Ace Combat

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
That kind of pilot, they call a Demon Lord. That kind of plane, they call a God Mode Sue.

Focus. Control. Conviction. Resolve. A true ace lacks none of these attributes. Nothing can deter you from the task at hand except your own fears. This is your sky.

Ace Combat is a series of arcade-style combat flight games, involving flight simulation levels of graphical detail but without all the fiddly realistic controls; the play style is something between Shoot'Em Ups and and the Action Game. The games are semi-realistic, featuring real-life aircraft and such things as planes stalling if they slow down too much, but combined with aircraft that carry hundreds of missiles at once and unlimited fuel. They take place in an alternate reality Earth named Strangereal, one similar to and yet very different from our own.

The series currently[when?] spans ten consoles and fifteen games:

  • Playstation:
    • Ace Combat (Air Combat in North America) - A country is invaded by a terrorist group and, to minimize losses, an elite mercenary squadron has been hired to end the war.
    • Ace Combat 2 - Rebels across the Usean continent take over multiple cities and bases and Special Tactical Fighter Squadron "Scarface" must defeat them.
    • Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere - In the 2040s, the world is ruled by corporations who fight over territorial disputes. The rumors of a new Super Prototype threaten to upset the balance of power.
  • Playstation 2:
    • Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies (Distant Thunder in the European version) - In 2003, Erusea has invaded its neighbors and by 2004 controls all of Usea. As Mobius One, ISAF's top ace, it's up to you to drive them back and take the fight to them.
    • Ace Combat 5 The Unsung War (Squadron Leader in the EU) - In 2010, a series of mysterious recon activities leads to a war between the Union of Yuktobanian Republics and the Osean Federation. However, the real cause of the war is not as straightforward as it first appears.
    • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War (Without the Zero in the EU) - In 1995, the Belkan Federation attempts a land grab. As mercenary pilot Galm One "Cipher" you fight to thwart their goals; however, the driving of the Belkans to peace talks is not the end of things.
  • PSP:
    • Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception - In 2020, the Democratic Republic of Leasath launches an attack on its southern neighbor, the Federal Republic of Aurelia, nearly overrunning the latter within ten days thanks to their airborne fortress Gleipnir. As Gryphus One, you lead Aurelia's survivors in taking back your nation.
    • Ace Combat Joint Assault - Joint Assault deviates from the Strangereal world that every previous installment of the game has taken place in, and will take place in real world locations such as Tokyo, London, and San Fransisco. As Antares, a newcomer to Martinez Security, you fight the machinations of a powerful terrorist group across the world.
  • Game Boy Advance:
    • Ace Combat Advance - In 2032, Corporations begin to dominate the world and corpocracies now control as much of the world as independent democracies. One corporation, General Resource, creates the Air Strike Force to help take over the remaining independent countries and use them to gain more resources. As a pilot of the United Air Defense, you are the last hope for the remaining independent republics as you stop General Resource from taking over the world.
  • XBox 360:
    • Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation - In 2015, the Federal Republic of Estovakia, after coming out of years of Civil War, invades the neighboring Republic of Emmeria. Due to the use of high-tech weaponry and grizzled veterans, the Estovakians were able to take over the Emmerian Mainland and drive the Emmerian military to Vitoze. As Garuda One, you lead Emmeria's survivors in taking back your country.
  • PlayStation 3:
    • Ace Combat: Infinity - Taking place in an alternate reality of Earth, players take on the role of Reaper, a new member of the "Bones Arrows" squadron, belonging to the Arrow's private military company. In it, they combat the terrorist group "The Sons of Troia", as well as the fictional nation of "United States of Eurasia". Ace Combat: Infinity borrows heavily from the Strangereal series, featuring iconic locations such as Stonehenge (Ace Combat 4) and Avalon Dam (Ace Combat Zero). Please note: As of March 31, 2018, Ace Combat: Infinity's servers have shut down, rendering it unable to be played or downloaded.
  • Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows:
    • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon - In a departure from past games, Assault Horizon is set in the real world instead of Strangereal (hence why this game is not titled AC 7). You take on the role various pilots in the 108th Task Force, a mixed arms force made up of NATO and Russian personnel. The 108th's mission is to combat a growing rebel movement in Africa, aided by Russian mercenaries who possess a terrifying new superweapon codenamed "Trinity".
  • Mobile Phone:
  • Nintendo 3DS
    • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy - Despite the name, Assault Horizon Legacy (called Ace Combat 3D: Cross Rumble in Japan) returns to Strangereal. It's a remake and retelling of Ace Combat 2, with you taking on the role of Phoenix (aka Scarface One). AC2's wingmen Slash and Edge make a return, as does the enigmatic Z.O.E.
  • PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows:
    • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown - Returning to the world of Strangereal in 2019, tensions over a Space Elevator have boiled over into open war between the Osean Federation and the Kingdom of Erusea. Players take on the role of "Trigger", an Osean pilot forced into the penal unit Spare Squadron following a tragedy, as they fight to repel the invasion of the Erusean military.

