There's not much in the way of competition for Ace Combat. Do you find the lack of a direct rival relieving or somewhat stressful, without someone else to constantly stay ahead of?
Isaki: It's good that we don't have any rival products to compete with, but on the other hand, we are our own rivals. With each new game we have to surpass the level of quality we hit before, and also meet the fans' expectations. There's virtually no limit to the bar we have to set for ourselves.
Of course, I personally like flight games, so I greatly welcome a challenger to the series, and I'd like to play that myself, if there were such a game.
It seems like every new Ace game introduces another enemy country or continent, so will Ace 6 follow suit and deliver brand new story elements?
Isaki: The overall story is independent of the other games. However, there are various little hints that we've included that connect with the overall story from Ace Combat 04, and other parts that reference Ace 5 and Zero, so I'm sure fans will enjoy that.
However, the story itself is completely new, so new players can jump right in and enjoy the game as well. You will be flying for the Republic of Emmeria, while the antagonist will be the Federal Republic of Estovakia. Both groups are located on the Anea continent.
How do you get people interested in games where the main stars are jets, not human beings?
Isaki: This is actually one of the most difficult aspects that we face in the development of each installment. You need to have a very interesting and compelling story, but you can't let it get in the way of the player's experience of being a jet pilot. It is something we had a great deal of difficulty dealing with this time as well.
The graphics, obviously, have enjoyed a tremendous overhaul, but do you ever worry that people will fly right over the detailed landscapes and mountain ranges without even paying attention? Is it really worth all the extra effort?
Isaki: For the 360, the graphics and mapping for the ground have improved drastically, and we of course like players to realize that, but there are various ways to enjoy the game. Some like to fly at low altitudes and look up close at the finely detailed environments, but for those who like to fly up high, just as much effort has gone into the clouds and skies themselves. We think players will appreciate the enhanced graphics.
This game is all about creating a living battlefield, so how many units will you be able to throw at players at a given time?
Isaki: Of course, all of us are paying fine attention to how many units and how much environmental detail we can have onscreen without the processing power dropping. This time, there's no real change in that aspect, and of course we had to prioritize which units and how many would be going at once. Even with the increased processing power it was still difficult to achieve some of the things we wanted to do.
What about superweapons? Each Ace has one or two huge boss encounters that usually define the whole game.
Isaki: We realize players must have expectation along those lines, especially on next-gen hardware, so we hope to live up to those expectations for the boss characters as well.