii Classic Controller and the original Gamecube controller. After struggling with the motion controls for a few missions, I finally managed to find my old Gamecube controller … only to find out it doesn’t work anymore. So I went out and bought another one. NOW I was all set to play the game, and let me tell you it controls beautifully with any of the control methods. I had one of my friends play it for a  little while using the motion controls and he had no problems at all after about half an hour or so of getting accustomed to them.

The coolest thing regarding the control scheme in my opinion is the "Tactical Maneuver Command" system. When you’re in a certain distance of your enemy, a bar shows up at the bottom of the screen, and you wait for that bar to fill up up to three levels. Once it’s filled up enough, you just smack a button and your plane does an impressive looking acrobatic move that aligns it right behind the enemy for an easier shot. And you’ll definitely be using this. Especially on the harder difficulties and the more flight simulator style control styles. Each of the planes you unlock through the course of the game have their own handling style, unique look and various things you can do to upgrade them to suit whatever mission you’re going on. Which is something you may want to pay attention to because some planes do better on certain missions than others.

2009-06-19_17-03-00 The missions are varied and fun, and really make you feel like your doing something … though a bit TOO easy on the easiest difficulty. I think I died twice through the whole game on easy, but when I bumped it up it definitely ramped up and provides a good challenge. And it’s great to see these planes just tear through the sky swooping and doing these impressive acrobatic moves. The plane models themselves look great, the cut scenes as I mentioned before are beautiful. But there are some down sides to this … some of the environments themselves just look bland and lifeless. Other times they look great and look like they’re teeming with life. And the explosions themselves … there doesn’t appear to be as much wreckage flying out of them as I would have thought from a plane exploding. But damn does cutting through an enemy plane like a hot knife through butter and flying through the explosion look great for the instant it lasts. And the sky and the clouds by themselves are gorgeous, which really makes up for the somewhat bland look of some of the ground environments.

Along with the good visual style of the game, there comes the audio. Epic sounding music for when things start really heating up help push the adrenaline level of some of the missions along with the constant chatter of your squad mates and the various weaponry and explosions definitely call out for a good speaker system.

2009-06-19_17-03-00-1 There IS a type of multiplayer, but unfortunately I was unable to try it out. But apparently you can either fly the missions solo or a second player can take control of another Wii remote and fire off secondary weapons. Which I suppose is a decent enough addition, but nothing that really enticed me. I would rather have dogfighting in the skies blowing my friends to bits personally. There are also saveable replays after each mission which numerous different camera angles where you can show off your mad skills.

From looking at the Wii’s library, there aren’t any flight games like this, and it’s awesome to see XSeed bring this to the states because the Wii definitely needs an actual GAME that isn’t shovelware. Let’s face it … every time you hear about the Wii’s release list, you get these utterly retarded sounding titles that wouldn’t appeal in the slightest to people who actually like to play real games. This was definitely a breath of fresh air, because this really surprised me and definitely makes me want to check out the movie sometime soon. I wonder if Netflix has it … surely they do.

8.5 - If you want a flight combat game with an arcadey feel with the option to make it a bit more “hard core”, and you have a Wii give this one a try. I don’t even particularly LIKE flight games and I found myself really enjoying it. The presentation may be lacking in some areas(which you probably won’t notice that much ANYWAY unless you’re about to run into the side of a mountain), and the story feels like it would benefit a lot more had I actually SEEN the movie. But regardless of that, it’s a great game and definitely worth checking out.

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