|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco Bandai (Project Aces)||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: XSeed Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 12, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
After gunning and bombing through far too many uninspiring WWII flight combat games, it's easy to be sucked in by the way The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces almost teasingly rolls out a compelling far-out story of airborne warfare built around wingman camaraderie and some intense flying and fighting. The game is based on the Sky Crawlers anime film and sports a cinematic progression that anime fans will immediately appreciate. And the fact it's put together by the Project Aces team means it doesn't skimp on the crazy dog fighting action in the least.
Innocent Aces takes place in an alternate-reality past. Years of war and violence have given the populace a taste for bloodshed and twisted metal, and citizens just couldn't cope when a long and lasting peace inevitably fell across the land. Seizing an opportunity for profit, large corporations sprung up to begin manufacturing an artificial war to make money, entertain the masses, and make citizens feel safe - a real war won't break out if a fake one is already going on, right? To this end, opposing corporate factions send their pilots into battle to fight and die for the cause, though the plot thickens when a strange batch of child-like cloned pilots are introduced into the airborne conflict. As a young glory-seeking pilot named Lynx, you join up with one of the warring sides to prove your skills in the cockpit.
Sporadic anime cutscenes and lots of fully-voiced dialogue give the presentation a strong movie-like vibe, though the actual plot itself takes some time to build momentum across the game's 18 missions. Some menus and mission briefings are on the sterile side, but the visual pleasantries found in the intense dogfights and cinematic special maneuver moves make up for this. The uniquely-designed propeller planes you'll pilot have a range of slick-looking designs, and you can customize them extensively in the hanger before and after missions. New planes and parts to deck them out with are unlocked as you progress through the main campaign. It's worth spending some time tooling around in the hangar once you've unlocked some goodies, since you can equip your plane with some pretty interesting armaments, including a shotgun-like close-range cannon, and many other items that boost their handling, armor, and other combat capabilities.
Sandwiched between mission briefings that include detailed maps of the battlefield and objectives, snippets of story scenes, and plane customization stints in the hangar, you'll hop into your plane of choice and take to the skies to tear things up. The selection of planes to pilot expands the more you play, and each handles differently. Accompanied by other wingmen on your team, you'll engage a range of bogies in dogfights, tactical bombing strikes, assaults on land and sea-based enemies, and photographic recon runs.
In any given mission, objectives shift and change as new plot twists arise in the story. One moment you might be snapping photos of a base located at the base of a dam; the next you'll be high-tailing it back to safety while trying to keep your allies alive and not get shot down in the process. Wing-mates chat constantly over the radio and via anime headshots that pop-up, often commenting on the action as it unfolds. Aerial combat quickly grows frantic as you encounter fast-moving enemies that use some tricky maneuvers to try to out-fox you. Fortunately, you have many of the same tricks to use against them.
Regardless of what kind of plane you're piloting, the game has a handy Tactical Maneuver Command System that lets you take down enemies like a pro. Keeping an enemy within your sites gradually increases the TMC meter to different levels. Once you've let it charge enough, you can tap a single button and watch your plane pull off some crazy-looking auto-maneuver that lines you up for a perfect shot at your foe. This is awesome to watch, and it's a crucial technique for taking down tougher foes. You can also execute manual tricks by selecting a direction with the thumbstick and engaging them with the A button.