previews\ Dec 17, 2009 at 7:00 pm

The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces - WII - Preview

Well, now here’s a game where the Wii motion controls make a whole lot of sense!

XSEED’s The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces is about the aerial combat. Sure, there are some cartoon-ish cutscenes that lay the foundations of a story, but these are fillers until you get up in the air, unlock new planes, take on increasing more challenging missions and fly through the unfriendly skies over a world that bears some similarities to Earth as we know it.

Throw out the concepts of country against country; this is aerial warfare that pits corporation against corporation. Ok, the story is somewhat convoluted, and the cutscenes that string it together are strictly Saturday morning fare, but what Sky Crawlers brings to the forefront is a nunchuk-driven motion-controlled flight mechanic that is challenging, frustrating, but makes a lot of sense.

Hold the Wii nunchuk in the strong hand (why? because the remote is merely an extension of the nunchuk controls and merely gets you through menu items; it is the nunchuk and not the remote that controls the flight mechanics) and then follow the motions intuitively to get your plan to react. Bank left? Then tilt the nunchuk left. Want to climb? Tilt back. It’s tight and intuitive.

The complexities creep in when you have to worry about stalls, about losing sight of the horizon and coming out of a turn only to see the ground saying hello in a decidedly unfriendly and explosive way. Of course, the enemies you are sent out to hunt and destroy are not merely going to sit there and wait for you to unload your guns into their tails. Nope, they are in constant motion as well, evading and returning fire. You can lock a target and then follow on conical direction device to find out where they are. The map is usable as well, but as this is a full-on three-dimensional environment, that red target seen on the map may well be beneath the controlled plane, or above it.

Sky Crawlers, based on a novel series by Hiroshi Mori, takes place in an alternate Earth timeline, thus there is familiarity to the planes, and the combat scenarios almost seem to be lifted out of World War II. Escort missions, seek and destroy are some of the mission types, and upon completion, missions are rated and new planes and load-outs can be unlocked.

The first plane flown is a bit on the clunky side (which can lead to some frustrations when trying to turn tight to pick up a target that has just flown past and place some bullets into the fuselage), but that upgrades to a new hangar option after the second mission.

While the cutscenes are stock cartoon animation, and the menu mission chats are a bit simpler, the actual combat settings are rather well done in terms of planes, explosions and environments. The radio chatter has been done before and sometime pertains to the action on screen and sometimes it does not.

The Sky Crawlers is set to release January 5, 2010 on the Wii, and, based on the preview build, is a solid flight simulator. The aerial combat can be tricky at times, and a touch frustrating, but accomplishing the mission tasks definitely delivers a sense of achievement.

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