Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies

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Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies
Ac04box.jpg
North American box art
Developer(s)Namco
Publisher(s)
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. It is the fourth title in the Ace Combat series.

Gameplay[edit]

The player destroying an enemy aircraft

The player assumes the role of a fighter pilot through 18 story missions and a split screen versus mode.[1] Each mission features different objectives including air-to-air combat, ground attack and escorting friendly units. The player's aircraft is armed with a machine gun and standard missiles that can lock on to air, ground and naval targets. Special weapons including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, rockets and bombs can also be equipped.[2] At the end of each mission players are ranked on their performance and awarded credits to buy new aircraft and special weapons.

The player has the opportunity to purchase 21 different planes including real-world production and prototype models as well as fictional planes. Every plane has two alternate paint schemes that are earned by shooting down enemy aces hidden in each mission.

The gameplay is simpler and more action-oriented than other combat flight simulator games. The player aircraft carries much more ammunition than a real plane and has infinite fuel. Multiple difficulty levels can be selected which determines the number of enemies, the AI skill and damage thresholds for both players and enemies. On easier settings the player can survive several missile hits, while on the hardest a single missile can destroy the player.

Plot[edit]

Setting[edit]

The game is set in the alternate universe of Strangereal where Earth has different landmasses and history. Four years prior to the events of the game, a massive asteroid enters and breaks up in Earth's atmosphere. The impact events cause over 500,000 deaths in the first two weeks as well as an international financial crisis and refugee crisis. Just before the game starts, the Federal Republic of Erusea invades and occupies the neutral country of San Salvacion. Erusea also captures an array of anti-asteroid railguns codenamed Stonehenge which was developed to destroy the asteroid's fragments. Stonehenge is repurposed as a long-range anti-air weapon. Erusea is opposed by the Independent State Allied Forces (ISAF), but ISAF is forced to retreat outside Stonehenge's range to the island of North Point. Erusea gains control of most of Usea's mainland.[3][4] The player controls the game's silent protagonist, an ISAF pilot known by the callsign Mobius 1, while interludes are narrated by a man from San Salvacion writing a letter to Mobius 1 after the war recalling his childhood memories of wartime.

Synopsis[edit]

Mobius 1 and ISAF repel Erusean bombers from destroying ISAF headquarters[5] and enable ISAF troops to evacuate to North Point.[6] Mobius 1 takes part in a series of air raids to disable Erusea's "invincible" Aegir Fleet, halting Erusea's attempts to invade North Point by sea.[7] Bolstered by their victories, ISAF planes strike deeper into the continent but take heavy losses to fire from Stonehenge.[8] ISAF then launches a ground invasion of the Usean mainland, establishing a foothold on the continent.[9] Mobius 1 gains a reputation as a promising ace.

Meanwhile, a boy witnesses the death of his immediate family when an Erusean fighter with a yellow-painted 13 tail number shoots down an ISAF aircraft which crashes into the boy's home.[10] The boy is taken in by his uncle, an unemployed alcoholic who lives above a bar in San Salvacion's capitol city. The boy describes his experience of the Erusean occupation, earning income by playing music for Erusean soldiers in the bar.[11] There he meets the Erusean ace pilot with the callsign Yellow 13, who captains the elite Yellow Squadron.[12] Although the boy resents Yellow 13 at first, the captain and the rest of the squadron befriend and adopt the boy as one of their own.[13][14] The boy speaks of Yellow 13's desire to face a worthy opponent[15] and praise for Mobius 1's growing skill.[16]

The ISAF invasion marks a turning point in the war against Erusea. This causes logistical problems for Yellow Squadron.[17] The boy discovers that the barkeep and his daughter are agents of the resistance,[18] though the daughter is fond of Yellow 13.[19] The daughter bombs Yellow Squadron's airfield,[20] damaging the aircraft flown by Yellow 13's wingman and close friend Yellow 4.[21] ISAF launches an attack on Stonehenge in which Mobius 1 disables the railgun array. Yellow Squadron scrambles to defend Stonehenge. In the resulting dogfight, Yellow 4 is shot down by Mobius 1 and fails to eject.[22] Yellow 13 quietly mourns the death of his wingman.[23]

As ISAF forces approach San Salvacion, Yellow 13 catches the barkeep's daughter after she attempts to plant explosive detonators. The boy intervenes, calling Yellow 13 a "fascist pig." Yellow 13 is upset by the boy's words, but allows them to go free.[24] ISAF liberates San Salvacion's capitol.[25] The boy and the barkeep's daughter follow the retreating Erusean forces.[26][27] ISAF forces push through Erusea's final defensive line to the Erusean capitol.[28] As ISAF sieges the city, Mobius 1 engages and defeats Yellow 13 and the remainder of Yellow Squadron.[29] The boy and the barkeep's daughter find and bury Yellow 13's handkerchief.[30]

