I've always been a bit of a junkie for flight combat sims, but oddly enough, I've not played many of them. The Sky Crawlers was one of the games I got as part of a Secret Santa exchange on the Racketboy forums back in July from my friend John, and given that it's a genre that I love on a console that I love, it's stayed pretty high on my "to play" list. I finally got around to playing it this week.
It took me probably half of the game just to figure out if I liked it or not. This isn't an immediate gem for me, although having now finished it, I would say it qualifies as a Wii hidden gem, even if right at the cusp. The first thing that reaaaaally takes some getting used to is the controls. It says that it supports the Wii Classic Controller and the Gamecube controller, but I couldn't figure out how to make either of those work (granted, I didn't spend too much time trying); it just kept telling me to plug a Nunchuk in. Anyway, with the standard Wiimote and Nunchuk control scheme, the first awkward bit (at least for us right handers) is that it tells you to hold the Wiimote in your left hand and the Nunchuk in your right hand. Which feels EXTREMELY awkward for me. I got used to that, though. The controls, while definitely requiring three or four missions before you really get a feel for them, do work (for the most part) once you figure it out. Your throttle is controlled by the Wiimote; keep it level to go at your middle cruising speed, point it up at the ceiling to go your max speed, and point it down at the ground (or hold B) to decelerate to your minimum speed (and eventually stall if you don't accelerate). The Nunchuk controls your direction, but you don't do so with the control stick; you pull the Nuncuk back to ascend, tilt it down to descend, and tilt it to the left and right to turn left and right, respectively. The biggest problem is that the tilt controls with the Nunchuk don't feel as precise or response as I would like, but - as I've mentioned - it DOES work once you get used to it. It's just not the most natural-feeling for intuitive control scheme they could have picked.
The story is where the game lost some points with me. It's based on an anime movie (which I've never seen), so perhaps the movie actually makes sense, but just getting the story from the game feels haphazard and as if there HAD to be translation errors. From what I could gather, Japan conquered Europe sometime after the second world war (because the whole game takes place in Europe, but literally every single location and character name is traditional Japanese), and people hated peace. So two private military companies - Rostock and Lautern - start hiring pilots to fly their planes and kill each other because...I have no clue. So you're part of Rostock's elite Black Cat squadron, and there are these people called Kildren that apparently never age and I guess regenerate or reincarnate or some shit because like half a dozen of them die over the course of the story, and then identical people show up later with a different name and no memory of any of the shit that killed the dude. Like, even the characters are like "Dafuq, you dead" and the guys are like "Na fam, I don't even know yall, I just got here." And then that's sort of it. It never really gets explained beyond that. Having played the entirely 5 or 6 hour story, I can confidently say that I have no idea what the fuck was going on.
The anime cut scenes between missions were nice, though. The voice acting was okay for the most part. The writing sucked ass, though, so that sort of canceled out the decent voice acting. It all played kind of like one of those anime that are trying really hard to be serious and make some philosophical point, and you really want to stick with it, but it's kind of boring but not QUITE boring enough to flat out drop it because you REALLY want to be good. The whole thing's just awkward. If you do decide to pick this game up, skip all of the cutscenes and dialogue. Stick to blowing shit up.
Graphically, the game looks pretty good. It's not pushing the Wii's hardware to its limit or anything, but it looks good as long as you're right at extremely low altitudes; then the shoddy ground textures become extremely apparent. You also have some neat customization feature for your plane. The better you do on missions, the more points you earn, and as the points accumulate throughout your playthrough, you'll start to unlock new planes and components. You can change the engine, the wings, the armor, the cockpit, etc., all of which have different effects on your plane's stats. You also unlock different secondary weapons for each plane, and choosing those wisely can have a dramatic impact on your success or failure in a mission. If your mission to take out all aerial targets, rockets - which are air-to-surface weapons and almost impossible to aim at airborne targets - are going to be useless. Likewise, if your objective is to destroy an enemy base, the heavy cannon - which is a semi-auto weapon that deals extreme damage to airborne enemies - is going to be practically worthless.
All in all, despite being made by the same team, The Sky Crawlers is NOT Ace Combat on the Wii. It has a similar feel when you're in combat, but it's not the same, and you shouldn't go into it expecting it to feel the same. The story is garbage, but if you can find it for less than $15, it's a good flight combat sim on the Wii, and I'd recommend picking it up (maybe wait until you can find it for less than $10 if you're not a particular fan of flight combat sims or of the Wii itself).
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.