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Sky Crawlers hands-on

Trying out the new Wii flight game from the people who made Ace Combat

 

The Ace Combat team worked wonders making the PlayStation 2 produce top-class flight visuals, and it looks like they're doing the same with the Wii. Sky Crawlers, which saw its playable debut at the C3xHOBBY event today will instantly grab your eye with its quality visuals.

Unfortunately, the C3xHOBBY demo was so short that it was difficult to take in anything but the visuals.

C3xHOBBY attendees try out Sky Crawlers.

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Bandai Namco had the game, which is based off the recent Mamoru Oshii animated film of the same name, set up in two kiosks. Players could sample a short play session of about five minutes or so, taking out as many enemies as possible in a coastal setting.

The demo seemed to be set to super easy difficulty, perhaps as a means of letting players get used to the game's unique motion-based control scheme.

Sky Crawler's controls make full use of the Wiimote and nunchuck's motion sensing abilities. You control your plane's direction by tilting the nunchuck around. To adjust speed, you tilt the Wiimote up and down.

Movement through the nunchuck felt a bit strange, as I found it difficult to keep my arm grounded. My arm would continually rise, forcing me to make periodic adjustments to bring the nunchuck back down. I'm hoping this is something that will go away with practice. Or, maybe Bandai Namco will include the option for control via the analogue stick.

To fire your guns, you press the Z button. While you're free to seek out enemy planes, center them in your view and fire away, there's a more "cinematic" option as well. As you fly, a gauge at the bottom of the screen slowly fills up. When this reaches a certain level, you can press the A button to make your plane automatically maneuver about and center an enemy craft in your view. Once you've done this, the enemy is an easy kill via your guns.

This maneuvering system is called the TMC, or Tactical Maneuver Command, and it results in some nice acrobatic displays without your having to do any fancy maneuvering. When triggering this, the camera briefly switches out of gameplay perspective and into a more cinematic view.

Your TMC gauge has three levels. The higher the gauge level when you execute a move, the more impressive the acrobatics. Of course, building up the gauge means holding off on potential kills.

The Sky Crawlers control scheme.

While the short length of the demo kept me from coming fully to grips with the control system, there was no doubt left over the game's good looks. Picture all those pretty frame buffer grabs of the PS2 Ace Combat games, but without having to go through the PS2's crappy video output. Sky Crawlers image quality is clean. And, of course, the game stays nice and smooth even during those cinematic aerial maneuvers.

With the game based off a high profile movie, there's also the possibility for high production values outside of the main game modes. Sure enough, leaving the demo running at the title screen for a few seconds brought up a high quality animation sequence. We can hopefully expect a lot of that from the full retail version of the Wii adaptation of Sky Crawlers.

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