Flight action games part 1
Warbirds, Atari Lynx 1991
Surprisingly one of the better home release flight action games to be released during the early 3d era was on the ill fated Atari Lynx handheld. Warbirds is set during the first world war and pits you as the pilot of a red biplane facing off against red biplanes and ground targets, armed only with your twin machine guns. While the 3d is primitive, its remarkably smooth, especially when compared to many console flight games which are painfully choppy.
Warbirds supplies a nice selection of missions to play, though variety is lacking due to cart space restrictions (it is a handheld after all). One truly unique aspect of the game is the ability to connect to another lynx using the connector cable (sold separately) to go head to head in a duel.
While the Atari Lynx may not have been a popular handheld, it does have its share of quality titles. Warbirds deserves its place as one of the Lynx's best and a great flight action game.
Air Combat, Arcade 1992
In 1993 Namco released Air Combat into the Arcades, creating a series in Ace Combat that stands to this day as an icon of the flight action genre. Most players will recognise Air Combat by its playstation port (on page 2), but the original Arcade game only bears passing similarities to the port. For starters the arcade Air Combat is more focused on the dogfight of the game; the F-16 is the only plane available. Players are restricted to 8 missiles, but plenty of cannon rounds and the flight model is very much based on Arcade traditions of easy to learn. To keep players interested, 3 difficulties were offered to players when starting a new game.
Like SEGA's Virtua Racing, Air Combat's full 3D polygon graphics were at the time as stunning as they were expensive. Unfortunately like many early 3D games they were quickly surpassed as a player draw and usually put into storage, so their is virtually no chance to ever play a full Air Combat arcade machine. MAME looks to be the best venue to get your ace on and it should only be a matter of time before Air Combat and the sequal Air Combat 22 (so called for the system 22 board it runs on) are near enough to 100% playable. Fingers crossed!
Wing War. Sega Arcade, 1994
Using the Model 1 arcade board and developed by the famous AM2, Wing War is a different kind of arcade flight experience. Instead of a traditional military campaign, players take part in a tournament, fighting 1-on-1 against different pilots to become the champion.
Wing War was one of the last games to be released on the Model 1 platform which meant its flat shaded 3d models paled in comparison to the textured Model 2 games starting to emerge. None the less, Wing War provides a solid action experience; the city play field in particular is filled with buildings and obstacles to navigate and hide behind.
The selection of aircraft is great and certainly a little unconventional. Even though it pits helicopters against jets or Bi-planes against Spitfires, each aircraft has its strengths and weaknesses.
Unfortunately, due to the cost of Model 1 hardware Wing War did not have a big impact on the Arcade scene, nor was there a port to the Saturn console. A 32X port was planned but never materialized due to the failure of the 32X addon. The game is playable in MAME however, with minimal graphic glitches and an occasional gameplay glitch. Definately one to check out, if just for a nice change of pace.
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