Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War
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|Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War|
|Publisher(s)||Bandai Namco Games|
|Genre(s)||Combat flight simulator|
Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War (エースコンバット・ゼロ ザ・ベルカン・ウォー Ēsu Konbatto Zero Za Berukan Wō?) is a semi-realistic flight simulator developed by Bandai Namco Games for the PlayStation 2 video game console. It is part of the Ace Combat series of games. In Europe the game was released under the title Ace Combat: The Belkan War.
Ace Combat Zero's gameplay is split into a single-player campaign mode and a two-player versus mode. The mechanics themselves are a mix of features from Ace Combat 4 and 5.
The game features primarily older versions of fighter aircraft seen in its predecessor game, such as the F-15C, F/A-18C, and several second- and third-generation fighters like the Saab 35 Draken. The player's first airplane is an F-5 Tiger II, but will be able to acquire other more advanced aircraft by destroying targets to earn credits. The game's official superfighters are the ADF-01 Falken from Ace Combat 5 and the ADFX-02 Morgan, but players can access the X-02 Wyvern from Ace Combat 4.
The game revives Ace Combat 4's aircraft customization system - players can buy up to three SP weapons per plane but will only choose one for the mission; they can also pick their wingman's SP weapon but not their plane. Another returning feature from Ace Combat 4 is the ability to withdraw from the battlefield for rearming at a home base during long missions.
Zero retains Ace Combat 5's wingman-command system. During most campaign missions, the player can issue orders to the AI wingman using the DualShock controller's directional pad.
The game continues the Ace Combat franchise's tradition of taking on aces who fly aircraft with unique paint schemes. Aside from the pilots and their squadrons whom the player faces as boss characters, many missions will have other enemy aces scattered all over the game map; defeating them will see their unique plane and short pilot biographies listed in an in-game digital album.
One element of the game's mechanics is the Ace Style system. Over the course of the campaign, the player will encounter neutralized enemies or neutral targets which are marked as yellow dots in the map display and yellow crossed target icons in the HUD. A horizontal bar with three boxes marked "Mercenary," "Soldier," "Knight," will be found at the mission debriefing screen. The player's conduct during missions will see the rank slider bar sway toward one of these three boxes.
Which type of ace the player currently is will determine radio chatter, which ace squadrons the player encounters, as well as what FMVs play. Different aces earn different planes, and at the end of the game, each plane acquired will carry color schemes representing each fighting style.
- Mercenary Ace - Mercenary aces are pilots who destroy the opposition without mercy and are not concerned about their own allies, as announced by in-game FMVs. Players who kill all enemy and neutral targets in a mission and ignore allied support requests, will see their ranking bar go left.
- Soldier Ace - Soldier aces are pilots who can fight as circumstances permit and change the flow of battle, as announced by in-game FMVs. This ranking is achieved by balancing kills of enemy and neutral targets while sparing some, and accepting requests for support.
- Knight Ace - Knight aces are pilots who believe in fighting fair during the battle and protecting the weak, as announced by in-game FMVs. Players can attain this ranking by coming to the aid of allied units and not destroying neutral targets, which will result in the slider bar going right.
The game takes place in 1995, 15 years before the events of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, revolving around the conflict between the nation of Belka and the Allied Forces - a coalition of military forces from the Osean Federation, the Union of Yuktobanian Republics, the Kingdom of Sapin and the Republic of Ustio, which was formerly part of Belka. The war itself and the background is given short detail in the Unsung War campaign's opening cutscene.
Seven years before the events of the game, political reforms in Belka force the government to cede part of their territory to the Osean Federation while allowing two eastern provinces to declare independence. The fallout from the reforms and the economic turmoil later triggers the rise of a radical right-wing party in Belka in 1991. Over the next few years, the Belkans rapidly militarize the entire country and launch a massive campaign on March 25, 1995. Ustio, one of the two former Belkan eastern provinces, is a target because of its natural resources.
The player assumes the role of "Cipher," a mysterious mercenary pilot commissioned by the Ustio Air Force. He is assisted by fellow mercenary pilot Larry "Pixy" Foulke and later by Patrick James "PJ" Beckett. Much of the game's narrative is played out through the eyes of Brett Thompson, an Osean journalist who interviews several Belkan and Allied pilots ten years after the war, with the intention of discovering Cipher's identity.
