Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 10/23/06 | Genre: Action
Namco has always delivered with its Ace Combat series. Seen before on a variety of consoles, Ace Combat finally arrives on the powerful PlayStation Portable. While the game is not quite as visually appealing as its PlayStation 2 counterpart, Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception looks and plays beautifully and doesn’t sacrifice much in the transition to the handheld format.
Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception features some pretty impressive flying action on the PSP. The story mode incorporated by Namco Bandai features fifteen missions that will take just under ten hours to complete. However, with branching story options, there is some reason to come back and replay the game. While playing through the story mode, players will see a few less details in the visuals. For example the enemy planes will disintegrate instead of falling in pieces and each plane has fewer details on it. That isn’t to say Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception isn’t a nice looking game. For the first outing on the PlayStation Portable, Namco Bandai did an outstanding job.
The story has you control a fighter pilot known by his call-sign: Gryphus-1. Your mission is to defeat the Leasath country one battle at a time so your squad of the Aurelia resistance can gain more power and control. While you are attacking the opposition, the game does raise questions and ask you to think about the opposition. As the story continues, we learn more from a journalist who is researching the conflict. Every element of the story is fully voiced and this helps draw the player into the story a little bit more.
Although Ace Combat X features realistic fighter planes--including the F-14--the game features an alternate world set in some sort of science fiction setting. This will become more evident in the early stages of the game when you encounter a flying fortress. While some may wish for a game with modern planes to stay in the modern world, I prefer seeing the game in another setting. It gives the developers much more freedom to tell a unique story and throw unexpected surprises at the player.
Each of the fifteen missions should take you under twenty minutes to complete. However, failure is not an option as it will force you to begin your fight back from the very beginning of the particular level. As the player completes a level, you will earn credits that allow for the purchase of new planes. Each of these flying machines has its own unique handling and features so it becomes important to fly the right plane into the battlefield. Players can also upgrade their planes to increase their performance. But each upgrade can limit another area. For example, you can increase speed but it will make it easier to damage.
I mentioned the replay value earlier. This is something new to the Ace Combat franchise and offers some great play options for the player. When in a level, the player will be given a choice to go after a particular group of foes or stay on their current course. Depending on their option, the story will branch out that way. This provides for replay value when the player goes back to replay the story mode later on.
There is also a multiplayer mode available in ad hoc. This allows you to play against up to three other players that also own a copy of the game. Unfortunately no option to compete online in infrastructure is available. In the online mode, players face off against each other but no AI opponents are able to join in. So while it is possible to play against just one other, with no other opponents it isn't a lot of fun unless you have the full four player experience.
Overall, for the PSP owner looking for some flying combat on the go, there is no better choice than Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception. While the flying gameplay may not suit everyone, it is definitely a title you will want to check out. I look forward to seeing more of Ace Combat, on the PSP, in the future from Namco Bandai.