Also worth mentioning is The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces for the Nintendo Wii, a Licensed Game of the Sky Crawlers anime. Though it has no direct ties with the Ace Combat universe, it was created by the same team and features the same arcade-simulation air combat feel; as a result, many fans see it as a Spiritual Licensee. Equally worth mentioning is Project Wingman, a Spiritual Successor that began development during the post-Assault Horizon drought and is clearly made by fans.

In 2011, the Strangereal series, specifically the third installment Electrosphere, seems to have been retconned into the United Galaxy Space Force series, also tentatively known as Namcoverse. Said series seems to unite many of the futuristic games previously released by Namco, where the Strangereal games are the chronologically earliest installments. However, since there is still no official information available in English, details on this are very sketchy.

Release order

  1. Air Combat (1995)
  2. Ace Combat 2 (1997)
  3. Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere (2000)
  4. Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies (2001)
  5. Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (2004)
  6. Ace Combat Advance (2005)
  7. Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War (2006)
  8. Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception (2006)
  9. Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (2007)
  10. Ace Combat Xi: Skies of Incursion (2009)
  11. Ace Combat: Joint Assault (2010)
  12. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (2011)
  13. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (2011)
  14. Ace Combat: Northern Wings (2011)
  15. Ace Combat: Infinity (2014)
  16. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (2019)

Strangereal chronology

The original/main continuity of the AC series is set on the Constructed World of Strangereal. The first two games were originally not really part of it but have since been retconned to appear that way.

  1. Air Combat (1995)
  2. Ace Combat Zero: Belkan War (1995)
  3. Ace Combat 2 and its remake Assault Horizon Legacy: Usean Rebellion (1998)
  4. Ace Combat: Northern Wings: (1999 to 2016)
  5. Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies: Usean Continental War (2004–05)
  6. Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War: Operation Katina (2006), Circum-Pacific War (2010)
  7. Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation: Anean Continental War (2015–16)
  8. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown(2019)
  9. Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception and Ace Combat Xi: Skies of Incursion: Leasath-Aurelia War (2020)
  10. Ace Combat Advance: General Resource Conflict (2032)
  11. Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere: Usean Corporate War (2040)

