|Genre(s)||Combat flight simulator|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance, Mobile phone, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PC, iOS, Xbox One, PlayStation 4|
|First release||Air Combat|
June 30, 1995
|Latest release||Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown|
January 18, 2019
Ace Combat[a] is an arcade-style combat flight simulation video game franchise published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, formerly Namco. Debuting in 1995 with Air Combat for the PlayStation, the series includes eight mainline installments, multiple spin-offs, and other forms of media, such as novels, model kits, and soundtrack albums. Since 2012, the series has been developed primarily by Bandai Namco Studios through its internal development group, Project Aces.
The franchise emphasizes fast-paced action and dramatic plots with semi-realistic gameplay; for example, fighter aircraft have pitch, yaw, and roll control and can stall, but are also able to carry dozens of missiles in hammerspace. As of 2021, the Ace Combat franchise has shipped over 17 million copies worldwide,[b] and has established itself as one of the longest running arcade flight action franchises.
The main series of games takes place in a fictionalized world populated with fictional countries with details loosely based on real-life locations, events, and wars. One of the main selling points of the series is the ability to pilot a range of aircraft that include accurate or slightly modified representations of present-day military aircraft, prototypes that never saw actual battle, and completely fictional boss-type superweapons. There are hints that the games share a continuity, as some characters and events are referenced from one game to another.
|1997||Ace Combat 2|
|1999||Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere|
|2001||Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies|
|2004||Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War|
|2005||Ace Combat Advance|
|2006||Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War|
|Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception|
|2007||Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation|
|2009||Ace Combat Xi: Skies of Incursion|
|2010||Ace Combat: Joint Assault|
|Ace Combat Assault Horizon: Trigger Finger|
|2011||Ace Combat: Assault Horizon|
|Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy|
|Ace Combat: Northern Wings|
|2014||Ace Combat Infinity|
|2015||Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+|
|2019||Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown|
- Air Combat (1995) is the debut entry of the series, being released as a launch title for the PlayStation in North America and titled Ace Combat in Japan. It is the successor to a 1993 arcade game of the same title. The game was produced by Kazumi Mizuno and centers around a terrorist organization seizing control of Skully Island. Air Combat introduced the series' arcade-like gameplay, a contrast to most other flight sim games at the time. In 2005, Air Combat was released for Japanese mobile phones under Namco's game subscription service.
- Ace Combat 2 (1997) was released for the PlayStation, and created out of Namco's dissatisfaction with Air Combat from a technical standpoint. Designed by Masanori Kato, Ace Combat 2 follows a squadron of fighters named Scarface, who attempt to liberate the continent of Usea from a group known as the Usean Rebel Forces. The sequel builds upon its predecessor in several ways, adding new mission types, playable fightercraft, and multiple difficulty options. Ace Combat 2 was re-released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2 through NamCollection, a Japan-exclusive collection of Namco-developed PlayStation games.
- Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere (1999) was published for the PlayStation, being the last game in the series for the console. While the previous two games carry a modern-day aesthetic, Electrosphere uses a more futuristic, science-fiction motif, such as having one mission take place in outer space and focusing on a war between two megacorporations competing against each other for power. Electrosphere is heavily reliant on story, with branching stage paths and anime-style video emails with full voice acting. The North American version of the game cuts down much of its story and content to accommodate for financial constraints.
- Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies (2001) was the first game in the series to be developed by Project Aces, then-known as "The AC04 Project". It was released for the PlayStation 2 and renamed Ace Combat: Distant Thunder in Europe. 04 returns to the gameplay structure of Air Combat and Ace Combat 2, with fast-paced action and variety in mission objectives. The plot chronicles a pilot named "Mobius 1", one of the few of his squadron remaining, who leads the counterattack against the Federal Republic of Erusea who attempts to conquer the entire Usean continent.
- Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (2004) was released for the PlayStation 2, renamed Ace Combat: Squadron Leader for Europe. Produced by Kazutoki Kono and Project Aces, The Unsung War is one of the most expansive titles in the series, with over 50 playable aircraft and 32 campaign missions, along with fully-animated cutscenes. In 2018, Bandai Namco Entertainment re-released The Unsung War for the PlayStation 4 as a pre-order bonus for Ace Combat 7, with slight modifications to make it run properly on the console's hardware. The plot follows the members of the "Wardog" Squadron in large scale war between the world's two superpowers: the Osean Federation and the Union of Yuktobanian Republics.
- Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War (2006) was released for the PlayStation 2, renamed Ace Combat: The Belkan War for the European release. It was the last Ace Combat game developed by Namco before their assets were folded into Namco Bandai Games, who published the game outside Japan, just a week after its launch in Japan. The Belkan War serves as a prequel to The Unsung War, combining ideas and mechanics from both it and Shattered Skies. The story, which is told through retrospective narration, follows the exploits of the "Galm" team of mercenaries, hired to defend the country of Ustio and its allies from the Belkan Federation's invasion.
- Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (2007) was released for the Xbox 360, marking the series' debut on a Microsoft platform. It is the first Ace Combat title to implement online multiplayer and downloadable content, which have become staple inclusions since. Its story involves an invasion of the Republic of Emmeria by its neighbor, the Federal Republic of Estovakia and the subsequent efforts by Emmeria's armed forces to take back their country, led by the pilots of "Garuda Team". Alongside a standalone release, Namco Bandai bundled Fires of Liberation with the Ace Edge, a flight stick designed by Hori specifically for the game, and a custom Xbox 360 console faceplate. In 2018, Bandai Namco Entertainment re-released Fires of Liberation for the Xbox One as a pre-order bonus for Ace Combat 7, with slight modifications to make it run properly on the console's hardware.
- Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (2011) was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, The game was later released on Microsoft Windows in 2013 through Steam, with it being notably being set in real-life Earth, with the only other games in this series taking place on real-life Earth being Ace Combat: Joint Assault, and Ace Combat Infinity.
- Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (2019) was published for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC through the Steam distribution platform, being the first mainline installment in twelve years. It was created based on the commercial success of Ace Combat Infinity, with its mechanics being borrowed from both it and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. Designed by Project Aces and headed by producer Kazutoki Kono, Skies Unknown features multiple additions to the series, such as multiple game modes, enhancements to the ship tuning concept from Ace Combat X, and virtual reality support through PlayStation VR. The game takes place during the Lighthouse War, an international conflict instigated by the newly established Kingdom of Erusea when they take seize control of the International Space elevator in neutral territory and declare war against the Osean Federation. Players take control of Trigger, an Osean Defense Air Force pilot who is falsely accused of the murder of a former president and is sentenced to serve in a penal unit that undertakes high risk missions. The game also features three VR missions focused on Mobius 1 and set five years before the events of the main game.
The main games of the Ace Combat series take place on an alternate version of Earth in a reality dubbed "Strangereal", featuring different geography and countries. The planet is located in the same solar system as the real-life Earth, but replacing it entirely. This reality was later included within Bandai Namco's United Galaxy Space Force shared universe. In this alternate version of Earth, the planet had been affected by the fragments of a large asteroid impact in 1999, which had devastated cities and left impact craters, creating a 'strange, real' gaming landscape. Many countries and conflicts present in this reality bear resemblance to those present in real-life.
Ace Combat: Joint Assault, Assault Horizon, and Infinity take place on the real-life Earth. While Joint Assault and Assault Horizon were more realistic in terms of their setting, Infinity utilized many elements from the Strangereal series, featuring iconic plot elements from the prior games set in "Strangereal".
Some Ace Combat games have differences in their title, depending upon which region (NTSC or PAL) the game was sold at:
- The Japanese Ace Combat was renamed Air Combat in the North American and European releases of the original game. The second game was initially set to be released as Air Combat 2 in the U.S., but by the time of release the game (and series) switched to using Ace Combat internationally.
- In NTSC territories, the fourth installment of the series is known as Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, while in PAL territories the game is known as Ace Combat: Distant Thunder. The Spanish version of the game is known as Ace Combat: Trueno de Acero, which can be translated as Ace Combat: Steel Thunder.
- The NTSC version of the fifth installment of the game is known as Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, while the PAL release was renamed Ace Combat: Squadron Leader.
- In PAL territories, the word "Zero" in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War was removed, making it the first game since the series introduction to not have a significant name change in PAL territories.
- Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy in English-speaking territories was originally titled Ace Combat 3D: Cross Rumble in Japan.
With the release of Assault Horizon in 2011, Project Aces created Aces at War: A History, a special artbook detailing the content from Ace Combat 04, 5, and Zero from an in-universe perspective, as well as production commentary. This was packaged with the special editions of Assault Horizon released in Japan. Aces at War: A History would later be updated and rereleased as part of a special edition of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.
In March 2012, ASCII Media Works released Ace Combat: Ikaros in the Sky. A tie-in novel for Assault Horizon, Ikaros tells a story of series character Kei Nagase as she participates in the JASDF's ASF-X Shinden II fighter program.
|Air Combat||2.23 million shipped||-|
|Ace Combat 2||1.092 million shipped||83/100|
|Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere||1.164 million shipped||-|
|Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies||2.64 million shipped||89/100|
|Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War||1.802 million shipped||84/100|
|Ace Combat Advance||100,000 shipped||56/100|
|Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War||792,000 shipped||75/100|
|Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception||476,000 shipped||75/100|
|Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation||700,000||80/100|
|Ace Combat: Assault Horizon||1.07 million||78/100|
|Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown||3 million shipped||80/100|
Ace Combat has been a consistent commercial success, with most mainline installments reaching over one million units shipped. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is the most successful title with over 3 million copies shipped by 2021, followed by Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies and Air Combat. The games have sold well predominantly in North America and Japan, where over 75% of all revenue was generated from the series by 2008. In total, the Ace Combat franchise has shipped over 17 million copies.[b]
- Project Wingman
- The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces, a spiritual spin-off released exclusively on the Wii as a tie-in for the film The Sky Crawlers
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- Sinclair, Brendan (May 8, 2012). "Dark Souls sells 1.19 million". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on February 22, 2019. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
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Speaking of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, we learn that it has now shipped over 3 million copies.
- "Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown for PlayStation 4 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on June 24, 2020.
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