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 Post subject: Aero Fighters Special / Sonic Wings Limited (Arcade)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2020 8:39 am 

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One more Aero Fighters review to complete the series of Sonic Wings reviews. This time is Aero Fighters Special / Sonic Wings Limited.

To begin with, the game features a selection of 12 different jets.

Ah, revisiting your first shmup "waifu" is a nostalgic experience.
Just like revisiting your old elementary school math notebook where you wrote Megaman X passwords.


Named "F-117N Sea Hawk", the F-117 is piloted by Robo-Keaton (Mecha-Keaton). At the end of Aero Fighters 3, Blaster Keaton still has no luck in returning to his human self. In his "Solo Ending", he had a failed human re-conversion, forcing him to revert to his Robo-Keaton self. In the Keaton-Blazers team ending, he's forced to eject from his Corsair in space, but once again he flies off by his head like he did in Aero Fighters 2, while he's rescued by the Blazers, their P-61 Black Widow is hit by an asteroid on their way back to Earth. In one way or another, he's once again a robot hoping to become human someday. Robo-Keaton's back in the F-117 and its weaponry borrows things from the Corsair. It's main weapon is a twin laser shot that doesn't help much against wide enemy patterns. Its Artillery consists of four drills that works like the Tornado Fang from Megaman X3. Its "Charge" shot holds the drills for a while before releasing them. It's bomb is the same as in Aero Fighters 3: Keaton's Rage, in this attack, he merges with his jet becoming a giant while firing a twin Mazinger-Z-like Breast Fire, punching and stomping enemies for a while. Robo-Keaton can carry a maximum capacity of 5 Bombs.

FAIRCHILD REPUBLIC A-10 THUNDERBOLT II: Piloted by Captain Silver, once again he's back to avenge his friend, Randy. His A-10 is the powerhouse of the team as it uses a 5 bullet laser fire with a twin Napalm Bomb artillery that generates blue explosions upon impact. Unlike Keaton's jet, it's "Charge Shot" is more of an alternate weapon as it fires a short ranged, but very powerful ground targeted vulcan shot, which can be used even with the ship in power level 1. It's bomb is the Pinpoint Bomb, which drops two F.A.E. bombs that merge into a larger explosion like in Aero Fighters 2. Silver's A-10 can carry a maximum of 6 bombs. To quote Pantera: "Vulgar Display of Power".


Piloted by Hien, the Ninja Aero Fighter. Once again, he joins the Aero Fighters while he follows the orders of the Shogun like the other Ninja pilots. It's main weapon is the Shuriken Shot which fires Ninja stars in a somewhat erratic, yet useful against side attacks, after powering it up, they're upgrade into the Kunai Shot, throwing daggers that stab the enemy, slightly increasing the damage. It's artillery the Ninja Missile changes the missiles for Homing Sais (Eat your heart out, Raphael). Its Charge Shot throws spinning blades that home on enemies, but the number of blades depends on how long the player holds the fire button. It's special attack is the Ninja Beam like in the first two games. Like Keaton's jet, Hien's FS-X can carry a maximum of 5 bombs.

McDONNELL DOUGLAS F-15J EAGLE: Named "F-15DJ Eagle", piloted by Mao-Mao the Supersonic Idol Star. She was taking a photo session inside an F-15 when suddenly the jet took off on its own, as we see Mao asking for help during the stage clear dialogues. Her F-15 fires a triple frontal shot which is an improvement over the Aero Fighters 2 version. Her artillery, the Gull Laser was also improved as the lasers have homing capabilities. Her charged shot unleashes a volley of thin green lasers in multiple directions. Her bomb is the same as in all the previous games: The E-Wave, the time stopper that freezes everything and its the High-score Making element in this game (I'll explain this later). Mao-Mao's bomb capacity is of 5.


Piloted by Volk the "No Dead". He is a solitary rebel soldier who claims to be immortal since "Dying is not his game" as he is a cyborg and apparently a former member of Fata Morgana, explaining his "Rebel" self-proclaiming. He only wants to destroy things even if its his former Fata Morgana allies. It's main weapon is a frontal "Vulcan-Laser" shot, backed up with an Artillery of Twin Homing Missiles. Using a helicopter rather than a jet has its benefits as the frontal shot swings to the direction the ship's moving. Holding the button locks the fire in the angle it was. So you can move freely while firing against enemies on the left or right. Zero Gunner fans will be familiarized with it. Its bomb is the Support Bomber, summoning three B-1 Lancers or four Tu-95 Bears that pelt the screen with a heavy bombardment. Volk can only carry a maximum of 4 Bombs.