The following tropes are common to many or all entries in the Ace Combat franchise.
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.
  • Ace Pilot: Entire series is based on this trope and Improbable Piloting Skills, wingmen and allied aircraft excepted. Supposedly Mobius One may be considered the trope namer for 4, 5, Zero, 6 (and maybe X), especially if you take Ace Combat 5's Arcade Mode ("Operation Katina") as canon, where Mobius One (with the help of AWACS SkyEye) defeated a de facto resurgent Erusean military and at the final battle six X-02 Wyverns using only a F-22 Raptor a year after the events of Ace Combat 04, where he was the lead element in every major ISAF operation of the Usean Continental War of 2003-2005.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: Strangereal was created solely as a setting which permitted repeated full-theater international conflicts for Ace Pilots to participate in, which have been non-existent in Real Life since the development of nuclear weapons - see Broken Aesop.
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: Pretty much every Ace Combat game requires the player to do this for some reason. Sometimes there are enemy planes or helicopters skulking in the canyons or other narrow passageways or tunnels, just waiting to achieve missile lock.
  • Airborne Mook: Enemy aircraft, naturally. Enemy aces qualify as Elite Mooks or better, especially when they come in squadrons.
  • Airstrike Impossible: A recurring mission type, with at least one in every game.
  • AKA-47: Weapons are referred to with generic descriptors instead of real names; thus in for example Ace Combat Zero the F-14 Tomcat, Su-37 Terminator, JAS Gripen, and Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon all use XLAAs while the real planes would probably use different missiles for the long range role.
    • The actual models of the missiles are all different and accurately based on a real missile at least similar to the missile's role; for example on the F-14 the XLAA resembles the AIM-54 Phoenix, whereas the Typhoon uses Meteor BVRAAMs.
    • Also, Electrosphere gives the airplanes slightly different names as part of the game's futuristic feel, such as the Eurofighter 2000E Typhoon II and the XFA-36A (McDonnell Douglas X-36).
  • Aliens Never Invented the Wheel: The Strangereal has technology that generally meets or exceeds that of the real world of equivalent year, but lags far behind in nukes and nuke delivery. This is central to the world's function since MAD makes fights between modern fighter jets far less frequent.
  • All There in the Manual: A number of details, such as the full history of the Ulysses asteroid, aren't covered in-game.
  • Alternate Universe / Constructed World: Strangereal.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: The only player character to definitely return in a later game is Mobius One (player character of 04, the arcade mode of 5, and the VR mode of 7). The Scarface squadron of the first game returns in the second, though the available wingmen are entirely different.
  • Armies Are Evil: Subverted in most games after 2. Especially considering when you see cutscenes of pilots and soldiers from the opposing army doing what they were trained to do without any complaints.
  • Armored Coffins: All the planes in 3 are piloted via a so-called COFFIN system, which is a kind of neural interface that allows you to steer them with your brain but has no ejection seats whatsoever.
  • Arrow Cam: Holding down the missile button will cause this to happen.
  • Artificial Brilliance: Ace pilots, when compared to the standard mooks. Yellow Squadron will use the Pugachev Cobra maneuver to get behind you, for instance.
  • Awesome Yet Practical: The Wyvern and FALKEN have been computer-modeled as flyable in X-Plane with modern early 21st century technology, while things like the weapons-grade Frickin' Laser Beams have military prototypes already in progress.
  • Back From the Brink: Each game typically starts with the air base from which you launch as the allied forces' last remaining base in the area, which you must defend from enemy bombers escorted by starting-game fighters, giving the player a quick "tutorial" in air-to-air combat with easy targets. Subverted in Ace Combat 5, where most of your flight was killed by an unknown reconnaissance flight during the game's intro during peacetime. Ace Combat 6 subverts it again in that the "back from the brink" bomber intercept is the second mission (appropriately entitled "On the Brink"), the first mission being an aerial defense of the capital at the start of the war only to be ordered to abandon it. And it's averted completely in Ace Combat/Air Combat, where you simply enter the contested state and immediately attack recon planes and bombers on their way to attack another target.
    • Also averted at the same time in 5. The token "Save the airbase from bombers" mission isn't until mission 4, and even then, your airbase is only one of many. The country of Osea wasn't on the brink of losing everything if they had lost that one airbase. In fact, it was only the start of the war itself.