The Erusean leadership surrenders to ISAF. However, a rogue group of young Erusean officers take control of Megalith, a superweapon that uses rockets to shoot down asteroid fragments in orbit, intending to use it to bombard the mainland as revenge. Mobius 1 leads the newly formed Mobius Squadron into battle against the rogue officers while a special forces unit infiltrates the Megalith facility. Mobius 1 flies into the missile ports to destroy Megalith's generators. The special forces unit opens Mobius 1's escape route at the last moment and the squadron celebrates Mobius 1's heroism.[31]

Many years after the war, the boy (now grown) reflects on Yellow 13's life and death. He finishes his letter to Mobius 1, stating, "it must have brought [Yellow 13] an unexpected joy to have an opponent like [him], at the end of that meaningless war."[32]

Development[edit]

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.[33] This design philosophy was reflected in the marketing tagline "It's Changing Everything Again."[34] Gameplay was given more of an arcade feel with an increased focus on score attack objectives and fewer story cutscenes. 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.[35]

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. Sound director Tetsukazu Nakanishi designed the music to flow like a movie soundtrack.[36] Audio was recorded from F-4s and F-15s at Hyakuri Japanese Self Defense Base.[37]

Reception[edit]

Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies was a commercial success. By 2008, it shipped 2.64 million copies worldwide,[45] making it the highest-selling Ace Combat game until Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown surpassed it in 2021.[46]

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[44] and Famitsu magazine scored a rating of 33 out of 40 on release.[40] 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.[47]

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. ^ Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies US manual. Namco. p. 8.
  2. ^ Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies US manual. Namco. pp. 25–27.
  3. ^ "The World of AC04". AC04Web. Archived from the original on April 18, 2010. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  4. ^ Namco. Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: opening.
  5. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Level/area: Sitting Duck, Imminent Threat.
  6. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Level/area: The Northern Eye.
  7. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Level/area: Blockade, Lifeline, Invincible Fleet.
  8. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Level/area: Deep Strike.
  9. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Level/area: Operation Bunker Shot.
  10. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 1.
  11. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 2.
  12. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 3.
  13. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 4. Narrator: And so as time passed, I found the goodness of a home in their company. Leaving them was no longer an option for me now...
  14. ^ Namco (March 23, 2006). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 5. Narrator: I didn't have anyone to turn to, so I found myself living as if I were a member of the Yellow Squadron.
  15. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 4. Narrator: Some day, if an equal appeared and challenged the limits of his skills in a fight, he would bear no resentment about being shot down. He said this himself.
  16. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 5. Yellow 13: He's so close. If he manages to stay alive for just a while longer, that pilot could be a worthy opponent.
  17. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 7. Narrator: Logistics support became infrequent following the Allied operations. I knew this because Yellow Squadron's crew chief bellyached about this all the time to me.
  18. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 5.
  19. ^ Namco (March 23, 2006). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 6. Narrator: But I knew she didn't mean that from the bottom of her heart. Thirteen had captured her heart. I knew this from the way she shot jealous glances at his wingman.
  20. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 8. Narrator: He knew she was responsible for planting the bomb on their runway as well.
  21. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 7.
  22. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Level/area: Stonehenge Offensive.
  23. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 8.
  24. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 9.
  25. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Level/area: Emancipation.
  26. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 10.
  27. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 11. Narrator: The barkeep's daughter and I had followed Yellow Squadron this far.
  28. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Level/area: Whiskey Corridor.
  29. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Level/area: Siege of Farbanti.
  30. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 11.
  31. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Level/area: Megalith.
  32. ^ Namco (September 13, 2001). Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. Namco. Scene: Interlude 12.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ "STAFF MESSAGES". AC04Web. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2022. I have concentrated on making the background music flow much like a movie soundtrack, complementing the excellent visuals and improved backgrounds.
  37. ^ Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies US manual. Namco. 2001. p. 33.
  38. ^ "Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies for PlayStation 2 Review". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on October 15, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  39. ^ "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.
  40. ^ 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.
  41. ^ 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.
  42. ^ Fitzloff, Jay (November 2001). "Ace Combat 4 Review". Game Informer. GameStop. Archived from the original on October 22, 2003. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  43. ^ Ajami, Amer (October 23, 2001). "Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies Review". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  44. ^ 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.
  45. ^ 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.
  46. ^ "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.
  47. ^ 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]