Ace Combat 2 (1997) - Asahi Higashiyama
What are your feelings on the second game in the series?
I was in charge of controlling the rival aircrafts and the structure of the missions as a planner for Air Combat. At the time, I realized the potential of what 3D technologies could bring to a flight shooter. In the sequel, we put all our efforts into creating something which would establish a new standard in the flight shooter genre. Our team was young, enthusiastic and was willing to try out new ideas and methods.
What aspects of the game were unique to the series at the time?
More so than the brand-new features such as the improved graphics, stronger wingmen aircrafts, landing and replay, I believe the highlight of the sequel is the variety of missions. Through the completion of the missions, the player is able to assume the role of a mercenary soldier in the face of changing outcomes of the aerial battlefield. Also, we had to carefully choose from over 200 ideas gathered by the team to ensure that the player is able to experience a unique and different game play in each of the 30 missions available. Although this is a flight shooter, we had to draw inspiration from bike races, comedies, Yakuza movies and even westerns to ensure that we have a wide range of variety in our concepts.
Looking back, is there anything you think that could have been done better?
Actually, one of the missions in the game was originally supposed to take place in the daytime. However, we felt that it was more dramatic and realistic if a surprise attack came in the midst of darkness, so we decided to change the setting to night. Even though we changed the setting of the scene, we had completely forgotten about the voice! In the end, you can still hear the voice clearly saying, “Move in at 3pm!” By the time we caught this, it was too late for us to re-take the voice or make changes to the stage. As a last resort, we had to quickly make amends by fiddling with the graphics of the sun to make it look like an eclipse. As a result, we later learned from an internet game forum that users thought it was cool how the surprised attack was timed perfectly with the eclipse! Luckily we were able to salvage this and something good was able to come out of this tiny mistake.
What are some things you tried to do, but didn't quite work out?
In one of the ground target assault missions in the game, we wanted to set a number of missile launchers around the gigantic circular particular accelerator and have these launchers fire at the player in the midst of battle. The idea is to create a stage where the player has to dodge missiles in a 3D environment. However, we didn’t have time to implement the algorithm of the missile’s path. On top of that, the number of missiles that can be fired simultaneously is limited. Also, the system which would allow the player aircraft to see the missiles being shot at them wasn’t established. It wasn’t until after we made Ace Combat 3 that I thought to myself, “So this is how it’s supposed to be done!”
Are there any features you would like to have included, but couldn't because of time constraints?
There is a special aerial technique called the ‘Cobra’ that can only be performed by the Franker, an aircraft belonging to the former Soviet Union. We wanted to allow the player to reenact this in the game. Although we were able to recreate this for the enemy aircraft, we were unable to make this happen for the player aircraft due to time. However towards the end of the development phase, someone on the team found a way to do this by imputing some specific commands. At the very last minute, we reconfigured the parameters of the aircraft and were somehow able to make this possible. You can watch the ‘Cobra’ in the opening movie and it was great to see it become a subject of debate amongst some fans on how to re-enact this in the game.