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AeroFighters Assault

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Reviewed by Bryan Video System's AeroFighters Assault, the fourth installment in the Japanese Sonic Wings video game saga, sure looks great in screen-shots. Billed as the N64's first flight sim shooter, the game features one- and two-player modes, six different pilot characters with their own jets, an armada of enemies, and seven gigantic bosses. Taking control of a UN peace-keeping jet force, players take on a band of hi-tech terrorists known as Phutta Morgana in seven (plus four bonus) missions. The story: the bad guys have melted the Antarctic Ice Cap and are flooding major cities in their ploy to throw UN military operations into chaos. Their tools of destruction are jets, submarines, frigates, helicopters, an armored walker and even a gigantic flying fortress. Sounds pretty cool, huh? The promise of an action game by the creators of PilotWings was enough to send expectations for AeroFighters Assault sky-high. But unfortunately, Paradigm's second N64 game is a far cry from its debut Nintendo flight sim. Strap yourself into the cockpit and squeeze off heat-seeking missiles in this grittily realistic jet-fighter shooter. Sinister forces have melted the Antarctic ice cap, flooding the earth's cities. No one knows where they came from or what they want. But when the mysterious invaders attack Tokyo, you're called to lead an elite international team of pilots into the incredibly wild blue yonder! In single-player mode, AeroFighters Assault features eight primary and four bonus missions. The game features four aircraft, plus two bonus fighters. Your enemies come at you in jet fighters, helicopters, submarines and frigates, guaranteeing endless wing time as you blow away aliens bent on world conquest. There are giant bosses, too! The action takes place over cities, oceans dotted with icebergs and parched desert. For pure flying fun, Multiplayer mode features a sky stage in which you run absolutely no risk of running into the ground. AeroFighters Assault supports full 360-degree action by allowing you to switch among multiple camera views at any time. The product of an unprecedented partnership between arcade specialist Video System and the flight sim masters at Paradigm Entertainment, AeroFighters expands on the traditional shooter by adding plenty of authentic touches. The Paradigm team logged plenty of wing time crafting high-tech flight sims for military pilots before helping Shigeru Miyamotoand his NCL team develop Pilotwings 64. With experience like that, AeroFighters is a first-rate flight sim, complete with a stunning flight-physics model and dazzling acrobatic moves. A savvy veteran of the arcade wars, Video Systems made sure to pack AeroFighters Assault with white-knuckle action, especially when you're dogfighting a buddy in two-player mode. Redrawing the intricately detailed fighters at supersonic speeds would tax most game systems, but the powerful N64 never misses a beat. The Controller's analog Control Stick gives you pin-point control as you bank, roll and plunge into screaming dives after your high-powered enemies.

Graphics 25 out of 30

Even if you're not into the manga-esque Sonic Wings design (red jets, anyone?), the nice effects and cool terrain graphics show that Paradigm put a lot of work into making AeroFighters look good. The explosions are top-notch, rockets leave translucent contrails, and fans of submarine flicks (like Hunt for Red October) will love the way AeroFighters gigantic sub literally jumps out of the water, accompanied by the appropriate bilinear-filtered spray. The graphics are certainly on par with other flying games -- well, at least in the training mode. Once you put the graphics engine to the test in one of the missions, it quickly becomes apparent that what worked for PilotWings, an exploration-based flight sim, doesn't work for an action jet game. In PilotWings, your N64 basically had to worry about the logic, graphics and incoming control data of one vessel -- yours. But AeroFighters features lots of on-screen enemies, including collapsing ground structures and gigantic bosses. Can you guess what happens? I'm not a stickler for framerate, but it's imperative in a fast-paced action game that you know what's going on. AeroFighters' sluggish graphics drop to abominable framerates, even when there are no enemies on screen. This makes flying close to obstacles a game of chance and obliterates any feeling of speed that may come up from time to time. Imagine trying to track an object in a room only lit by strobe lights, and you get the idea.