In March 1995, the Principality of Belka launched an invasion on the nearby Republic of Ustio, which had recently seceded from Belka, in an attempt to seize the newly discovered resources required for its economy. Ustio and the nations of Osea, Sapin, and Yuktobania form a coalition to fight off the advancing Belkans. Most of Ustio is overrun by the powerful Belkan military, and as a last hope, the Ustians hire mercenary pilots to serve in their air force. Two of the mercenaries know by the callsigns Cipher and his wingman Pixy. Cipher soon earns enough notoriety and respect that he gains the nickname "Demon Lord of the Round Table".
Cipher and Pixy join forces with other Allied air forces, and together with ground and naval forces, they launch a counteroffensive which succeeds in driving the Belkans from Ustio. However, the Allied forces then push into Belka, conquering and demilitarizing much of the country and knocking out its industrial capabilities. Meanwhile, Pixy starts to question the validity of the invasion, especially after participating in a mission where Allied planes indiscriminately bombed civilian targets. In a last-ditch attempt to save itself from total defeat, Belka detonates several nuclear weapons on its own soil to fend off the advancing coalition forces. In the confusion of the nuclear blasts, Pixy commits an act of treachery by firing upon Cipher's aircraft. He then flees, and Cipher is ordered to pull back into friendly territory. Pixy is then replaced as wingman by fellow pilot PJ.
The nuclear blasts fail to drive off the invading Allied forces. A short time later, the Belkan government falls and is replaced by an interim government, which orders all Belkan forces to cease-fire. Some Belkan forces, however, continue to resist. As Cipher and PJ finish off the final Belkan resistance, a cease-fire treaty is signed, which reduces the size of the Belkan military and requires Belka to cede much of its resource-rich territory, which is to be divided up between the Allied countries. As the Allied countries argue over the newly gained territory, a coalition of disillusioned pilots and soldiers from all five superpowers do not support the treaty; they form a terrorist organization called A World With No Boundaries (AWWNB), that seeks to erase the concept of borders between countries and create a unified world. The rest of the game is spent fighting these terrorists. The first battle with the terrorists is when PJ and Cipher engage the XB-0 Hresvelgr, a superplane that was stolen by AWWNB. During the engagement, the Galm team encounters the XB-0 and destroys it with its defenders, the Sapinish renegade squadron Espada,. After this engagement, Cipher and PJ go off to destroy Avalon Dam, which houses an experimental V2 superweapon which a "A World With No Boundaries" plans to use to erase the borders in the world. On the way to Avalon, Cipher and PJ are intercepted by an ace squadron over Area B7R. After destroying the squadron, Cipher and PJ proceed to Avalon through a canyon nearly escaping enemy SAMs and proceeds with the destruction of the lock joints and the V2 controls.
The final battle in the game is fought over the Avalon Dam, where Cipher and his replacement wingman PJ are sent to destroy an enemy base capable of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles. During the battle, PJ is shot down by Pixy, who defected to AWWNB, with his newly acquired ADFX-02 Morgan's laser weapon. After Cipher engages in a battle with his former wingman, he is victorious and succeeds in putting an end to A World With No Boundaries.
The entire story is told through a documentary made several years after the war. Many of the enemy aces Cipher fought managed to eject from their planes and survive the war, either being sent to prison or going on to lead normal lives. The narrator manages to track them all down and interviews them about their battles with Cipher from their own perspectives. The final person he interviews is revealed to be Pixy, who survived the dogfight with Cipher. He is disillusioned with his AWWNB ideals, but continues to try and find meaning in them. He also thanks Cipher, in hopes that he may be watching the interview. The narrator concludes that there's not enough information to find out who Cipher really is, but the fact that all of Cipher's former enemies smile when they recall him is enough for him, "that...perhaps may be my answer".
The game received positive reviews.
It currently holds a 75/100 score on Metcritic. IGN's Juan Castro graded the game at 8.8/10, stating that Namco took a chance in slowly evolving the series, and it offers "slight modifications" into the engine." He also took note of the story as different from other console flight games and the cooperative mode is a blessing to fans.
Computerandvideogames.com lauded the game's release date as a refresher from the multiple games of different genres that came out at the time. He noted the good graphical presentations and the sheer difficulty provided by the Aces.
Eurogamer's Rob Fahey, however, said the game's "incremental" changes confuse players with what has changed between this and Unsung War.
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- Ace Combat Zero Official Site
- Ace Combat Zero Official Site (Japanese)
- Namco Ace Combat Zero Site
- Namco Ace Combat Zero Site (Japanese)