Review by dancer62

"Babysitting: dry babies 5 cents, wet babies 10 cents"

Here we go again! It's another Ace Combat game on the PSP! This time around, instead of war between fantasy factions on our comfortable Earth-like planet of Strangereal, we're with a private military corporation accepting missions to defend Tokyo from air attack, defeat ground forces invading Egypt, prevent destruction of the London Eye, all against a former Eastern Bloc general who has apparently gone all Captain Nemo with gigantic flying fortresses. This is my favorite kind of game, mission-based, things to collect, resources and capabilities to juggle, great graphics, story secondary to the action.

In fact, I could almost cut and paste my review for Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception. You might think of it as a hard-plus multiplayer mission pack for ACX. Although the size of the file on the UMD is twice that of ACX, 1.7gb vs. 900mb, it doesn't seem to have any more content than the previous game, except for the addition of cooperative multiplayer. I can't speak to multiplayer, I don't have wi-fi, but apparently, like Monster Hunter, the difficulty is optimized for multiplayer. That tends to bring the difficulty level for single player up to 11, on a scale of 10. There is a ACJA board here at GameFaqs, but it's not very active recently, lots of good tips, but also complaints about the difficulty of finding others for multiplayer.

Planes are nerfed, not in firepower, but in maneuverability. Sluggish! Turn baby, PLEASE TURN! It's a joystick breaker, in three years of heavy use of my PSPs, I've broken two joysticks, one on Gods Eater Burst, one on Monster Hunter Portable 3rd. In my first playthrough of ACJA, on the Easy difficulty setting, I broke three joysticks.

Along with sluggish performing planes, there's a large number of missions of the "locked in a closet with a swarm of wasps" variety, a plethora of required targets, all surrounded by SAMs, AA, helicopter gunships, and overhead CAPs. Ace Combat games, in my experience, always have a few impossible missions, with invulnerable enemies protected by omnipotent wrath-of-the-gods weapons. In ACJA, there are aces invulnerable to your missiles, area effect weapons that will kill you unless you are above or below a certain range of altitudes, and flying fortresses with vulnerable spots defended by impenetrable force fields. There is a tunnel level where you have to shoot targets to open doors, but one target is nowhere near the door it operates (in a missile silo where you have to do a stall turn to keep from running into the wall). Plus the obligatory radar-jamming missions that reduce finding targets to a pixel hunt. Not to mention the giant railgun that can blast you out of the sky at unlimited range or, when you get within your missile range, magically swat you out of the sky WITH ITS BARREL!

The "G" expansion of Monster Hunter Freedom 2 to Monster Hunter Freedom Unite added more difficult missions, but also added an AI felyne hunter to your single player party, who would attack, or at least distract and annoy monsters. In ACJA, you have theoretical wingmen who are seldom seen and don't seem to do anything, in ACX at least they would finish off your cripples. In ACJA it's all up to you.

ACX had a variety of memorable missions. ACJA repeats a lot of flying fortress missions, with various degrees of invincibility of the giant flying wing. The most honestly challenging mission is flying through a twisting canyon and avoiding missiles in a huge and sluggish unarmed 747 airliner, but really it's not that much more clumsy than the fighters available on the first playthrough. The other missions are familiar from other Ace Combats, with the difficulty cheaply cranked up. Many missions are two or three part, you think you've completed the mission, ha! No, another objective. At least, in the multipart missions, you can restart from a checkpoint rather than from the beginning.

If you're interested in aviation, there's a nice variety of planes to fly, both real-world fighters and fantasy superplanes. A really nice addition is the availability of the WWII F6F Hellcat and the A6M Zero, slow but outstandingly maneuverable guns-only fighters. Blasting modern jets out of the sky with 70 year old warbirds is a hoot. Most of the planes are customizable, but unlocking worthwhile parts is a pain-in-the-asteroids.

Like ACX, you'll need three to four playthroughs to unlock all the missions, unlike ACX, a lot of the unlocks of planes and parts are based on completing missions at the ACE difficulty level, and/or achieving an S ranking for the mission. After the first playthrough, the planes available are maneuverable and well-armed enough to make it possible to replay missions for S-rank, although, regardless of how much I otherwise enjoy the game, there are a lot of missions that are just way too tedious to be any fun repeating.

Graphics: great! Planes are detailed, targets are detailed, scenery texture mapping is like ACX, blurry up close, but since you're cruising at 600mph, gunning for targets, racing to the next objective, you don't really notice. There are some nice scenery features, my favorite is the London Eye at night. Smoke trails from missiles, explosions, AA tracers, cloud and mist, all use the PSP's outstanding graphics ability to the fullest.

Sound: The sound effects are serviceable, and the music is great. The music fits the action, and, after the first playthrough, you open a jukebox so all the music is available to browse. You'll find yourself humming some of the tunes after playing.

Story: eh, forgettable, the less said the better. Jules Verne meets John Grisham? Insane general, renegade squadron, bitter ace, corrupt executive, corporate shenanigans, betrayal, oh, well. MINOR SPOILER: Destroy San Francisco as an insurance scam? You have to be kidding.

Gameplay: It's Ace Combat, plenty of yanking and banking, missiles flying, guns blazing, lots of ground, air, and sea targets, great fun. It's all very addictive, even after completing one of the frustrating impossible missions after X tries, you're compelled to go on to another mission. The controls are convenient and intuitive and help rather than intrude into the gameplay.

Bottom line, it's a great game, fun and addictive, but inferior to Ace Combat X in single player mode. If you intend to use multiplayer, or if you're an Ace Combat fan and want a difficult mission pack expansion to ACX, then it's an easy keeper. If it's your first Ace Combat on the PSP, go with ACX. Either way, you can't go wrong.

Pro: great graphics, music, and gameplay
intuitive controls
it's Ace Combat!

Con: repetitive and frustrating missions
poorly gauged difficulty level for single player

Score: 8/10 Outstanding with a few frustrations

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/01/12

Game Release: Ace Combat: Joint Assault (US, 08/31/10)

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