Friday, February 12, 2010

The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces (Wii) Review

Ah... the great blue yonder. I would like to thank the Wright Brothers for making the following game possible. Without them, we'd still be battling in tanks, and this next reviewed game would be called the Tank Crawlers instead of what it really is, The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces.

Crawling in My Sky, These Wounds Will Not Heal.

Who hasn't dreamed of flying high in the sky-- passing through clouds and soaring among the stars and sky? Well, if you can't charter a plane and lack a pilot's license, you can always enter the flight simulation department with some video games. Recently, XSeed and Namco-Bandai along with Project Aces, the team behind the Ace Combat games, have partnered up to create a new flight combat game utilizing the Wii's unique controls. The end result? The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces for the Nintendo Wii. Does this flight combat game soar high or crash and burn?

Nothing like painting the sky red
with the blood of your enemies.

War is common on Earth these days, but in Innocent Aces it's not between countries. This war is between two rival companies of all things. You play as Lynx, a new pilot with the Cheetah Brigade. You fly along some rather annoying characters such as the whiny girl who always cries about wanting to fight, some adolescent boys, and the token douche. The video game is a companion piece to the feature-length animated movie simply entitled, The Sky Crawlers. You need not watch the movie to understand the plot though it certainly doesn't hurt. Production I.G. handles all of the game's beautiful hand-drawn cinematics, and each mission is bookend-ed by a briefing and congratulatory speech after battle.

These animated scenes are quite pleasant to watch.

Innocent Aces utilizes a lot of varied mission types to keep the game fresh and lively. One mission you'll simply be taking out all enemy targets while another will have you defending a base or weapon against enemy attacks. There's nineteen mission in total to tackle, and I'd be lying if I said the difficulty was even. One mission may be relatively difficult while the next is a breeze to beat. This is especially so in missions when piloting the Senryu airplane-- a craft with horrible maneuverability. There is this one mission where you have to help your squadmates in picking off the attackers pursuing them. This is a limited time engagement, and the time restrictions are so strict that the mission is next to impossible. I haven't even mentioned yet that you're forced to pilot the Senryu. It makes for an effort in frustration, and that's but the ninth or so mission. The following missions are a cakewalk in comparison, so that's what I mean by uneven difficulty.

Ah, the Senryu, my mortal enemy.

There's multiple control options available to players when they start up Innocent Aces. The Wii remote and nunchuk combination is the most entertaining. You hold the Wii remote in your left hand (it really doesn't matter), and you use that as your throttle. You hold up to speed up and hold down to slow down funnily enough. Meanwhile, you use the nunchuk to control the direction of your craft's flight. This might seem too gimmicky, but it is a novel approach to flight control. Of course, if you're like me, being novel isn't enough. I need to know I'm in control of my plane, so that's why I stuck with the Gamecube and Classic controller options. Everything is much tighter and responsive with the Gamecube or Classic controllers especially in those anger-inducing Senryu stages.

In flight, you have a myriad of maneuvers and tricks at your disposal. Each plane has a secondary fire that can be used such as land bombs, rapid fire machine guns, and missile launchers. Unlike your primary fire, secondary fire does not have infinite ammo to use and squander, so aim true and make those shots count, captain. As you approach an enemy plane, a gauge on the bottom portion of the screen will rise. The more it rises, the higher the chance you'll be able to perform a successful TMC or Tactical Maneuver Command. These moves place you directly behind the currently-viewed enemy fighter for you to blast them out of the sky with ease. There's also a variety of rolls and loops that can be performed to get enemies off your tail in a fast fashion or to make a turn quickly.

Use the radar to keep your bearings,
especially when trying for a TMC.

There's around six different planes available to players in Innocent Aces, each with their own stats and abilities. You can customize any plane from engine size to secondary weapon to paint job at your leisure. As you complete missions with good marks, you unlock even more options to outfit your soaring eagles with. With three difficulties each with different grades awarded to them, you'll be playing Innocent Aces long after the five hours to beat the game are up.

Innocent Aces is a gorgeous-looking game. Everything runs smoothly without a hint of a framerate drop Meanwhile, the planes and other combat vehicles are designed and rendered well, and the backdrops are probably the most impressive aspect of Sky Crawlers' visual appeal from intensely beautiful sunsets to the landscape viewed from above. On the sound side of Sky Crawlers, the intense dogfighting is complemented by banter from your comrades as well as enemy forces sort of like a more realistic Star Fox 64. The music is some of the best so far this year with catchy and infectious new-age orchestral music composed by Nakamura Kazuhiro, a new composer who has previously done work on the Tales Of franchise.

If you can get by the uneven difficulty and the occasional frustrating mission, The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces is an excellent thirty dollar investment. The sense of flight is terrific, the dogfighting is intense and incredible, and the game really is fun to play regardless of what control setup you choose. Without a doubt, this is one of my biggest surprises of the year thus far. If you're looking to soar like an eagle and sometimes crash like a lead balloon, The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces may just be the next Wii game for you.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

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