Being the insatiable Ace Combat fans that we are, Namco saw fit to invite us out to its Japanese headquarters to talk with the newest Ace team. Well, they're not quite new, as many of the members have been involved with series for some time. We spoke with producer Hiroyuki Ichiyanagi, director Natsuki Isaki and sound director Nakanishi Tetsukazu, three men well versed in all things Ace Combat.
Read on for our exclusive interview. You can also click here to watch it in video format.
Thank you for having us. First, could you give us a little background on the Ace Combat series and how it's grown over the years?
Ichiyanagi: So, basically, we started the series with Ace Combat on the PlayStation One. It was the first system on which 3D graphics were possible, so we were able to produce fighter planes in 3D and have the player feel like they're an ace pilot. So, moving forward, the basic elements and fun factor of the game remain unchanged as we continue to refine the series. The next big turn is when we produced Ace Combat 04 for the PS2. The graphics, sound and other elements of the game drastically improved.
Now that we're on the next generation hardware, we have improvements in graphics again, but the environment and atmosphere have greatly changed, particularly the environment, which has become more alive. There's more of a personal feel and touch to the game.
Now that you have all the extra power of a next-gen system, what new features have you added to the game?
Isaki: One new aspect of Ace Combat 6 is the Dynamic Operation System. Basically you have one large battlefield with a large number of allied fighters and ground troops, and the overall mission will be divided into several different operations that will take place on that battlefield.
It's just like in a real war - you'll have helicopter units trying to capture airfields or you might have ground troops assaulting a fort, and your fighters are going to engage the enemy for air superiority, just as in a real battle. We want the players to feel this huge battlefield with huge armies colliding, and that they are a part of this experience.
On this living battlefield, a player's actions will have direct consequences on the mission. So each time you play through, different things will happen depending on your performance.
One other element of this game is the Allied Support System. You have a massive number of allied troops helping in your battle and you can give orders to them. You'll not only have fighter planes at your disposal, but also allied agents, battleships, tank battalions and helicopter units. We feel that by introducing these two new features, we've moved one step closer to creating a live, active, intense conflict where not only is the player participating, but also controlling the outcome.
Do you ever worry that as the wars in your games become more realistic, the in-game violence will turn away people who have been involved in war?
Isaki: The topics we deal with in Ace Combat are realistic, so we have to be careful not to make the events too similar to current world events. At the same time, the story has to be compelling. It's a human drama, with you as an ace pilot at the center. In order to have the suspension of disbelief, events have to feel like they could happen, so inadvertently, some players could feel a particular element is too close to real life, but we never intended for it to be that way. No real events have affected the current plot, either.