  • Badass: The player characters, but not the only ones.
  • Battleship Raid: Most games feature boss stages where you face a giant enemy aircraft, battleship or group of such aircraft: the Aigaion, Hresvelgr, Arkbird and SOLG are all examples of this trope. Averted in Air Combat - it's planes, mostly (ground targets range from a skyscraper taken over by the rebels to oil refineries), though the final mission has a giant battleship.
  • Bigger Stick: Getting better planes.
  • Non Sequitur Scene: In-Universe, most superplanes.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Justified.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: Special paint schemes for superfighters in other games, are only unlocked after beating the campaign on the highest difficulty.
  • Bland-Name Product: Joint Assault has BNN.
  • Broken Aesop: The games like to talk about how terrible nuclear weapons are...Despite that the Strangereal setting needed to be made in the first place because nuclear arms have prevented the kind of all-out wars between major military powers that the plotlines are built around. So nukes are bad, as we are told by a world that collapses into gigantic, pointless wars every couple of years.
  • Calling Your Attacks: From 04 and beyond, characters use the "Fox" brevity codes when launching missiles. Except for the Heroic Mime protagonist, who also gains an AWACS support unit who calls out those codes for him.
    • Justified: real-life pilots actually do that, along with the maneuvers they perform. After all, nobody wants to be a friendly fire statistic.
  • Canon Welding: The above-mentioned "United Galaxy Space Force" is an attempt to merge a number of their series with futuristic installments into a single continuity with Electrosphere as its first installment chronologically.
  • The Captain: Too many to list.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: More dramatic and realistic elements have crept in over time.
  • Chasing Your Tail: And how! (A perfectly Justified Trope for a game about air-to-air combat.)
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Radar signatures. The colors used change depending on the game, but typically retain green for allies and red for required targets.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Enemies usually can maneuver better and lock-on much faster than you can even when using the same plane as you, and some bosses' superfighters have capabilities you'll never get.
    • You know this trope is in full effect in AC5 when enemy planes can fly through the goddamn ground to evade you. When it's the last target on a timed mission with 10 seconds left, controllers will be thrown through television sets.
  • Console Wars: After being a PlayStation and PlayStation 2 exclusive for its entire run, when the series made the leap to the next console generation, what platform did it land on? The Xbox 360. Assault Horizon came out for Play Station 3 alongside the 360, though. Handheld outing exclusivity with the PlayStation Portable would last a bit longer but eventually ended with Assault Horizon Legacy for Nintendo 3DS.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Both used and averted. Your character does become a One-Man Army with many kills to his name, but any time an ace squadron shows up you will face a much tougher fight since they'll attack together.
  • Cool Plane: Nearly every single fictional aircraft in any Ace Combat game is either the best plane in the game, one of the best planes in the game, behaves very uniquely or simply extremely good-looking.
    • Subverted with the BM-335 fictional antiquated bomber.
    • Also plenty of the nonfictional ones. It's no coincidence that Ace/Air Combat (at least in the US), 04, X and Joint Assault feature the F-22 Raptor on the cover, since it's a top tier air-to-air king and has a distinctive look. (This is Mobius One's "official" plane, as indicated by its being the only plane usable at least, until you find the way to use the other planes for Operation Katina, aka AC5's Arcade Mode.) Some players, however, prefer the Su-27 Flanker and its variants/descendants, particularly the Su-37 Terminator and the Su-47 Berkut to the Raptor. The Sukhoi planes may be better dogfighters thanks to the Quick-maneuver Air-to-Air Missile (QAAM), while the Raptor has more "standoff" capability. This slightly evens out in AC6, where they are amongst the multiple planes that can use the QAAM (somewhat toned down from the 04 incarnation), so the cool doesn't always have to be useless.
    • Ace Combat X features a high number of fictional planes; some of which aren't that great compared to the higher-end real planes, though the best planes in the game (the Wyvern, Falken, and Fenrir) are fictional. However, all the made up planes except the Fenrir have the ability to be upgraded with new parts, altering their performance.
