An all-time classic for Atari 8-bit today, from the man who would go on to give us the Civilization series: it’s Sid Meier’s F-15 Strike Eagle!
This was one of the earlier military flight sims out there, and set a lot of conventions in place for future titles in the genre. At the same time, it managed to maintain a healthy degree of arcade-style accessibility, making it a pleasure to play whether you were a true propellerhead or someone just craving a bit of explosive action.
Sega’s G-LOC Air Battle is my favourite arcade game of all time — not that I had that many opportunities to play it as a child, sadly.
We don’t really “do” arcades here in the UK anywhere other than the seaside, you see, and thus, growing up in a small village that was a considerable distance from the nearest seaside resort, I only ever got to play a lot of arcade games when we went on holiday. This, naturally, led to me judging a lot of domestic holiday destinations based on what arcade machines were readily accessible.
G-LOC is a game that immediately caught my attention on a family trip to Newquay in Cornwall. I dropped a quid in it for three credits, sat down and prepared for action. And from that moment on, I was in love.
’80s and ’90s MicroProse was most well-known for its jet fighter sims, but now and again they branched out into something a bit different.
Knights of the Sky was an ambitious attempt to simulate rickety old World War I biplanes rather than high-tech jet fighters — something that only became possible due to improving technology and mastery over the available hardware.
It’s a cool game, for sure — but be prepared to live without a bunch of modern conveniences you might have come to take for granted in more recent aircraft!
When I was a kid, I really, REALLY got into military flight sims, particularly those from MicroProse.
One of my favourites was F-15 Strike Eagle II, a particularly accessible take on the 16-bit era jet fighter sim, and a game that I used to like to dress up to play. I’d wear a green bomber jacket, a backpack (to simulate both a parachute and a seat belt), a balaclava (to simulate a helmet, in the absence of anything like a cycle helmet or the like), sunglasses (goggles) and an “oxygen mask” crafted from a bit of paper, some duct tape and an old vacuum cleaner’s hose.
My parents and brother referred to it as “The Elephant”. I thought it was badass. Whether or not it actually enhanced my enjoyment of F-15 Strike Eagle II is probably debatable, but I do know that I still enjoy this game today!
The PS2 was a delightful period of experimentation for a lot of developers. And the fact that the only option for distribution was on physical media helped these titles get both noticed at the time, and fondly remembered long after the fact.
2000’s Sky Odyssey isn’t a game I ever played back in the day, but having familiarised myself with it for the first time recently, I have discovered it to be one of those titles for which a simple, offhand mention tends to trigger a gushing torrent of effusive praise from anyone who was there first time around. This is a game that people loved back in the day — and yet it’s mostly unheard of today. The very definition of a hidden gem; a forgotten classic.
The advantage of its underappreciated status, of course, is that it means you can pick up a copy for 50p down your local CEX, enjoy a fine, fine addition to your PS2 collection and still have change for an overpriced cup of shopping centre coffee. Let’s take a closer look. At the game, not the coffee.
I always find it interesting to head back to a series’ roots to see what has changed and what has stayed the same over the years.
I was particularly excited to start from the beginning of the Ace Combat series, since it’s one I’ve come to really enjoy in the last few years, and I sense there’s still quite a lot I’ve missed out on.
Would the original PS1 release from 1995 be worth revisiting today, I wondered?
Well, for those who have been hoping for a true next-gen Ace Combat experience, I am delighted to confirm that you will absolutely find this in Ace Combat 7 — both in terms of its narrative style, and in terms of how it plays.
Actual combat is where the game is at its most unrealistic — but also its most fun. Let’s take a closer look.
I’ve been playing a lot of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown since it released the other day. And I wanted to talk about it a bit!
I’ve elected to use the “Delving Into” format, because that also provides a suitable framework for me to explore (and revisit) the rest of the series along the way, too. For the unfamiliar, my “Delving Into” pieces are more immediate, personal reactions to games or series I want to explore over the long term, but which don’t really fit into the Cover Game structure.
Each article will focus on a particular aspect of the overall experience, or something that I’ve found otherwise noteworthy. Let’s kick off today with my impressions of the game’s overall sense of style, based on my playthrough of the single-player campaign up to mission 17 so far.
The Ace Combat series is a jewel in Namco’s crown that people sadly seem to forget about quite often — though hopefully the seventh installment due early in 2019 will rectify that to an extent.
The series mostly stretches across the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 eras, with a less well-received (but still enjoyable) spinoff installment in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. For most, the series’ peak was with its PS2 installments; opinion varies as to which one of these is really “the best”, but they’re all very much worth your time.
Better known by its other name Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, the fourth installment of Namco’s series of fighter jet games was released under a different name in Europe.
Ace Combat: Distant Thunder, as we shall refer to it from hereon because I am European so deal with it, is a game that, despite its age — and the fact it was the series’ first outing on PlayStation 2 — remains eminently worth playing today.
It’s also a relic of a different time, when flight simulators in general were a much more common sight on both computers and consoles than they are today… which in some ways makes it all the more noteworthy from a modern perspective.