Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: November 23, 2000
When AeroWings was originally released, it avoided the temptation to emulate the typical arcade flight simulator. Usually, flight games released for a console eschewed realistic physics and advanced flight engines in favor of high-octane thrills and constant combat. Like PilotWings 64, a contemporary title on the Nintendo 64, AeroWings strove to be a working flight simulation that held firmly to the laws of aerodynamics. Combat, however, was strangely absent, relegating the title to a niche market of flight enthusiasts who weren’t already addicted to the admittedly superior titles on the PC. Recognizing this absence as a weakness, Crave has gone out of its way to highlight the action elements found in its new release AeroWings 2: Air Strike.
Aside from the title, with all of its Desert Storm connotations, the case art features a jet lined up for a kill and the blurb on the back makes specific mention of the player’s role as “an elite fighter pilot.” However, as the old saying goes, heroes are made, not born and to this end there’s an extensive Pilot Training mode that focuses on the skills necessary to compete in a pitched dogfight. Working their way up from simple mechanics, new pilots are slowly introduced to the dual arts of precision and formation flying under the careful guidance of an instructor. Skill is rewarded more than in most games of this type, since each lesson’s debriefing ranks separate stages of the flight with a score as it plays them out on a three dimensional map. From this display, pilots can examine where they slipped out of formation and whether they needed more speed or a tighter turn. Score high enough and you are allowed to progress to the next mission, fail and you will be verbally berated by your instructor and forced to replay the simulation.
The latter stages of this thirty-step program introduce live ammunition and combat objectives. This training differs from the early courses because it lets you fly wherever you wish, so long as you succeed in your goals within a time limit. During any hostile situation there are two weapons available, the cannon and the long-range missiles. The on-board computer automatically switches between the two munitions as the range changes, thus saving the limited missile supply. After the basic combat skills have been acquired, trainees will be introduced to additional aircraft in the combat theater, until they have finally qualified to fly eight different planes. Four of these aircraft become unlocked in the free flight mode when the Fighter pilot mode is completed, expanding the library of available jets as a reward for skilled play.
Similarly, there is a collection of tactical challenges in AeroWings 2 that will unlock an additional nine planes, bringing the total number of aircraft eventually available to 17. There are three levels of tactical challenge and each has several different locations of increasing difficulty. The first test requires pilots to destroy a series of target balloons floating in the air, while the second level adds a timed element to the mix. The final stages are a series of increasingly difficult dogfights where success requires more kills within the time limit than the previous level.
Once all of the planes are unlocked, the hanger includes a broad array of plane technology drawn from the aerial forces of the United States and Japan. For the nostalgic, the T-3 prop trainer has been included with all of its slow moving charm. If you’re looking for more of a rush, however, Crave has included the F-16A, the F-15J and the F-14, which was made famous in Top Gun. Some of these jets, including the F-14 and the Japanese F-4J are carrier based, meaning they may be launched from the catapult of one of these ocean-going behemoths; of course, landing the plane on the carrier again is one of the most complex tasks for a pilot.