  • Cosmetic Award: Medals and paint schemes, especially ones acquired by downing enemy aces.
  • Crew of One: In all the games, whenever the player flies an aircraft that in the real world would require a crew of 2 or more to operate effectively, the empty seats are automatically filled in the aircraft's third-person models and the plane is able to execute all functions flawlessly.
  • Cue the Sun
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Several annoying minor changes in the control settings across titles.
    • There's also severe differences between how to evade all the different superweapons, as well. Stonehenge in 04 requires you to be below 2000 feet, burst missiles from 5 require you to be above 5000 feet, and Excalibur from Zero is essentially a test of how fast you can react to things.
    • Chandelier from 6 required you to fly as straight and level as you possibly can, since you had to fly down its barrel.
    • Try switching between Ace Combat and HAWX. The controls are virtually identical... except the buttons for guns and missiles are switched.
  • The Determinator: The player-character is often this; surviving countless attempts by the combined armed forces of entire nations to kill him with barely a scratch.
  • Dodge by Braking: The Pugachev's Cobra and its variants are maneuvers both you and some enemy aces can pull off. Just make sure that they're not flying at the same altitude as you are, or they'll opt for a very humiliating machine-gun-kill. The Yellows are fond of doing this. On the other side, if they try to Cobra and you are going slowly enough to not overshoot, it's a big invitation to light 'em up.
  • Dogfighting Furballs: A hallmark of the series.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: The series insists, firmly and often, that War Is Hell. However, you play as an Ace Pilot, arguably the most glamorous combat role of all time, and frequent radio chatter indicates that your arrival on the battlefield single-handedly restores friendly morale and causes enemies to panic. Also, as a Featureless Protagonist, you are spared the pathos-inducing family deaths that plague so many other characters. War Is Hell...for everyone else.
  • The Dreaded: You. Yes, you!
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Beautifully averted; by the time you're halfway through a given game, your Improbable Piloting Skills will be legend among friend and foe alike. Half the fun is listening to the enemies panic when they find out you're on the field.
    • That said, despite their legendary accomplishments, every playable pilot disappears from history shortly after their final victories. Probably voluntarily. The sole exception seems to be Mobius One, who at the very least continues serving ISAF for a year after the end of 04's Usean Continental War.
  • Earn Your Title
  • Easy Logistics: You can run out of regular missiles and/or special weapons, and some games and difficulties give you limited ammo, but you never run out of fuel; aerial refueling is just an interactive cutscene. In missions where you can Return To Base, once you successfully land or skip the landing interactive cutscene your plane is immediately repaired (except on harder difficulties) and rearmed. If you switch special weapons for yourself and your wingman (the latter in Zero and 6), the change and reload occurs instanteously.
    • This in and of itself is an example of Gameplay and Story Segregation, as story-wise logistics do matter; just see the 04 missions where you take out a group of Erusean transport planes and then a forward operating base as the prelude to wrecking the "Invincible" Aegir Fleet, then afterwards destroy solar power generator facilities to both damage the enemy war machine and divert attention from an upcoming invasion. The third and fourth missions in 5 force you to keep flying the F-5, as well, because there's no time for you to switch. In Zero the mission to Avalon has such a long travel time that from mission 16 to the end, you cannot switch, buy, or sell planes or special weapons (although you can save right after the final battle over the Round Table before the attack on Avalon and then load the save to choose a different plane and/or special weapon). Heck, just see in-flight refueling...
    • Lets not forget that the... 3 minutes that take place between the end of "Avalon" and the beginning of "Zero" completely restocks and repairs your already flying plane who has no support to speak of from anyone but a nearby AWA Cs unit.
    • The Playstation 1 games do have a fuel meter, but this is really just a disguised timer, since it empties at a steady rate regardless of how you fly.