ILYUSHIN / UNITED AIRCRAFT CORPORATION IL-102: Named in-game as "IL-102 Stormovik II", it is piloted by Chaika and Pooshika, the twins from Aero Fighters 3. Like in the previous game, they're fighting to get the money they need to buy the medicine for their sick father. Their main shot is to fire a 6 shot Spread-Missile fire, its Artillery fires 6 bombs that generate a small explosion when they impact. Holding the fire button fires a Triple Matryoshka doll frontal shot, and its Bomb is the same as in Aero Fighters 3: the Super Matryoshka, which summons gian Matryoshka dolls that move across the screen like the Twin Dragon in Gridseeker: Project Storm Hammer. These lovely twins have a capacity of 6 Bombs.


Piloted by Angela. Despite the localization, he's no longer named Steve like in Aero Fighters 2. The androgynous rocker is back to give the enemy a show they will never forget. His main weapon is a frontal laser shot (another linear shot) and its Artillery is a red pod that fires a multicolored laser, the pod rotates around the ship and its direction varies on the Rafale's movement. Holding the button will make the pod spin without moving the ship. It's bomb is the same as in Aero Fighters 2, a Black Hole bomb that now releases lightning bolts damaging nearby enemies outside of the black hole's radius. Angela's jet can carry a maximum of 5 bombs.

NORTHROP GRUMMAN F-14D SUPER TOMCAT: Simply named as "F-14 Tomcat". Like in Aero Fighters 2, the F-14 is piloted by Ellen & Cincia, the Lamborghini drivers of Lethal Crash Race. This mother and daughter team is back in their jet to teach the enemy some manners. Their F-14's weaponry is actually the same of Keith's Tomcat in the first Aero Fighters. Its main weapon is the Needle Shot, which fires a frontal-yet-wide stream of thin lasers with considerable strength. Its artillery is the Phoenix Missile, which fires the AIM-54 missiles that lock on their enemies. Unlike the other jets, holding the fire button will adjust the unusual speed configuration of the Tomcat by using the jet's swing-wing configuration. It's default "closed" wings mode makes the jet go faster vertically, but slow horizontally. Holding the button will "Open" the wings making it faster horizontally but slow vertically. The F-14's bomb is the Tomahawk, which unleashes a screen covering missile strike that pelts everything with explosions. The F-14 can carry a maximum of 5 bombs.


Piloted by Kowful the Viking, (formerly called Kohful), He's once again on his personal quest to find a strong, worthy opponent. His Main Weapon is a Laser Gun similar to Keaton's Hornet in the first Aero Fighters. It's artillery the Metal Storm now fires missiles in diagonal directions. It's Charged Shot fires a big missile that passes through enemies. It's bomb is the same as in Aero Fighters: The big homing missile attack Thor Hammer. Kowful can carry a maximum of 6 bombs.

LOCKHEED MARTIN F-104 STARFIGHTER: Piloted by Tee-Bee A-10. Kowful's robotic creation and partner. He argues constantly about who is the winner on each mission. His main weapon is a Needle Laser similar to the one used on the F-14, but it is more powerful as the thin lasers passes through enemies. It's artillery is the Float Mine which acts the same as with the Gripen's Artillery, releasing mines that float and explode once they hit an enemy. Its Charged Shot is to drop larger mines with more destructive power. It's bomb is an improved version of the Grand Napalm, as the jet drops several bomblets that generate multiple explosions that this time will destroy the bullets, making the bomb really useful. The F-104 can carry a maximum of 4 bombs.


Tagged as YF-23A, it is piloted by Whity the Dolphin. Like in the previous games, he fights to protect the world's environment. It's main weapon fires a six-bullet frontal laser shot backed with with a Ripple Laser artillery. It's charged shot is a fireball-shaped water blast that passes through enemies. It's special bomb is the Wave which unleashes a tsunami that damages everything in sight. The YF-23 can only carry 4 bombs. Spend them wisely.

