Review by Sklathill

Reviewed: 11/01/99 | Updated: 11/01/99

A great game that, unfortunately, lacks much replay value.

Namco has a fine habit of upping the ante with its game sequels. Games such as Ridge Racer Type 4, Time Crisis 2, and Soul Caliber clearly show such. Now, the players across the Pacific have Ace Combat 3 to feast their eyes on...is it worth it? Maybe not.

Right from the beginning of this 2 CD set, it is obvious that Namco spent a great deal of time on the whole style of the game. Gone is the Ready Room familiar to fans of Ace Combat 3; in its place is a 3d scroller tunnel that houses everything from video snippets to dialogue with your colleagues. There is plenty of dialogue (in Japanese, unlike the import version of Ace Combat 2) in between missions and the many video scenes (produced by Production I.G.) are extremely well produced, even if they are a bit grainy. If you can understand Japanese, you will be spending quite a while listening and watching, as there is quite a bit of story to be fleshed out by listening to news reports, looking at information on the companies you are working for and against, and conversing with your fellow pilots.

People familiar with the Ace Combat series will have no problems working with the control setup. For this latest installment, in addition to throttle and rudder, you can also use the right analog stick to look around the canopy of your fighter. Though this seems like a useful feature, it really isn't necessary with your god's eye radar and can actually be rather annoying when in the heat of a dogfight. Once you've destroyed all of those familiar red blips, the mission is accomplished.

The graphics both in-game and between the missions are excellent Namco fare. Stylistically speaking, the graphics are extremely well designed. Missles trail smoke convincingly. Vortices stream off wingtips. Hits look rather good. There are some flaws, however. The worst graphics can be seen when trying to land your ship; if you are successful, you are treated to a top-down view where you can see just how ugly some of these textures are. It's good that for the most part you're going at the speed of sound a few thousand feet above the ground.

The sound also shows high production value. Your 20 mm cannon growls decently as does most other weaponry, which ranges from conventional to exotic by game's end. The music, and interesting mix of synth progressive, is quite a departure from the more Top Gun-ish music of Ace Combat 2 but works rather well in most situations.

Control-wise, the game plays rather well; perhaps too well? You will probably have no problem flying through a canyon, following an important character of the game. Even at the highest difficulty level, you will have no problem evading ground fire or enemy missles. Landing? Mid-air refueling? Not a problem.

So...other than the ease of the game, what else could there be with this game to make it only a "maybe" import purchase? Though there are many routes which you can take in the game (joining your wingies, splitting off with another mercenary pilot, etc...) the missions are rather bland and repetitive. If you've played 50% of the missions, you have indeed played them all. Even with five markedly different endings, this game provide little replay value.

Perhaps the situation would be different if my understanding of Japanese was better. As it is, I think it would have been best to wait for an American release so as to get the most out of a story which Namco obviously spent much time on. If your Japanese is good, this game may indeed be worth the import price.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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