The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces completely surprised me. I was expecting a somewhat decent flight action/simulator following the story of, or at least taking place in the same universe as the Sky Crawlers anime. What I get is an excellent flight combat game with engrossing gameplay and controls that suit the Wii perfectly. It has the right balance of arcade style combat and tactics. It’s hard to expect anything less from the same team behind the Ace Combat series.
On a technical level, The Sky Crawlers is impressive. The planes themselves are incredibly well designed, and the game is just nice to look at. In terms of the voice acting, a good cast delivers each line with the same kind of emotion and exuberance you would come to expect from an anime, or an anime-based game no less. It’s all good, with some enjoyable (although slightly overplayed and sometimes overdramatic) music to round it all out.
If you enjoyed the story of the anime, or at least could appreciate it, expect to be disappointed here. This game doesn’t exactly follow the same story as much as just take place in what seems to be the same universe at around the same time. Its connection (or lack thereof) might be disappointing to some. But how does the story in the game fair? It’s pretty weak, and characters are introduced so frequently you find yourself not caring about any of them. It’s a shame, considering the story in the Ace Combat series is generally very good (if not a little farfetched).
Gameplay-wise, Sky Crawlers is a blast. If you’ve ever played any game like this, you’ll know what to expect. You have a set of missions to complete, a lot of which have different objectives that you are briefed on before the start of the mission. These objectives usually consist of taking down specific targets, escorting an ally or two (which isn’t as bad as you may think), and a few other surprises along the way.
You get a wide range of planes and special weapons to select from, which continues to expand as you complete more missions. And at the end of each mission, you are debriefed and given a rank based on a few factors, including your time, how many enemies you took down, and your TMC. TMC stands for Tactical Maneuver Command and it is a neat feature that sets this game apart from the other flight games out there.
When you are in range of an enemy plane, you can press the A button on the remote to perform a TMC. This maneuvers your plane directly behind the enemy, which allows you to get quick take downs. There are three levels of a TMC, and the longer you stay in range of an enemy, the higher the level increases, and the higher your chance of getting a direct hit after performing the TMC increases. This is an interesting dynamic that keeps dogfights interesting and more intense than you may expect.
There are two main control options, both of which work incredibly well. You can play the game with the classic controller, which is fine, but you can also use the Wii remote and Nunchuk, which takes full advantage of the motion controls. With that control scheme, you move the Wiimote up and away from the TV to accelerate, and back down to decelerate. The Nunchuk is used for maneuvering your plane, and together they make a very easy to learn and truly enjoyable control scheme.
With excellent controls, incredibly fun missions, and a truly exceptional game with plenty of challenge, The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces is a success. And for its budget price, it is very hard to go wrong with this game if you are a fan of the genre. This may be the best project from the Ace Combat team to date.
Pros: Excellent motion controls; all control options work well; incredibly fun and varied missions; plenty of planes and weapons to choose from; great voice cast; fun interaction between the characters
Cons: Weak story