McDONNELL DOUGLAS / BRITISH AEROSPACE AV-8B HARRIER: Named in game as "AV-8B Harrier II Plus". Piloted by Lord River N. White. As usual, the leader of the Aero Fighters is back into action, he's followed by Pictus, Alex's cat from Aero Fighters 3. His main weapon is the same as William and Bobby/Arthur's Harrier: a basic 3-Way spread shot of average power. His Artillery is a 4 Snake Napalm that moves based on the Harrier's movement. Holding the fire button will make the Harrier "jump" dodging the enemy attacks. It's bomb is the same as Bobby's jet in Aero Fighters 2: A "Diagonal Napalm" blast that causes great damages. He can carry a maximum of 6 bombs.

I'll take you down "After the jump". *Lord White's Harrier jumps dodging bullets*
Now i can blow you apart so i can take a "break".

The gameplay is pretty much the same as its predecessors. However, there's new changes that increases the already classic gameplay that distinguished the Aero Fighters series. Starting off with the "Charge Shot" by holding the fire button, some jets will unleash a secondary weapon and others will make defensive moves like Lord White's Harrier "Jump-jet". The bonus system was heavily improved at the point make every single item count as a value increasing bonus until you've pick them.

The scoring mechanic works like this: Once a power up, bomb or "F" (Full Power) item appears, it might give you a few hundred points if you pick them immediately, but if you let it bounce across the screen for a while its value will increase to 1,000, 4,000 or its maximum value 10,000. But keep in mind, you can't let them float forever since they will leave the screen if you don't pick them up. Also, they don't give a hint of how much its value increased like Raiden DX's medal mechanics. So you'll have to rely on memorization and calculate the time once they've appeared. With the Money items is much easier since they only move with the scrolling screen. Learning this bonus mechanic is essential to advance to different stages, since the game features three final stages and random levels depending on your score.

STAGES 2 & 3: Randomly selected by the game: Paris, The Alps, or Mato Grosso.
STAGE 4: The Ural Mountains.
STAGE 5A: If you finish Stage 4 with less than 500,000 points you'll be sent to Aegean Sea.
STAGE 5B: Clear Stage 4 with more than 500,000 and you'll be sent to New York.
STAGE 6A: Finish Stage 5 with less than 550,000 points: Red Square
STAGE 6B: Clear Stage 5 with moe than 550,000 points: Panama Canal
STAGE 7A: Finish Stage 6 with less with less than 600,000 points: Fight in Orbit
STAGE 7B: Finish Stage 6A "Red Square" with more than 600,000 points: Another Dimension
STAGE 7C: Finish Stage 6 (Panama Canal) with more than 600,000 points and without losing a life: Mars

This game is very focused on high-scoring, which is something appreciated since that increases the replay value and improves the overall gameplay (Blazing Star was a great example), but deciding the route based on your score is quite complicated, specially when your score is resetted to zero when you continue. Well, your score is resetted leaving you with 1 point as a "Continue Mark", i call it "Point of Shame" like in Capcom's 19XX The War Against Destiny. Speaking of continuing, the game gives you the option of continuing right where you left off (except for the final stage where you're forced to start the level from the beginning) or "Restart". Picking the later option sends you back to the Select Your Fighter screen, allowing you to pick a different plane. Another major hit to the gameplay was the lack of the "Free-Team" feature of Aero Fighters 2 where the players can select any pilot they want, forcing them to play as a "Country Team" like in the first and third games.

When a time stopper comes in handy.

Fortunately, there's hints to pick a good score during your gameplay, at least high enough to rank in. ¿Remember when i said Mao-Mao is the score maker of this game? Well, here's why. The E-Wave doesn't work just to stop the enemies for a while, it is also helpful to gather 10,000 point bonuses for Power Ups and the Money items. In Kyoto, you'll see 9 ground targets, as soon as they appear destroy most of them while they're on the upper part of the screen, then use the E-Wave to stop the scrolling and just wait until the effect wears off. Then the Money items will worth from 2,000, 4,000 or even 10,000 points.

It reminds me of the high-scoring trick from Aero Fighters 3.

Another scoring trick can be found on Panama Canal. At the beginning of the stage, there's a lamp that drops Power Ups nonstop as you keep shooting at it. This is where Mao-Mao's E-Wave comes in handy. Freeze the screen, put your F-15 above the lamp post and shoot nonstop. Drop another E-Wave when the scroll freezing wears off. Rinse and repeat until you run out of bombs.

Maverick: Looks like we're facing Decepticons again.
Merlin: Facing Decepti-¡¿WHAT?!

