Ace in the hole

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

In the late 90s I was exposed to the Ace Combat series after playing a demo on a friend’s PlayStation. I loved it. There was something about flying a plane without the multitude of button presses usual flight sims entail that really appealed to me. Not to mention the almost endless self-targeting rockets strapped to my wings. As the years passed, so did the Ace Combat games spanning a number of platforms but in recent years, arcade flying fans could only get their kicks on portable systems. As excited as I am every time a new Ace Combat is announced, I quickly grew tired of the series and since Namco Bandai shied away from home consoles, I figured so did a lot of its followers. Apparently not as the publisher has announced that total sales of the series has surpassed 10 million units worldwide, an impressive feat for any long running franchise.

Ace Combat started life as Air Combat in the arcades over 15 years ago and it was the comically dramatic story lines and increasingly striking graphics that prevented it ever becoming a cliche sim. The next in the series, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, is the first multi-platform release and throughout its development has promised a new approach to an evidently popular but tiring franchise. Dog fights are said to be more exciting, the pace is supposedly faster and helicopters have been included to the flying arsenal. A few weeks ago, a demo appeared on Xbox Live and PSN which proved to be very successful in terms of downloads. Over 1.2 million gamers have had a taste of the game and puts Assault Horizon in a good pre-release position.

But there is a snag. From what I’ve read from commenters online, although so many have downloaded the demo, I’m yet to read a more than a handful of positive comments for it. That’s not to say the neigh sayers won’t pick up the game (we all know how quickly the Internet can dismiss things) but I too found Assault Horizon to be a little lacking. As promised, the adrenaline was heightened and the pace has gone up a couple of notches however it still felt like the same kind of game we’ve had for the past 15 odd years. Maybe the demo wasn’t great at showing how the series has moved on but what I got out of it was a stronger desire to play this kind of game on my 3DS. It’s meant to be coming towards the end of the year and right now I’m holding out for that version as Ace Combat has become the kind of game I want to pick up and play rather then dedicate lengthy amounts of time in front on my TV. Is that a bad thing? Not really although is quite interesting how I’ve wanted the franchise to make a triumphant return to home consoles and Assault Horizon is the closet thing to that yet I’d rather play it on a handheld. I wonder how the rest of the 1.2 million downloaders thought.

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3DAce

At a recent press event, Namco Bandai announced their popular arcade flight-sim series, Ace Combat, will be finding a new home on the 3DS (via TheSixthAxis) and I must say I’m rather excited. Being an uber-nerd for the Ace Combat franchise, I tend to pick up whatever comes out bearing its name regardless of platform or indeed if I’d play it for any great length of time – slightly odd from a self confessed fanboy but bear with me. As much as I enjoy aeriel dogfighting and ridiculously impassioned cut scenes, my tastes have changed somewhat meaning what would have kept me entertained for hours ten years ago won’t do the same for me now. But the Ace Combat franchise is changing. It’s being rebooted as Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, coming October 14th for HD consoles and looks to give more emphasis on the action while revamping the control scheme. You have to imagine that with a big shift in ideas, the 3DS version will be more in tune with the reboot and less likely to be a port of the PSP or iPhone games which are good but stick with the older model. Less likely but not confirmed much like a lot of the details including a release date. September last year was when the company first spoke of a 3DS game in the series and little was said about it back then too. All we know now is that it’s definitely coming to Europe. But like I said at the start of this post, I’ll probably buy it. When I first tried Pilotwings Resort, I said how good the planes controlled using the analog nub of the 3DS. Take that idea, strap on some missiles and a machine gun and I’m sold!

Assaulting the horizons

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I do love a good flight sim game. Sorry, I better correct that. I do love a good arcade flight sim, with endless rockets, streams of bullets and crazy story lines about waring nations. That’s why the Ace Combat franchise is part of my all time favourite games though I have to admit, my interest has dulled since those on the PS2. Wanting not to stagnate out of gamers memories, Namco Bandai’s next Ace Combat game Assault Horizon has been known to be the rebirth of the series and the latest trailer shows even more of the changes from earlier iterations. Fast cinematic dog fights and all round carnage, that’s what Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is all about looks pretty damn good to me!

Odyssey to the bargain bin

It’s bad news for anyone hoping for a sequel to Enslaved as Namco Bandai have announced the game hasn’t been able to sell more than 500,000 units (reports Eurogamer). Not just in one territory either, the game only sold around 460,000 worldwide which is tragic to say the least. But the evidence Enslaved was failing to perform became clear with the 50% price drop it received so soon after release. You’d have thought with all the decent review scores and it being reduced around Christmas time that sales would have spiked but sadly they did not.

What’s particularly disappointing is how a game with such impressive facial animations, emotionally engaging characters and storyline will almost disappear, banished with the kinds of titles that barely scratch the surface of what Enslaved offers. Ninja Theory’s Tameem Antoniades said a sequel was being considered as was the possibility to serialise the story which makes the poor sales even more frustrating for fans.

Though to put things into perspective, yes Enslaved was a beautiful action adventure that excelled in story telling and character development but in terms of gameplay, that was usually the last thing people spoke about. It was solid and held together well for the most part but nearly all criticisms of Enslaved, including my own, are about the it being a bit repetitive with an ending that was just, odd. However, there aren’t a huge list of games that don’t come with similar problems and for £20, Enslaved was and still is a great price. So can the finger of blame be pointed at us, the gamers? Some would argue the failure to support true innovation leaves the industry in a cycle of conventional experiences over real advances. Others would say if the actual game part was as good as the acting and graphics, there wouldn’t be a problem.

Behind the gameplay of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom

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Namco Badai has released the fifth ‘behind the game’ video for their upcoming buddy-game, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom showing the collaborative gameplay between protagonist Tepeu and the leafy Majin. The video reveals how the game’s puzzle elements are “intertwined” with its action but there are occasions where puzzles and fighting take priority over each other. Developers Game Republic claim the enemies will be particularly difficult in order so that Majin, who Tepeu can order around, is utilised in the combat.

From what I played of the demo, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is really quite sweet and an enjoyable romp. Granted ‘sweet’ isn’t the normal description used for a game where you’re telling a hulking great beast to smash shadow-like-things in the face but enjoyable definitely sums up the gameplay regardless of my brief time with it.

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is out November 26th on Xbox 360 and PS3.

Retro Splatterhouse coming to mobiles

To coincide with the reboot of arcade gore-fest Splatterhouse, coming to HD consoles next month, the original game has been announced (via Destructoid) to be making its way to mobile phones around the same time. Namco Bandai will be releasing the game on iPhone, Windows Mobile and other portable wizardry for a yet unknown price but if you’re thinking of enjoying both old and new versions, the original game comes as an unlockable on the disc. So you’re already covered.

Having the 1988 arcade game on a mobile device would probably serve more as a nostalgic treat than entertaining experience since the game wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible by any means but the draw seemed to be its copious amounts of blood, guts and foetuses over any gameplay elements. And it’s not as if games are only played for their goriness nowadays are they?…

Behind the scenes of Enslaved parts 2 and 3

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Monday saw Namco Bandai’s sneak peek into the making of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and now parts 2 and 3 (found after the break) are out ready for an eye-balling. Part 2 focuses on the post-apocalyptic world that Ninja Theory have created for this re-telling of an oriental tale and part 3 talks of the actors’ experiences with motion capturing. The man behind male protagonist Monkey, Andy Serkis, is no stranger to little white balls as he choreographed much of Heavenly Sword and its cut-scenes. Both videos are definitely worth a watch so enjoy!

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is out October 8th for Xbox 360 and PS3.

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