  • Enemy Chatter: A staple of the series, it seems that everyone and his mother—including allied ground units in the middle of raging battles, enemy air and ground units, police CBs and even civilian radio stations—are all broadcasting on your presumably encrypted and frequency-shifting channel, and (other than your wingman commands) vice-versa. Strangely enough, it compels the drama factor of the series. Lampshaded late in Ace Combat 5, when one of your wingmen incredulously announces: "The radio is picking up the enemy communications!" Which it's been doing the whole time.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar
  • Escort Mission: There's a few here and there. They can be a pain to get through sometimes though.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Yellow 13 from Shattered Skies isn't all that evil, to be honest, but he does still show disapproval when some of his countrymen set up an AA gun on a hospital.
    • In Skies Unknown, despite Erusea being the aggressor in the war with Osea, the idea of Rogue Agent Captain Torres running around with nuclear weapons is unacceptable enough to the former that even though they could easily gain victory if they would just get out of the way and let him nuke Osea's capital to force a surrender, they instead choose to leak the plans of his super-sub to Osea so that he can be stopped before a million civilians get killed.
  • Expansion Pack World
  • Fatal Family Photo: Inverted with Jaeger in 7. Despite regularly talking about telling his son about what happened during the war, he makes it through the whole game even though Anyone Can Die is in effect.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: What happens to Mihaly in 7 as a result of the final boss fight with him. He survives the destruction of his plane, but the injuries sustained leave him unable to fly again - a horrible way to go for an Ace Pilot.
  • Fighter Launching Sequence: A few times, naturally. Sometimes you have to actually play through the takeoff sequence yourself, to boot.
  • Featureless Protagonist: It's very rare to find out anything about the character's name, appearance, or even gender. A few of the games have played with this, notably Electrosphere, where it turns out the PC is an AI, designed to test if one pilot could turn the tide of a war.
    • This trend was finally broken by Assault Horizon, which had multiple playable characters with visible faces and speaking roles.
  • Fragile Speedster: The X-29 has consistently tended to fit this archetype, though its missiles aren't weaker than usual. So is it's "cousins" the F-5E and F-20A in their respective games.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Hi, Tactical Laser System! Although it acts rather like a Laser Blade rather than a traditional laser gun.
  • Friend or Foe?: Failures to distinguish ally from enemy play a major part in Skies Unknown -
    • An early mission ends with Trigger apparently killing a major political figure. Later, it is revealed that the killing was actually done by an enemy unit with spoofed IFF.
    • Full Band is killed after he is marked as an enemy, leading to Count shooting him down. Whether it was done intentionally with malice aforethought, intentionally for a good reason, or accidentally is left ambiguous.
    • Late in the game, events lead to widespread IFF failures. Chaos follows, both in the story and reflected in gameplay by the need to properly identify targets' affiliations.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Go ahead, drop that cluster bomb ten feet from friendly ground forces. They won't feel a thing. Or try to send a couple rounds through your wingman's cockpit if he's being annoying.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Every last one of the player characters.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Mostly Averted.
  • Genre Blindness: Oh my God, the genre blindness that gets perpetrated in this series! At least once a game, a character will say something that will make you have to pause the game and cover your face in shame.
    • Ace Combat 6 "final" mission. You've won the war, people are celebrating, and your "mission" is to do a patrol while fireworks explode in the sky. Then one of your wingmen says "I'd like to say: Mission Accomplished". Cue enemy fighters and transcontinental missiles.
  • Glass Cannon: The F-5E and MiG-21 in the PlayStation 2 games, and the A-4 in 2 is this, though since you usually get these in the beginning of the game, the player doesn't need to worry about biting the bullet. The Mobius F-22 and Yellow Su-33 in AC6, (as Downloadable content) is also this, but it pays off when you have wicked maneuverability. On Ace mode all your planes are a One-Hit-Point Wonder against missiles so the question is how much Cannon and Speedster/Lightning you're packing.
  • Good-Looking Privates: Most characters we actually get to see, Col. Perrault from 5 being the biggest exception.
  • Good Plane Evil Plane: It has been noted that in almost every game, the protagonist squadron and sometimes his allies usually fly Western Fighter Aircraft (usually American) while the antagonist ace squadron(s) usually use high-tier Russian fighters (often a variant of the Su-27 Flanker). This is however subverted multiple times.