Graphically, this game is the most advanced of the series, since it changes the Neo-Geo MVS for the PSXCPU, that's right. This game uses hardware based on the PlayStation, resulting in a more extense color palette and even new visual effects like transparency (The rotating cannons on the Alps boss for example) and "shadows" like the UFO random boss in Fight in Orbit which are reminiscent of some of the flying enemies from Forgotten Worlds. Some of the jets are re-used sprites from the Neo-Geo games while others like the Viggen are enhanced sprites from the first one, looking much better than before. The old locations like Red Square, Fight in Orbit and Kyoto are more detailed and colorful, giving a sense of being entirely new, yet still familiar for veteran Aero Fighters fans.

Like the first two Aero Fighters games, the modern military is the predominant theme of this game. So, we're gonna face a lot of familiar enemies along with new ones like Black Star (the Paris drone), but the old ones have learned a few new tricks like the Flamefox (formerly named "Icefox" and "Siberiacrafts") which they can detach from the rest of the ship in pure Condor Z-25 style or the Super XX (Matto Grosso boss) who has flight capabilities despite being a walking machine. This "old dog with new tricks" is a nice way to re-use an old boss, making them more unpredictable for old-schoolers.

You know, that in twenty years or more.
You still look the same as you do today.
You'll still be a young girl, when I'm old and grey.

The character design of this game is basically a combination of the cast from previous games, excluding the Blazers, Keith, Rabio and Lepus. Yet, the fan favorites are there and any Aero Fighters fan will appreciate that. It's always nice to see Mao-Mao in this game, but for some reason they've decided to draw her wearing her Aero Fighters attire rather than the costume she used in Aero Fighters 2 which was waaaaay better (although is briefly seen in her "Fight in Orbit" ending). Anyway, its still better than the Kimono she used in Aero Fighters 3. For some reason, they used the AF3 version of Robo-Keaton, which is kind of a contradiction if we consider that this game is in-between Aero Fighters and Aero Fighters 2 (proof of that is Mao-Mao is 20 years old while in AF2 is 21).

The soundtrack of this game is more varied and recognizeable as it now utilizes elements from hard rock, calmed upbeat ambient (Kyoto stage) and remixes of previous games (Paris stage which feels like a remix of its Aero Fighters 2 counterpart) and not to mention the boss themes from Stages 1 to 6, which are killer 90's dance club-styled tracks that adds action and rhythm to a shooter, not to mention they have a Blazing Star feeling with that combination of piano keys in the dance style. what's best, you can finally enjoy the stage music due to the length of the stages, addressing the "Short stage, unenjoyable music" problem from Aero Fighters 3.

- Aero Fighters Special / Sonic Wings Limited is a simplified version of the Saturn and PlayStation game Sonic Wings Special.
- Video System omitted A LOT of things from the original console game: Unlockable Aero Fighters 3 prop-planes, human Keaton, Kotomi and Aka Usagi (Rabio), Turbo Force Diabloon with Captain Waffle and Gore, the Underwater stage, Mao-Mao's costume from Aero Fighters 3, the option to allow players to select the next level and the unlockable "Pair any pilots in two-player mode" like Aero Fighters 2. What a way to wreck the definitive Aero Fighters game.
- This was the last Aero Fighters game made as a vertical scroll shooter, since Aerofighters Assault is more of an Ace Combat-like Simulator like game.
- Last time in the series where Ellen flies the F-14 as she takes control of the mothership Goliath in Aerofighters Assault.
- It is also the last time we see Captain Silver piloting the A-10 since it will be piloted by Glenda in Aerofighters Assault.
- Another last time is Mao-Mao's E-Wave, because in Aerofighters Assault she will replace it with the Ninja Beam.
- Although the Mars ending of Volk says that he would never be seen again, he will return in Aerofighters Assault as the pilot of the SU-35 Super Flanker.
- First and only time in the series where a playable helicopter is included.
- The red insect from Another Dimension is the random second boss of Turbo Force.
- Mao-Mao, Keaton, Rabio, Lepus along with a few Aero Fighters characters will make a brief appearance in Quiz & Variety SukuSuku Inufuku, an arcade quiz game.
- Mao's sash in Quiz & Variety SukuSuku Inufuku says "Division Commander for the Day".

Aero Fighters Special / Sonic Wings Limited is basically the Aero Fighters you know, but still feeling like a new game with all the mentioned features. A must play for any shmup player who wants something new from an old-school shooter.
Fan of Transformers, Shmups and Anime-styled Girls. You're teamed up with the right pilot!
Bringing you shmup reviews with humorous criticism.

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