Ace Combat is a beloved series to me. I have a box full of the collector’s edition joysticks from a decade and a half ago when I found out how great the series was on PS2 and graduated to the Xbox 360 version. Dogfighting doesn’t require those sticks, it’s perfectly fine on any gamepad since the Dual Shock 2, but it felt even more glorious to fly through the arcade dogfighting skies of Ace Combat with joysticks and throttles.
After the ignominious spinoff Assault Horizon distanced the series from the shores of the strangereal eight years ago, Ace Combat 7 is finally available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows via Steam after a short period of console-onlyness. Brendan Caldwell called it well, for Rock Paper Shotgun:
…the story explodes outward like an expanding foam, into a complex sequence of nonsense and counter-nonsense. There is a space elevator. There are deadly drones. There is a princess. At one point you, a professional fighter pilot called “Trigger”, are relegated to a prison base, yet still expected (and trusted) to pilot an immensely expensive instrument of war over hostile AA guns. “Your mission,” says your new commander, “is to atone for your crimes.”
I won’t say why this line is uttered to you, because one of the biggest joys here is laughing out loud at the wall of batshittery that hits you with each mission, like a volley of missiles. But I will say this: Ace Combat 7 is the best JRPG so far this year.
There’s a brief VR mode that is exclusive to the PlayStation 4 version, Edmond Tran enjoyed it in his review for GameSpot:
The PlayStation 4 version of Skies Unknown also features an exclusive VR mode consisting of an Ace Combat 4-inspired mini-campaign. There are only three missions, and their objectives are less complicated than those of the main campaign, but even so, the experience of flying from the cockpit of a plane is engrossing. The feeling of speed and height is literally dizzying, the ability to freely look around and track a target with your gaze is terrific, and the act of pitching and rolling your plane is so effective at eliciting a feeling of actual g-force that I personally had a hard time doing more than one mission at once without breaking out into a nauseous sweat. It’s a shame that there’s no option to play the main campaign in VR–the head tracking and freelook alone would be incredibly useful–but the mode is a great addition nonetheless.
Ace Combat 7 is out now for your typical $60 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam for Windows. The “launch edition” for the Xbox One includes a digital copy of the 360‘s Ace Combat 6 and other goodies. The PlayStation 4‘s version of the “please don’t wait until there’s a discount” edition includes the aforementioned VR mode, Ace Combat 5, and the goodies. Sadly, Steam users on Windows only get the goodies and are told to get fucked if they’d like to play the older games. All launch editions expire on the 18th. There are also some kind of season pass shenanigans with three missions exclusive to it.
Somehow, it’s still not as bad as the Anthem purchasing grid. Although Anthem doesn’t support real-world weapons manufacturers, Ace Combat 7 is at least veritably fun. Hm.