Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies

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Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies
Ac04box.jpg
Developer(s)Namco
Publisher(s)Namco
Director(s)
  • Atsushi Shiozawa
  • Hiroyuki Ichiyanagi
Producer(s)Shigeru Yokoyama
Composer(s)
  • Tetsukazu Nakanishi
  • Hiroshi Okubo
  • Keiki Kobayashi
  • Katsuro Tajima
SeriesAce Combat
Platform(s)PlayStation 2
Release
  • JP: September 13, 2001
  • NA: November 1, 2001
  • EU: February 8, 2002
Genre(s)Air combat simulation
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies[a] is a 2001 arcade-style combat flight simulation video game developed and published for the PlayStation 2 by Namco. The player assumes the role of a fighter pilot, assigned the call sign Mobius 1, and controls one of 21 different fighter jets through 18 different story missions. Each mission features different objectives including shooting down squadrons of enemy pilots and escorting friendly units.

The development team viewed Ace Combat 04 as a return to the origin of the franchise after the mixed release of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere.[1] This design philosophy was reflected in the marketing tagline "It's Changing Everything Again".[2] Gameplay was given more of an arcade feel with an increased focus on score attack objectives and less story cutscenes. In addition to standard missiles that can lock on to any target, Ace Combat 04 introduced special weapons such as anti-ship missiles, unguided rockets, and bombs. Studio 4°C developed the interludes that play between missions as slide show cutscenes, which was a cost-effective alternative to the fully-animated cutscenes in Electrosphere.[3] As opposed to the Top Gun-inspired rock music in Ace Combat 2 and the electronic music in Electrosphere, Ace Combat 04 features a blend of rock, orchestral, and synthesizer music, as well as a Latin chorus, which cemented the style of Ace Combat soundtracks going forward.

Ace Combat 04 was a commercial success and shipped 2.64 million copies worldwide. Critics praised the gameplay, story, and soundtrack, while the graphics received mixed reception. Criticism was pointed to the game's lower challenge and smaller amount of missions compared to its predecessors. It was re-released as a budget title in Japan in 2004 under Sony's The Best label.

Gameplay[edit]

The player destroying an enemy aircraft

During the course of the game, the player has the opportunity to purchase 21 different planes, from models that actually exist to prototypes or relatively new aircraft that were in development (at the time of game production) and their weaponry. Every plane has two alternate paint schemes, gained by achieving a superior, or S, ranking on a stage in normal difficulty mode, by shooting down the ace pilots on each stage, or by completing the challenge modes.

The difficulty mode determines the number of enemies per stage, their AI skill and damage threshold, and how much damage the player's aircraft can sustain in total. On the hardest difficulty level, a single enemy missile can take down the player's aircraft, whereas on the easiest level it would take several missile hits.

The player must purchase all aircraft and extra weapons they want to use, but only once. Identical weapons for different types of planes cannot be used interchangeably. Players gain money by destroying enemies, or selling aircraft/weapons between missions. Only the default aircraft, the F-4E Phantom, cannot be sold. It is sometimes advantageous to buy/sell different combinations of planes & weapons depending on the mission requirements outlined in the briefing, as some planes are more suitable than others for certain missions. Once all of the mission objectives are complete, the player is awarded bonus money for performing above and beyond the requirements of the mission objectives (neutralizing extra targets and assorted enemy fighters, etc.). In order to purchase all planes and weapons available in the game, the game must be completed several times.

Plot[edit]

Setting[edit]

The game is set in the alternate universe of Strangereal where Earth as a planet exists but has several differences in landmass and history. Four years prior to the early events of the game, a massive asteroid, designated Ulysses 1994XF04, collided with Earth in a disastrous impact event. Before the impact, the nations on the continent of Usea developed an array of anti-asteroid railguns code-named "Stonehenge" to destroy the asteroid's fragments, but they could not completely prevent the disaster, which killed hundreds of thousands of people. The devastation shattered the economy of Erusea, one of Usea's largest countries, causing a refugee crisis that led to heightened tensions with its neighbors. As a result, Erusea's military launched a surprise invasion of San Salvacion, its closest neighbor, and captured the Stonehenge facility, resulting in all-out war between Erusea and the other Usean nations. The Usean nations in opposition to Erusea formed a military defense coalition known as the Independent State Allied Forces (ISAF), but the Eruseans used Stonehenge as an anti-aircraft weapon to decimate the ISAF's airpower, routing the ISAF and forcing them to retreat to the island of North Point off the northeastern coast of the continent, outside of Stonehenge's effective radius. The players control the game's silent protagonist, an ISAF pilot only known by the callsign "Mobius 1".

Synopsis[edit]

The game starts in the middle of the Continental War. After assisting in holding off Erusean bombers and destroying an Erusean radar facility to allow ISAF troops to evacuate to North Point, Mobius 1 takes part in an air raid against Erusea's "invincible" Aegir Fleet, destroying it and halting Erusea's attempts to invade North Point by sea. Bolstered by their victories, the ISAF initiates an airstrike to target Erusean solar panel facilities in the heart of the continent to deprive Erusea's war effort of electricity. The strike is successful, but the ISAF forces are heavily damaged by a barrage from Stonehenge.

Between missions, a story is told through interlude flashbacks, later revealed to be a long letter to Mobius 1 about the war and living inside Erusea's occupation of San Salvacion. The letter is written by an unnamed man whose parents were killed when an ISAF fighter jet crashed into their house when he was a child. This fighter jet was shot down by Yellow 13, Erusea's top fighter pilot, and a member of the well-known elite Yellow Squadron, who are tasked with defending Stonehenge from air attacks. Following his parents' death, the boy is taken in by his uncle, an alcoholic taxi driver who lives in the city above a tavern frequented by Erusean soldiers. While in the tavern, the boy befriends 13 after meeting him and the other Yellow Squadron members. He also learns that the owner of the bar is a member of the local resistance against Erusea and becomes a "spy" for them due to his friendship with 13.

