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