I’ve always been a fan of both flight simulators and anime, and the announcement of Sky Crawlers game for the Wii emblazoned me to go research the novels and film, in an attempt to better understand the property as a whole.
While the movie is a bit slow, there’s no doubting that the subject material is deep, intense, and incredibly unique. Read on to see if the developers behind Ace Combat created a game worth checking out.
Right out of the box, Sky Crawlers aims to please. Regardless of whether or not you’ve ever played a flight simulator, the game’s tutorial modes are extremely inviting and easy to follow. Not only will the game walk you step by step through the controls, but it will also show an on screen Wiimote and Nunchuck that follows your every move, and shows you how to utilize each part.
The throttle is controlled by the Wiimote, and movement is done by manipulating the Nunchuck. It’s all very intuitive and extremely responsive. While not quite as precise as a real flight-stick, the method works quite well. Also, in an attempt to please motion control haters, there’s also a Gamecube and Classic Controller option if you’re so inclined (but you shouldn’t need them).
To spice things up a bit, “Tactical Manuever Commands” (TMCs) are available in addition to your normal pitching and yawing. The longer you fly in an enemy’s vicinity, the longer your TMC meter rises; after passing the level one mark, you can initiate your move with the A button. The higher the TMC meter, the more advantageous your move will be. This mechanic adds a bit of an “arcade feel” to Sky Crawlers, and it makes it more enjoyable to play.
You can also map specific manual maneuvers like barrel rolls, u-turns, and loops (think Starfox 64). Just like every other facet of the controls, these are easy to pick up, and plainly laid out in the game’s tutorial. Thankfully, there are no high-tech lock-on weapons available, and everything has to be done old school style – think machine guns and heavy duty World War II style bombs.
Mission-wise, Sky Crawlers is mostly comprised of straight dogfights, which can get pretty intense later in the game, and objective based missions. If you’ve ever played an Ace Combat game, you’ll have some sort of idea of the types of missions involved in Sky Crawlers. You’ll get a handful of “destroy the base”, “destroy the convoy”, and Starfox-esque “destroy the squad” scenarios, and they’re fairly varied. All in all, there are seventeen total missions to sortie.
Unfortunately, while Sky Crawlers does have a clean design and easy to access menus, it doesn’t push the Wii graphically in any way. It ends up looking more like a PS2 game than a current generation title, and a lot of the landscapes are very uninspired; it is a shame, given how well done the dogfights are.
The actual story behind Sky Crawlers (built up through the novels, and subsequent film) is very deep, but you won’t find much depth in the actual game adaptation. Set in a future where the world no longer needs war, massive corporations engage in an aerial blood sport for the entertainment of human kind. To keep the competition going, “Kildren” (immortal children) are created, and put into an endless cycle of bloodshed. In the video game, you take on the role of one such unfortunate soul, named Lynx.
Lynx doesn’t really play a big part in the narrative, and he could really just be a nameless character; the real meat of Sky Crawlers is in the gameplay. The whole game has that old school “Medal of Honor” grunt feel.
If you’re so inclined, there are additional mission types to explore, achievements, and a two player mode, but casual players will most likely be turned off by the short length of the single player, which clocks in at around five to six hours. Given how well done flight combat is, you’re definitely going to want to play around with additional missions and upgrade your plane, just don’t expect a lengthy campaign.
Sky Crawlers should not only appeal to fans of the anime, but flight sim veterans as well. A good motion controlled flight sim has been a long time coming, and thankfully, Sky Crawlers delivers.
There isn't really much of a story to speak of, and the graphics look straight out of the last generation, but the very few anime cutscenes are well done.
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The default control scheme is just beautifully done, and in addition to the Wii-Mote and Nunchuck, you're allowed the use of the classic controller, Gamecube controller, or a customized scheme. The classic Dogfighting (without missle lock-ons) is also breathtaking, especially on a harder difficulty.
All of the voice acting is reasonable, but there are no breakout performances; same goes for the soundtrack.
While there are extra bells and whistles attached, like a heap of extra game modes, extra planes, and a tacked on two player mode, the main story only lasts around five hours. But then again, the game is $30 new.
Sky Crawlers is a solid flight sim that's brought down by a few unfortunate design flaws.