As the war progresses, Mobius 1's contributions turn the tide of the war against Erusea. The ISAF goes on the offensive and establishes a foothold on the mainland, restarting the ground war. With the ISAF drawing closer, the situation in San Salvacion becomes more desperate for both the civilians and the Erusean occupiers, and the interlude narrator recalls one event where the bar owner's daughter plants a bomb on Yellow Squadron's airfield, damaging the plane of Yellow 4, Yellow 13's wingman. The ISAF then attacks Stonehenge itself; Mobius 1 destroys the facility before Yellow Squadron arrives, and subsequently shoots down and kills Yellow 4 in the ensuing dogfight.

With Stonehenge destroyed, the ISAF pushes deeper into Erusean territory, liberating San Salvacion in the process. Rather than stay in the city, the narrator follows Yellow Squadron as they retreat to Erusea's capital. After breaking through Erusea's final line of defense, the ISAF invades and captures the capital and Mobius 1 shoots down the entirety of Yellow Squadron, killing Yellow 13 and forcing Erusea's surrender. A group of rogue Erusean officers activate a missile launch facility, code-named "Megalith", intending to use it against the ISAF in a final attack. The ISAF, reforming behind Mobius 1, attacks and destroys Megalith, ending the war. In the final interlude, the narrator finishes his letter by reflecting on Yellow 13's death, stating his belief that he died happy, flying against a worthy opponent like Mobius 1.

Reception[edit]

Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies was a commercial success. By 2008, it shipped 2.64 million copies worldwide,[11] making it the highest-selling Ace Combat game until Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown surpassed it in 2021.[12]

Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies was critically acclaimed at launch, being given the Gold Hall of Fame award from Famitsu and listed as an Editor's Choice by IGN. On the review aggregator website Metacritic, 04 holds an 89/100, indicating "generally favorable reviews". IGN gave the game 9.1 out of 10[10] and Famitsu magazine scored a rating of 33 out of 40 on release.[6] It was nominated for GameSpot's annual "Best Story" and "Best Shooting Game" prizes among console games, which went respectively to Final Fantasy X and Halo: Combat Evolved.[13]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In Japanese: Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies (エースコンバット04 シャッタード・スカイ, Ēsu Konbatto Zero Yon Shattādo Sukai). Released as Ace Combat: Distant Thunder in Europe.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kono, Kazutoki [@kazutoki] (July 1, 2013). 何処まで書いたのか分からないが、AC04の話。賛否両論を呼んでしまったAC3から、現用戦闘機路線への復活はスンナリと決まった。それは「原点回帰」が、言わずとも、チーム内であったから。 (Tweet) (in Japanese). Retrieved February 11, 2020 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ Kono, Kazutoki [@kazutoki] (July 1, 2013). なのでその頃、「心機一転、原点回帰」の方向性が決まった。だから、It's changing every thing, again.ってなフレーズを決めた。これは確か、We are〜のフレーズをパクったと記憶している。苦笑。 (Tweet) (in Japanese). Retrieved February 11, 2020 – via Twitter.
  3. ^ Kono, Kazutoki [@kazutoki] (July 1, 2013). で、ここから4℃さんの話になるのだけれど、結構ヘビーです。先ずはお金。予算が全然無かった。それでもAC3の豪華IGさんのアニメと、何とかバランス取らなきゃいけなかった。だから、結局、先ず、その時の時代性、あと自分の感覚だけで、「スタジオ4℃さん突撃作戦」を自ら立案して実行した。 (Tweet) (in Japanese). Retrieved February 11, 2020 – via Twitter.
  4. ^ "Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies for PlayStation 2 Review". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on October 15, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  5. ^ "PS2 Review: Ace Combat 4". Computer & Video Games. Future plc. January 23, 2002. Archived from the original on February 9, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "エースコンバット04 シャッタードスカイ (PS2)". Famitsu. Kadokawa Corporation. Archived from the original on June 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  7. ^ Four-Eyed Dragon (October 22, 2001). "Review: Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies [PS2]". GamePro. Future plc. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  8. ^ Fitzloff, Jay (November 2001). "Ace Combat 4 Review". Game Informer. GameStop. Archived from the original on October 22, 2003. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  9. ^ Ajami, Amer (October 23, 2001). "Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies Review". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  10. ^ a b Smith, David (October 23, 2001). "Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies". IGN. Archived from the original on November 12, 2001. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  11. ^ Ichinoya, Hiroyuki (January 30, 2008). "『エースコンバット』シリーズ全世界累計1,000万本突破!" [The cumulative worldwide sales total of the "Ace Combat" series exceeds 10,000,000 units!] (in Japanese). Bandai Namco Games. Archived from the original on March 31, 2008. Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  12. ^ "Ace Combat 7 Skies Unknown Tops 2.5 Million Sales, Is Best-Selling Game In Series". PlayStation Universe. January 18, 2021. Retrieved January 23, 2021. Skies Unknown managed to top the previous best-selling title, Ace Combat [04]: Shattered Skies, to be crowned the series' biggest-selling title.
  13. ^ GameSpot VG Staff (February 23, 2002). "GameSpot's Best and Worst Video Games of 2001". GameSpot. Archived from the original on August 3, 2002.

External links[edit]