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AeroFighters Assault

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Reviewed by Scott McCall AeroFighters Assault, also known as Sonic Wings Assault in Japan, is the latest in a line of Sonic Wings games by Video System. Previous versions were two-dimensional, overhead, vertically scrolling shooters, and only one of them has ever made it to the U.S. That game was brought over as Aero Fighters, which was released for the Super NES in 1994. AeroFighters Assault not only marks the first time the series has gone 3D but also the first time Video System is letting someone else handle the development. The developer is none other than Paradigm Entertainment, the guys who helped make Pilotwings 64. When it came to the development of AeroFighters Assault, Video System and Paradigm decided to make a game that was part action and part simulation. This meant the game would deviate quite a bit from previous Sonic Wings games. There are two main differences. First, it's no longer a forced-scrolling game like 2D shooters. Second, there are no longer weapon icons and power-ups to pick up. The result is a game that's based on a realistic flight model, though not an overly complicated one, and one that's added some action and sci-fi elements to the mix. Each level in AeroFighters Assault consists of a mission, which is usually taking out a boss. Although a level might look endless, it's really just a confined area you can fly 360 degrees in. Imagine Star Fox 64's "All-Range Mode" on a much larger scale. So you'll have to fly in on a boss, take a couple of shots, and then turn around and come back to get it again. If you happen to go too far, the game automatically returns you to the engagement zone. In addition to trying to take out boss, there are many minor enemies to contend with. Fortunately, you have three wingmen who can help you out. You have one life per continue in the game, of which there are 10. You die by losing all your energy. Your energy meter is a little plane icon on the lower left-hand corner of the screen. The amount of energy taken off per hit obviously depends on what shot you and what difficulty level you're on. Whenever you or a boss dies, the game zooms out to show the explosion from a distance. Plus, depending on the stage you're on, you will either continue from the same point or you will have to start over. If you get to continue from the same point, then the boss meter won't reset. If not, then you have to start it over. Much like another of Paradigm's games, Pilotwings 64, the control in AeroFighters Assault is seamless and realistic. Here's the default controller scheme, which can be changed to your liking: After Burner is Top C, Air Brake is Bottom C, Yaw Left is Left C, Yaw Right is Right C, your Main Shot is Z, your Sub Weapon is A, your Defensive Weapon is B, your Special Weapon is R, a Cockpit View is L, and the Camera Views can be changed with the Control Pad. And, of course, the Control Stick is used to move your plane. Now depending on whether you pick "Novice" or "Normal" in the Options mode, the Control Stick is different. If you choose Novice, which is the default, then pressing left or right or up or down will cause your craft to move in small increments in the corresponding direction. It kind of feels like Star Fox 64 with this. However, if you choose Normal, then the control will be more realistic. If you press a lot in any of the directions, then your plane will actually completely rotate or flip, meaning you can fly on your side or upside down. It's a little disorienting to use for novices, but it's something flight simulation fans will definitely want to use. AeroFighters Assault does seem very slow the first time you turn it on. However, you'll realize that going much faster would make it too hard to do what you need to do. Besides, you can increase and decrease your speed with the Top C or Bottom C buttons. Other notes of importance are that the Z button is your Main Shot, but it barely does any damage. However, you have unlimited ammo. The A button is your Sub Weapon. It will be your weapon of choice for doing damage to bosses. You get an unlimited number of these, but it takes about five seconds for it to replenish each time. The B button is your Defensive Weapon. You can use this if someone is on your tail. You have 10 of them. Finally, the R button is your Special Weapon. This weapon is usually similar to your Sub Weapon, except it's much more powerful. You get two of them. Also, you have four different pilots to choose from in AeroFighters Assault. They all control and feel the same, but they have each have different weapons. The simulation aspect of AeroFighters Assault mainly comes from its realistic flight model. This model also includes numerous on-screen indicators to help you out. You'll find a compass, an altitude meter, a speed meter, a meter for your Main Shot, an indicator of how long until your Sub Weapon is reloaded, and a radar. In addition, it tells you how many continues you have left, how many Special Weapons you have left, how many Defensive Weapons you have left, how much energy you have left, and what your score is. What about its game modes? Well, you can Practice by showing off your moves a la Star Fox 64's training mode, playing against a computer opponent, or fighting one of the bosses. There's the Main Game, which is saved to the cartridge, and a Death Match mode that pits you against a friend. This is the game's two-player simultaneous mode. Unfortunately, it's not all that exciting. There's the Option mode that enables you to toggle the difficulty level, flight style, sound output, and controls. Finally, there's a Boss Attack mode that lets you play against any boss you've already beaten by playing it on its level. It's slightly different from the Vs. Boss portion of the Practice mode. Paradigm is known for its ability to produce realistic looking flight simulations, and AeroFighters Assault is certainly no exception. The game looks beautiful in motion, albeit slow at times, and is basically glitch-free. There is an occasional instance of slowdown, but there's almost zero clipping and pop-up. In fact, on some boards it's almost hard to believe that the game isn't slowing down with all of the enemy fire coming at you. The environments are also rich in detail and color, though they are kind of static. And, yes, you can blow up buildings and such that get in the way. AeroFighters Assault, unfortunately, is not as impressive in the sound department. The music is strangely composed, but it does try to convey kind of a sci-fi feel to it. A few tracks have a good piano sample, but a lot of them seem to use the infamous "orchestra hit"-type sample that was popular back in the 16-bit days. On the other hand, AeroFighters Assault has a surprisingly large amount of voice, and all of the samples sound great to boot. You and your fellow wingmen have comments for when you're kicking some butt or getting it kicked, and there's a women back at base who helps you out, too. Furthermore, the sound effects in the game are quite accurate, right down to some breathing when you're pulling heavy G's. Too bad the music wasn't better. AeroFighters Assault ends up being a surprisingly decent game. Unfortunately, its appeal won't be very wide because it's not for die-hard flight simulation fans and it's not for Star Fox fans, either. The game's biggest problem is the lack of replay value. Yes, the game is fairly long and challenging, but there isn't enough gameplay variety and the two-player mode isn't good enough to warrant any kind of long-term playing session.

Graphics: 4.5 out of 5 Sound: 3.4 out of 5 Control: 3.8 out of 5 Gameplay: 3.3 out of 5 Lastability: 2.1 out of 5 Overall: 3.2 out of 5

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