I have been wanting to play a great flight dogfight sim game ever since I had the excellent experience of pouring many hours into XBox's Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge. That game had the story, style, simple gameplay, and multiplayer functionality to make it an exceptionally good time (and I highly recommend it if you haven't played it). However, since I only own a Nintendo Wii, I need to find some other kind of flight fix so I can get a taste of those fond days of shooting down my roommates' planes. There have been a couple flight releases for the Wii, but from what I've read they have all been sub-par. I had some high hopes when I saw some of the gameplay videos for The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces. In the end, after playing the title, those hopes were realized, but other parts of the game were quite a let down.
The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces is essentially a video game that attempts to capitalize on the popularity of an anime movie of the same name (a movie which was based on a series of books). Fair warning, I have not seen the movie nor read any of the books, and sitting down to play was just hoping for some good shoot ‘em up action. The engaging opening title screen shows a bird's eye view of flying above clouds amidst calming music and wisps of wind. Although it is a very simple introduction, its effect on the senses reminds me of the quiet yet exciting opening sequence of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which set the stage for an epic fifty hours of gameplay.
Imagine, then, your disappointment when you are ripped from your heavenly flight through the air and are dashed upon a concrete floor. The plain, blue menu for the game consists of eight rectangular button options and zero flair. It is almost as if the game developers couldn't be bothered with this part of the title. Pressing on, I decide to try out the tutorials to see if I have what it takes to play the game effectively.
The lessons have the same menu setup with a couple sub-choices per main topic. The lessons are as basic as one can possibly ask for -- they literally show you how to interpret something onscreen or work a control before giving you the boot back to the tutorial menu. Unfortunately, there is no elaboration or mini-missions to be completed for many of the lessons. Sometimes all you do is listen to the narrator point something out and then the lesson is finished, leaving you wondering if you will remember what you just learned. What the developers should have done (if they wanted to take more time) is to incorporate many elements, or even build on previously learned elements, in a small mission setting. This allows one to not only learn something new but to also have the time to get the lesson to stick in one's head through repetition.