I’ve had a few games which have been eating up my time (well, competing with shirley for my attention at least) and so I thought I would post a few thoughts on the games. SRWZ is the other one but for now (until I get further into Z), I have decided to review Macross Ace frontier for the PSP.

The game was published by Bandai namco and developed by artdinks, who are probably better known for the Gundam Battle chronicles series on the PSP.

They used the same engine for Ace frontier as the ones for Gundam battle chronicles and it shows. The controls are almost identical, save for the transformation feature, which was been mapped to the analogue nub. The camera and targeting system is also the same.
Unfortunately, it also means that all the issues I had with the gundam game are still present for macross Ace frontier and some are even magnified!

Loved

  • The structure. The game has a mission based structure which is separated by each major series. So there are missions for macross, M plus, M7 and Macross frontier, each with their own distinct units so you get to play your most memorable moments from your favourite series.
  • The loading screens are all based off Macross frontier, often lifted directly from the TV show, but for some reason, I find them charming.
  • The music.  Come on! This is MACROSS!!! Of course the music is going to be brilliant, but it really gives quite a buzz when you play a mission to the familiar tunes of the series, be it My boyfriend is a pilot (macross), Do you remember love (Macross DYRL), Information High (Macross plus), Holy lonely light (M7) or Iteza gogo don’t be late (M Frontier). Just a shame that Triangular (Frontier 1st OP) was a horrible instrumental. Guess they couldn’t get permission to use Sakamoto Maayas vocals in the game.
  • The units. Playing with the YF19 was cool enough but they threw in a whole load of other units too, from destroids to Vajra (yep, you can play as a Vajra)
  • The controls. Each mode feels sufficiently different and with their distinct pros and cons, just like how macross games should be.
  • The graphics. I know it’s really shallow, but I really have to mention just how good the valkyries all look.

Hated

  • The difficulty curve. Or rather, the inherent lack of one. Missions are usually Gauged on difficulty by the number of missiles shown on the mission select screen. The more missiles, the harder the mission. Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. I’ve had a harder time with some 6missile (out of 10) missions than on some 9missile ones. The difficulty just seems to arbitrarily spike at random missions.
  • The lock on mechanism. This was my biggest gripe in the gundam games and it’s also the main one here too. The lock on mechanism for Ace frontier is USELESS!!!  The system will automatically select the closest enemy to the player and a press of the R button will lock onto that enemy. Cycle through targets by pressing R again. Sounds fine right?
    Well, it would be if the system didn’t target the closest enemy regardless of where you are. it doesn’t matter if they are behind or above you, the lock on will automatically do it’s thing and then shift the camera to follow the enemy, which is a problem in itself, but more on that later.  The biggest issue is when you want to attack an enemy in front of you but the system decides to target something outside your field of vision. you have no choice but to fly around until the system decides to select the target you want. Press lockon before that, and the camera will shift away from the rear of your unit so you don’t even know where you are flying to.
  • Enemies also come in groups and, while it’s fine of you want to cycle targets in the group, you can forget about trying to target other enemies unless you release the lock on, fly towards the new unit and hope that it picks it up before you get shot at.
  • The controls. Or rather controls in conjunction with the camera.

The screenshot above was made in the special view mode of the game but it’s more than possible you will find yourself in that situation, with the camera in that position during a mission, thanks to the lock on mechanism. This has a knock on effect on the controls where it doesn’t know what it wants to do. On one mission I was attempting a steep climb and then pressed right to turn right and prepare for my next attack. Unfortunately, the controls didn’t quite understand due to the camera angle and started to shift my Valkyrie right, only to suddenly move left, and then right…

Final thoughts

Ace frontier is a difficult one to judge.
Is it a good game? I’d err on the side of no. The faults, particularly with the camera and lock on system are plentiful and can drive a player into some serious rage fits and can easily cost you the mission. I would have a hard time recommending it to a gamer who isn’t a macross fan.
But if you asked if it was a fun game, then the answer would be a resounding YES! Despite the hair pulling moments, you still get that massive thrill when you dodge a volley of enemy missiles or when you see your own itano circus destroy your opponent. Just focusing on the bad points means you miss out of the excellent “macross moments”

It’s not the best Macross game ever. I would argue that the Sega AM2 developed macross game for the PS2 is still king of the crop and every macross fan owes it to themselves to play it at least once.  ace frontier may have more units and series but the PS2 game definitely has the better mechanics.
If you find yourself aching for more after finishing that, then Ace frontier would make a good addition to keep you occupied.

Kind of like a large second portion of a dish. Still filling but not as satisfying.

Now, if they got sega to make a macross game and they dug out the old game engine…

Images Courtesy of IGN