Music and Sound 5 out of 15

Sound: Muzak Attack. The music is comprised of unexciting midi tunes that would work perfectly in a Japanese department store's elevator, but it's nothing you would want in a shooting game. It's far from terrible, but it just isn't quite there. The sound effects are better, but the fshhhhhhhh when you turn your plane gets a little annoying. Voice samples are clear and easy to understand, even though the content of the radio conversations is uninspired, to say the least. Both your allies and your enemies will comment on the action once in a while, with such important messages as Cool, dude! Sure, it adds to the atmosphere, but couldn't the space have been used for something more worthwhile?

Game Challenge 50 out of 95

Gameplay: The element that makes or breaks a video game -- and in this case, it's rather on the "breaks" side. AeroFighters is not a game that finds redemption in its realistic flight engine, nor do its graphics make people forget holes in gameplay the way NFL Quarterback Club did. To put it bluntly, AeroFighters Assault is dull. The one-player mode, the most important feature of each and every video game, is slow-paced and boring despite its interesting premises and varied missions. This is not to say that AeroFighters is a complete failure -- some levels actually manage to be quite fun for a while, but it's readily apparent that the game's balance as a whole is slightly off (certain missions take forever to finish, while others can be completed in a matter of seconds). There is an apparent lack of tension, some of the enemies take a ridiculous amount of hits until they finally blow up, and it's often impossible to tell whether your attack was successful or whether you just was! ted a lot of ammo. It's too slow for an action game and too 'crowded' for a flight sim, yet it tries to be both. This is no Ace Combat, Star Fox, or PilotWings.

Game Play-Fun 5 out of 6

Game Play-Fun: Not fun. There's a ton of options. Boss attack, facing computer-controlled AI pilots, flying through rings, and two-player. The two-player is very bad. There's a big world, a small radar that uses purple/blue blips even though the radar is blue/purple, and 90% of the time you won't see your enemy. The one-player levels are decently fun, especially the second level where you basically go around blasting ships and subs with no defense. But the first is too easy. Oh well....


Poor graphics. Poor music, Poor multiplayer. The Vs. boss practice where there's green spheres and an unmoving target boss. Stereotype characters, dumb sound bytes. Unreadable radar in two player.

Game Value 56 out of 60

It isn't worth it. It just isn't worth it. Regular price, sub-regular game.

Flight Engine 99 out of 100

One of the game's few strong points. Paradigm's pedigree of professional flight sims shows when you fly around in the training missions. Not that I've ever been in the cockpit of a jet fighter, but the way you can bank, roll, dive, and even pull off cobra maneuvers gives the game an air of authenticity. Unfortunately, the flight mechanics don't work hand-in-hand with the rest of the game, making the end result a strange mix between flight sim and action shooter -- and consequently, a master of neither domain. Description: This is a city-defense stage. Defend the Metropolitan Building from Super Walker X, a giant mechanical spider.

Control/Multiplayer 75 out of 100

Control: The N64 controller is almost perfect for a 3D jet shooting game. Use the analog stick to adjust pitch and yaw and press the buttons to fire your weapons, control your jet's throttle, and bank left or right. If the game's graphics problems wouldn't make it so hard to judge distances, it would probably work like a charm. Multiplayer: One of the few redeeming factors is the fun two-player dog-fight mode. With more freedom than the Star Fox 64 battles, AeroFighters Assault can actually be quite fun when you try your newly acquired flight skills one a human opponent. Contrary to every other N64 game out there, the two-player game also runs at higher speeds than the one-player mode and the environments look quite nice. Too bad that you can't really interact with anything or fly through a cave -- the backgrounds remain just that: backgrounds.

Overall 95 out of 100

Overall: The bottom line: AeroFighters Assault is not a two-in-one package. It's not horrible, but it's dreadfully average and lacks the balance of many N64 games. If you're into shooters, get Star Fox 64. If you like flight sims, get PilotWings 64. If you don't have enough money to rent or buy a PSX with Ace Combat 2 and can't live without an action flight sim, AeroFighters may make a decent rental -- but just don't expect too much. It's a fun little two-player flight battle, with an utterly forgettable one-player game that desperately needs a code to unlock the hidden gameplay.

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