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 Post subject: Aces of the Luftwaffe - Squadron (XB1 - PS4 - Switch - PC)
PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 9:05 am 

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Joined: 11 Oct 2008
Posts: 286
Location: Autobot City, Sugiura Base
Looks like i stumbled upon another rock in the shmup lane. A rock called Aces of the Luftwaffe - Squadron.

Hey! Hey! It's okay, i've never felt that way!
Hey! Hey! It's alright. Dancin' in the Laser Light!

The first thing you do before starting the game is to pick your difficulty. There's no "Easy" level, just Normal, Hard and the unlockable Extreme difficulty. Like in Sky Force, you can change the difficulty in any moment, even after clearing a mission you can change the difficulty and restart the level.
Restarting a level is quite useful here, repeating the same stages over and over and over is very useful to find Skill Coins from dropping crates along with those obtained via leveling up. Yes, the game relies on some basic RPG elements like experience and levels just like Jaleco did in EDF Earth Defense Force, although AotLS aims for an "investment" rather than the common powering up.

At first sight the gameplay is obviously your basic vertical shmup in the stlye of 1941 Counterattack or the more modern Sky Force series. Despite being "basic", the game includes score bonus features like Medals and combo hit counts which increase.
There's an array of weapons such as the Laser and Homing Missiles, along with your screen-ranged bomb that affects all on-screen enemies. All of these weapons have a respective energy bar just like the special weapons in Megaman X and Viper Phase 1. But what i think is the best part of the gameplay is the inclusion of the Wingmen, which are small ships located on the sides and behind your ship, just like the Comrade Fighter from Strike Gunner S.T.G. and the Support Drone from the Sky Force games, and what's better, they can take a good amount of hits before going down. If they go down they'll return in half a minute in A-Ok conditions.

"Kimochi Warui", you're screwed.
Side Mission: Sickness unto Death and...

However, the fun factor copied from Sky Force takes several hits, first of all; the controls. Unlike any other shooter where tapping left or right moves the ship in a desired direction using a "default" speed, in Aces of the Luftwaffe - Squadron, the ship moves slowly for about half a second, and then gains its regular speed, combined with a strange sensibility using the analog pad results in a ship control that makes you wonder if the control is broken. Another problem is the Bomb's partial functionality, and i say partial since it only takes care of the enemies, but not of the bullets.

But the worst of all problems are the side-effects of your pilots. Your ship and those of your teammates suffer from negative side-effects.
MARK TAYLOR (Player): Blood poisoning. It decreases the life bar and to recover as fast as possible you have to move slowly or stand still, almost making you a sitting duck. Fast moving depletes the recovery time which comprises the percentage of the Side Mission where this happens.
JOHN KING (Wingman): Berserk-Friendly Fire. In an instant John will go nuts and his bullets can injure and kill you if get in his way. Even his "Rage Explosion" could kill you if you get close.
STEVE DAVIS (Wingman): Narcolepsy. He will fall asleep during missions, forcing you to change from an offensive strategy to a defensive one.
MELISSA MONROE (Wingman): Fear of Heights. Thinking on a pilot with a fear of heights sounds absurd and contradictorious, but she's the exception as her fear of heights will make her feel sick and force her to leave the battle.

If shmups had an apocalypse, these 4 pilots are the horsemen. It makes me wonder what we're they thinking on introducing this issues in the game. Challenge is one thing, but when the game pulls absurd things like a rogue wingman or a sick pilot that requires little to no movement, then we're having show-stopping problems right here.

The Power Grid, Progression in the game is the key to obtain more powers.

Like i said before, the Skill Coins are used to power up your player's capabilities via a Skill Tree. However you can unlock an initial array of powers and abilities at first, to access the team's higher powers you'll have to finish each "Chapter" by defeating the boss at the end of them. While the game addresses some advantages like firepower, it doesn't help on other and more crucial ones like reducing the time of the side-effects on your teammates or accelerate the recovery time of the rescues.
Another unlockable thing via chapter clearing is the Plane Blueprints, you have to complete a chapter in both Normal and Hard to unlock new planes with unique weapons that address your initial "full frontal" firing. The best part of this is that you and your wingmen can use any plane you want pretty much like the teammates in Ace Combat 5 The Unsung War.

*To the tune of "K.I. Feeling"* Such a feeling, such a feeling, such a feeling, Newgrounds Feeling.

The graphics of this game i can only describe them as "It came from Newgrounds". Putting the amazing title screen sequence aside, the game's overall graphics and animation are very "Flash-made", this is where the "Newgrounds Feeling" hits. From the ship design to the whole stage scenery, it looks very simplistic like a flash game that you would find there. The only thing i applaud of this game is how the damages are depicted when you take a hit by placing bullet holes and cracks on the screen just like in classic arcade games such as G-LOC Air Battle and Taito's Battle Shark. Not to mention, the planes look like chibi-fied and rendered quite like a 2D-CGI vehicle in nowaday's cartoons and animes.

¿The "Cartoon Network-ified" version of Ellen Ripley from Alien 3 or an anime-styled girl? If i had to choose, i'd prefer the girl on the right. Sorry guys.

Here we go again with the classical debate of "¿cartoon-or-anime?" on shmup design. This game features the american cartoon style rather than the comic-book from Project Root or Steel Rain X, to be more exact, the character design looks like a cross between Nicktoons from the late 90's and once again, Newgrounds flash-based animations. Yeah, If the 2000's Nickelodeon and Newgrounds puked on your modern consoles and PCs, this will be the result, something far worse than Sky Force Reloaded. ¿Remember what i said on its review?, "Let's just say they make Burger King Kids Club look like Neon Genesis Evangelion.", If i compare the BK Kids Club with Aces of the Luftwaffe - Squadron, they will look like Batman VS Predator.

Where the game lacks from gameplay and graphics, it compensates them in the sound department, starting with a movie-like orchestration comparable with games such as StarFox 64, X-Morph Defense and Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.
Once again, the game takes a hit again, and this time is in the voice acting, they sound like a common cartoon conversation rather than a battle-tense character where you can almost feel the tension of the battle in the character's voice. Compare that with the english dub of Area 88 for example, or even an older game like Star Wars X-Wing on the PC, you'll understand what i'm talking about. AotLS voice acting is not in the Megaman X4 levels of bad, but is just a few points from crossing that borderline.

- When the squadron is shot down at the end of the prologue Mark Taylor says "Mayday! Mayday! We're going down, we're going down", but the text only says "we're going down" once.
- The UFO boss is based on the Nazi UFO conspiracy theory, which was also seen in the Metal Slug series.
- "Unforgotten" is the EASIEST of all the achievements since it is unlocked by getting killed and losing all of your lives.

Overall, we've got an average-to-mediocre attempt to both 19XX and Sky Force clones with strange analog stick controls, team members with frustrating side-effects, Adobe Flash-like graphics, cheap voice acting, but a well executed epic musical orchestration. Like Broken Thunder, the game's lone point of strength lies on the sound department. So i can only recommend it if you want to hear the music and if you want to get some quick Gamerscore points. Otherwise, better stick to 19XX: The War Against Destiny or the Strikers 1945 series and skip Aces of the Luftwaffe - Squadron until the game becomes a "Free With Gold" freebie or somethin' like that, just like Xenoraid.

After this mess of a shooter would i play another HandyGames title?, My answer is definitely "NO".
Fan of Transformers, Shmups and Anime-styled Girls. You're teamed up with the right pilot!
Bringing you shmup reviews with humorous criticism.

STG Wikias: Thunder Force Wiki - Wikiheart Exelica - Ginga Force Wiki

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