Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies
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|Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies|
Game cover showing two F-22As
|Genre(s)||Arcade, combat flight simulator|
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 in PAL territories as Ace Combat: Distant Thunder, is a semi-realistic flight simulation developed by Namco for the PlayStation 2 video game console. It is the first in the Ace Combat series to be released for the PlayStation 2.
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 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.
Ace Combat 04 introduced two new additions: radio chatter and anime-style cutscenes in which a man (who is the grown-up version of the little boy in the cutscenes) reads a letter (addressed to the player) of his memories of the Continental War, played over still images.
The player takes on the role of Mobius 1, an elite fighter pilot serving in the Independent States Allied Forces' (ISAF) air arm, fighting against the Eruseans who have occupied almost all of the Usea continent after an apocalyptic event in 1999. A massive asteroid, codenamed Ulysses 1994 XF-04, struck Usea, killing 500,000 people and turning many into refugees. Erusea used this as an opportunity to occupy the continent after a prolonged military buildup. They achieve military supremacy via the superweapon Stonehenge, a megastructure battery of railguns that were originally designed to destroy asteroids but have been found to be effective against airplanes as well. This allows Erusea to dominate much of the airspace over the continent giving their military a powerful strategic advantage. Consequently, ISAF has been pushed back to the eastern coast of Usea.
Between missions, a story is told through twelve interlude flashbacks, later revealed to be a long letter to Mobius 1 about the war and living inside the occupation. The letter is written by an unnamed man, whose parents were killed when an ISAF fighter jet crashed into their house in San Salvacion when he was a child. This fighter jet was shot down by Yellow 13, the Eruseans' top fighter pilot, and a member of the Elite Aquila Squadron, well known as Yellow Squadron. Following his parents' death the boy is taken in by his uncle, a taxi driver who lives in the city above a tavern frequented by Erusean soldiers. While in the tavern, the boy befriends Yellow 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 Yellow 13.
As the war progresses, Mobius 1's contributions begin to turn the tide as the Allies begin retaking Usea. The situation in San Salvacion becomes more desperate as the ISAF forces advance closer. The boy recalls one event where the bar owner's daughter plants a bomb on the airfield, which severely damages Yellow 4's plane and greatly angers Yellow 13, since Yellow 4 is his closest friend (and possible love interest). ISAF then attacks Stonehenge itself and Mobius 1 manages to destroy it. Yellow Squadron arrives too late to affect the battle, but nonetheless engage Mobius 1 only to have Yellow 4 shot down and killed. Yellow 13 is also eventually shot down by Mobius 1 in a later battle. Following the capture of the Erusean capital Farbanti, as well as the general surrender of all Erusean military forces, a group of young rogue Erusean officers activate another superweapon, Megalith, which is a missile launch facility capable of shooting down the asteroids from orbit to crash them into any location on the planet. Mobius 1 is given his own squadron of the best ISAF pilots available and they assault Megalith, destroying it and ending the war once and for all.
The storyline is continued in the arcade mode of Ace Combat 5, where it is revealed that a resistance movement called "Free Erusea" has continued to struggle against ISAF since the war's end.
Edited scenes in US Version
Some of the interlude flashbacks in the US release are slightly edited, due to different ratings systems. These differences can be seen in the original Japanese version:
- In Interlude #04, an image of a knife and a pistol are shown, with the narrator saying "I got a knife with the intent of using it against Yellow 13. I even lifted a pistol off a drunken enemy soldier." In the US version, this frame and monologue is removed entirely.
- In Interlude #05, when the boy discovers the barkeep's secret upstairs room, the daughter is shown wielding a shotgun behind the door. In the US version, she is shown holding nothing.
- In Interlude #09, when the boy confronts Yellow 13, he uses the pistol he stole previously to threaten him. In the US version, he is simply standing defiantly with his hands at his side.
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