Ace Combat Advance
The Ace Combat series is known for its fantastic take on high-flying combat, but how does the GBA version stand up to its home console brothers?
The Ace Combat series has enjoyed a tremendous amount of evolvement over the years, eventually getting off of the ground on the PlayStation and continuing to take flight onto the PS2, with the current release of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War still turning a few heads.
But the series has been surprisingly dodgy in the handheld format, with the exception of enjoying a few rounds of Ace Combat 2 on my little portable PSone/LCD screen combo. However, Namco's looking to rectify that with their latest release for the Game Boy Advance, Ace Combat Advance. Now, I can understand if the company needs to cut a few things low or even loose in order to fit the magic of the series onto the little handheld, but the way this game has ended up is a bit ridiculous in some areas, and that stunts its general appeal.
The first thing gamers will notice is that the game takes a completely different perspective than the Ace Combat series is known for. Instead of focusing behind the jet you're controlling, you instead take a top-down view of the action, which is alright and kind of reminiscent of old-school shooters among the likes of Capcom's 1942 series. This isn't entirely bad, as it gives the game a unique look and still allows for free-roaming controls, like being able to dive under planes and get a free fly-around in the level.
However, the graphical touches surrounding this new approach seem too simplistic, as dogfights are now resorted to a shootout between two toy planes, and the thrill of bombing land targets just doesn't feel the same. Only a few opening cinemas manage to show any real flair here, and I know a little more work would've made this look like magic for the ol' GBA.
The sound is another issue. The game is completely devoid of the awesome soundtracks that the series is usually known for, and instead replaced by generic tunes that barely check in. The sound effects also seem to be lacking in any kind of variety, with typical missile and gunfire sounds that fail to show any sort of significance. As for voice samples, well- there are none. I think Human Soft could have taken a little time with this as well.
But the thing that kills me about Ace Combat Advance is its general gameplay, and the difficulty level that accompanies it. The game plays alright, with dive manuevers and weapons functioning that you would expect, but the handling still feels kind of limited, like something's straining the controls when you should be flying high as an eagle.
Now, this is a top-down shooter, so I'll forgive it a little, but the game only spans across 12 levels, and it's pretty easy to find your targets thanks to the radar in the corner of the screen. On top of that, a refueling jet can be called at any time, allowing you to get set up on weapons and clean up your damage, even in the middle of a furious missile-dodging battle. This is a bit ridiculous, and kills any sort of challenge the game would have to offer.
Standing by itself, Ace Combat Advance is the sort of game that still offers a good amount of fun, especially with its attempt to try an old-school method of shooting. However, when compared to the rest of the Ace Combat games before it, it feels like a letdown, limited in so many areas and also forgiving in terms of fighting against a supposedly invincible enemy army. Kids and novices may like it, but the rest of us will have to turn to the PS2 to fly the unfriendly skies, I'm afraid.
What's Hot: Unique spin on a classic flying series.
What's Not: Unfortunately, it's also a letdown, especially to those experienced with the home titles.