Aerofighters Assault (N64)
There are few things more rare in life than a successful console
flight simulation. For many years, I have been seeking a console
flight sim that manages to deliver eye-popping graphical fireworks
along with thought- provoking, substantive gameplay. Unfortunately,
the quest continues. AeroFighters Assault flies down the same old
trajectory of the many "action flight sims" before it, attempting to
bridge the gap between arcade shooters and flight simulations. While
the game has its merits, it ultimately manages to do neither
The story of AeroFighters Assault merges reality with science fiction.
Players take command of a UN peacekeeping team, and may choose to
play as one of six pilot characters. Each pilot has his or her own vehicle,
which are like souped-up science fiction versions of actual planes.
Unfortunately for nice people around the globe, some bad guys have
melted the polar ice caps and are flooding Earth's major cities (why
they are doing this is anyone's guess). It's up to our heroic UN team to
spank the nasties, restore order from chaos, and, um, dry up the land.
Considering that AeroFighters Assault was developed by Paradigm,
the makers of the excellent Pilotwings flight sims, one would expect
an equally powerful flight engine here. Sadly, that is not the case.
While the N64 analog joystick provides smooth control, the frame
rate is uneven and at times choppy. This game should not be considered
"Pilotwings with Guns." (Note that we are still looking forward to the
latter title.) It might be considered "Star Fox 64 with Blurry Graphics,
Less Responsive Control, Less Personality, Less Impressive Sound,
and Fewer Enemies."
Unlike Star Fox 64, AeroFighters Assault is not a flight sim on "rails."
Instead of being hurtled forward through a pre-set path, this game
provides a true 3D area to explore (much like Star Fox 64's "all-range
mode"). The graphical environments of flooded cities and so forth are
effective, but lacking in detail. Not only do they seem rather blurry
at times, but also they lack the kind of atmospheric framework that
a good flight sim needs. It's hard to get too excited about cruising over
an ocean with a few buildings peeking above the water.
Perhaps the most satisfying moments in AeroFighters Assault (or any
action flight sim) involve firing a missile that streaks outward in a
line of smoke and ultimately pounds into its target. Alas, because of
the relatively fast arcade-style pace of AeroFighters Assault, there's
no drama involved in this exercise. Players launch volley after volley
of such missiles, and take out numerous targets on each mission. The
rapid pace of the game eliminates any delicious anticipation of the kill.
After a while, it all seems too routine.
Note that, despite the fast pace of AeroFighters Assault, some levels
take an inordinate amount of time to complete. Others are surprisingly
brief. There is little design consistency from level to level.
It is also worth noting that there is a two-player dogfight option in
AeroFighters Assault that is probably more enjoyable than solo play.
However, Star Fox 64 provides similar multiplay dogfight action for up
to four-players, so this is not a unique feature of AeroFighters Assault.
Sound in AeroFighters Assault ranges from a collection of unmemorable
effects to a variety of laughable voice clips. Your cohorts will occasionally
shout quasi-hip words of encouragement like, "Bummer! That's bogus!"
Meanwhile, the apparently Russian bad guys repeatedly tell you, "Desvedanya!"
(That's "goodbye," for those of you whose Russian is a bit rusty.) It's
unfortunate that in this universe, no one's vocabulary extends beyond a
few basic phrases. Maybe that's why they can't all get along.
AeroFighters Assault makes the same fundamental mistake that console
games of its kind have made for years. Neither a true flight sim nor an
authentic shooter, it fails to adequately cover either genre. For some
reason, developers assume that console players are unwilling to give a
true simulation a chance, so they always add action gameplay elements.
The result is a convoluted game.
A better approach would have been for Paradigm to add a militaristic
(think Desert Strike) tone to its Pilotwings 64 engine. With the right
attention to vehicles, weaponry, and mission objectives, the result would
be a landmark N64 title. Alas, AeroFighters Assault is not that game.
Hopefully, Paradigm will learn from its mistakes and fare better with
its next effort.