As amazing as it might sound the Nintendo Wii is relatively void of many flight sim titles regardless of the obvious possibilities. The original developers behind the Ace Combat series are hoping to remedy that with their latest release for Nintendo’s motion-controlled console Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces. Based on an animated film bearing the same name, Sky Crawlers delivers a solid experience that should be enjoyed by both fans of the anime and flight sim aficionados. With an entertaining control scheme, decent visuals and an attractive price point, Innocent Aces is easily one title that Wii owners should check out.
If you are not familiar with the anime or novels the game is based one (which I wasn’t beforehand), let me give you a quick synopsis. Sky Crawlers takes place in an alternate time where war has become irrelevant and peace prevails. Unfortunately large corporations realize that war is extremely profitable for them so they create war for sport and enlist genetically enhanced soldiers known as “Kildren” to fight in these mock conflicts. The story is intriguing and will keep you interested with its superb voice work, and anime cut scenes between missions.
You play through the eyes of Lynx, a young combatant in the army that eventually moves up the ranks to become squad leader. Truthfully that is about all you end up learning about Lynx as he serves more as a catalyst to your action than a plot point. This is not necessarily a bad thing though as the story, while interesting, does take a backseat to the action that you will encounter across the campaign.
Unlike previous efforts by the team at Project Aces, Sky Crawlers is centered on a more simple time period. The planes found in the game are more akin to World War II than modern day military. This means technology you might find in Ace Combat games is all but excluded, and you will need to rely on maneuvering and mastery of the controls to accomplish victory. There are a few different control schemes, but the most revolutionary one comes from the Wii’s motion controls. You will hold the nunchuk in your right hand, while also having the remote in your left. The nunchuk controls the planes shift and pitch while the remote handles the throttle.
Yes as you can imagine this scheme takes a few levels to get the hang of, but once you do it is truly an experience to behold. Of course if you cannot grasp the idea the traditional layouts are always available. You can use the remote and nunchuk in the traditional controls scheme or even a Gamecube controller if your heart desires. Whatever way you opt to play the game plays beautifully, much like what you would expect from the team that brought us the Ace Combat series. Of course as I mentioned this is more of a dog-fighting type of game so don’t expect to have lock-on missiles and heat-seeking ammunition at your disposal.
The default controls get the job done, but where Sky Crawlers really stands out is the TMC (Tactical Maneuver Command). As you take down enemies a small meter begins to fill at the bottom of the screen. There are three levels of power, and each one offers greater precision. Once full you can pull off a quick spin accompanied by a cut scene that places you within firing range behind your enemy. This technique may seem cheap at first, but the later you get into the game, the more imperative it becomes to winning the battle. Enemies also begin to use it and knowing when to strike becomes key to victory. In addition you can also program various maneuvers to the analog stick such as barrel rolls and inverted dives to help you avoid enemy fire. Sky Crawlers does a fantastic job of offering up silky-smooth controls with plenty of options to keep you coming back for more.
The campaign is lengthy and more than worth the paltry price of admission, but there are a few things that would have made this game even better. For starters the multi-player mode is the typical Wii half-assed co-op that lets a second player join in as an extra onscreen cursor to shoot things. No online mode or dogfights to be found. Most of the levels are also not as much fun to play through a second time around thanks to the lack of mission variety. Overall though you can’t complain too much about a game that delivers more and costs less than some of the full-priced shovelware that the Wii has become known for.
Visually the game has moments of brilliance, especially when levels are designed for one-on-one combat. The Wii is certainly not known for its visual fidelity, and it shows when the game is plastered with enemy planes. Textures are poor and the environments a little uninspired, but as a general rule the game looks decent enough. The audio work is an entirely different beast. The voiceovers are fantastic considering how much dialogue there is scattered throughout the game. The music also does a wonderful job of setting the tone for the experience. Overall the game delivers on almost every aspect of presentation.
Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces is a great game that is really only hampered by the technical limitations of the Wii. The motion controls are complex, but truly a joy when you finally grasp them. The lack of online functionality really disappoints, but again at the price point it really is hard to criticize what you get for the price of admission. If you enjoy flight games and have been awaiting the next project from the team that did Ace Combat you will not be disappointed. Sky Crawlers is a fantastic addition to the miniscule library of flight sims for Nintendo’s motion-controlled console.
Review copy provided by publisher.