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Hands-on: The Sky Crawlers


Finally! XSEED is bringing the long-awaited Sky Crawlers to American shores. We've been eying this game for quite some time, and having gotten some hands-on time, we'd have to say it was (almost) worth the wait. Sky Crawlers expands upon the thought-provoking Mamoru Oshii film, exploring a world that perpetuates war for the entertainment (and comfort) of its docile citizens. With Namco's esteemed Ace Combat team at the helm, quality seems assured.

The controls are both the game's strongest and weakest aspect. Project Aces takes advantage of the Wii Remote to simulate the feel of having cockpit controls. The Wii Remote and Nunchuk are meant to represent the throttle and the thrust -- to some success. The idea is certainly innovative, but for those unaccustomed to plane simulators, the learning curve can be quite high. There are, however, some concessions made to make the experience a bit more accommodating for newcomers.


Sky Crawlers utilizes what it calls the "Tactical Maneuver Command" system. Essentially, this lets you lock on to enemy craft and go for a near-instant KO. You must simply follow an enemy for a few seconds, press a button and, like magic, you'll be right behind the enemy for an easy kill. The tracking was also overly generous, allowing you to follow a craft without actually having it on screen. Supposedly, this technique will get more difficult to utilize later on, but it made the game a bit too mindlessly easy for us.

The Sky Crawlers, in spite of its attempts to recreate a cockpit experience, ultimately feels shallow due to the overly-generous lock-on system. Flying around, taking down targets is mindless fun -- rather ironic, if you're familiar with the original story. However, with impressive production values, and the promise of animated cutscenes in the style of the film, we're still excited to play The Sky Crawlers when it comes out. Yes, the gameplay doesn't strike us as particularly inspired, but the universe compels us to see more. Perhaps the full game hides depth unseen in this early demo, and offers the kind of challenge we expect from a team as revered as Project Aces.

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