    • Scarface One from 2 prefers to fly the Su-35 Super Flanker (which is statistically the best normal plane in the game, surpassing even the F-22) while four of the five Z.O.E. aces use American jets.
    • In 04, ISAF would deploy a mix of Western- and Russian-made fighters during missions that are considered pivotal story-wise: a flight of Mi G-29s fly top cover for you and a few other F/A-18s during the assault on the Stonehenge whereas the Siege of Farbanti has you accompanied by a mix of F-15s and Su-35s at its beginning.
    • In 5, the 8492nd Squadron flies the F-15S/MTD up until the final mission, where they fly Su-47's instead.
    • In Zero, out of the 12 major ace squads you face in the game, only three (Gelb, Gault and Schwarze) play this trope straight.
    • In X some of the Redshirts fly Flankers.
  • Harder Than Hard: Ace Combat 04 and subsequent games have Expert and Ace difficulties. They also have an Easier Than Easy difficulty (Very Easy). Note though that some goodies (mainly ace appearances) only occur on certain difficulties. Just to clarify for anyone not clear on the concept: on Expert difficulty, one missile instantly kills you, and that's not the hardest difficulty.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: You never get to see the main character either which is especially obvious in Ace Combat 5, where the between-mission cutscenes show the rest of your squadron frequently, as well as some other allies and enemies.
  • Heroic Mime: The main character almost never speaks—bizarrely enough, this is true even in later games, where you have dedicated wingmen to whom you can give orders with an almost too simple "Yes/No" command, or call for Attack or Cover. (Fanfic retellings have been known to fill these in.)
  • High Altitude Battle: Obviously.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Without countermeasures it's the only defense against enemy missiles. Yes, despite what some people claim, this is a basic tactic taught and used in Real Life. It just doesn't look the same as it does in (most) fiction because fictional missiles usually lack proximity fuses.
  • Homing Projectile: Missiles, both friendly and not.
  • Honorable Enemy Ace: "Yellow 13" of Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies of whom narration notes "His heart felt compassion towards the weaker enemies he downed" pilots a Su-37 (uncommon, but not exclusive to Yellow Squadron in this universe) with yellow trim and is able to survive multiple sorties with player character Mobius 1 (who would himself be an example were the story shown from the other side). Near the end after catching a child engaged in sabotage against his side, he allows the child to escape rather than kill the child or take action that would result in such an execution.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: The least number of missiles any plane in the series carries is around 50, frequently you'll have many more, and then you have special weapons on top of that - don't be surprised if you use third-person view and see ordnance 'magically' re-materialize on your plane's wings! Oh, and ditto for the gun both due to a lot of—or on some difficulty levels infinite—ammunition and a slower rate of fire than in real life where you have cannons with hundred round bursts.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The highest difficulty level is Ace.
  • In the Style Of: Directly comparing the "Megalith Agnus Dei" with the standard rendition, or "Zero" with "Unsung War", the differences in rendering make it difficult to tell that they are meant to have the same lyrics.
    • "First Flight" from 5 is listed in the OST as an arranged version of "Blockade" from 04, but there's really not much similarity between the two. Operation Katina also has a remix of "Elemental Particle" from 2.
  • Infinity+1 Sword: Almost all the superfighters have hard-to-achieve requirements, but the effort's well worth it.
    • Infinity-1 Sword: Of course, if it's too much effort for you, you can get the F-22 and Su-37 much more easily.
  • Instant Expert: The player characters can switch between plane types with ease.
  • Instant Win Condition: Some missions only need you to make a point limit and then it will be completed when time runs down regardless of enemy survivors. In some others focusing on only the needed targets is enough to win. Subverted, however, as it's still possible to crash in the time between "Mission Accomplished" and getting to the results screen, causing a failure (from AC4 onward,) or in AC2's case, still finishing the mission but losing money due to having your downed plane replaced.
  • Interface Spoiler: In most games there will be unselectable or empty boxes in the plane buying and selecting screens, giving away the total number of available planes.
    • Also, in Zero, the named aces list has 169 entries, in rows of 5, leaving a blank space after the 169th (Pixy). Even if there is a lot of space after that due to the page-like layout, it still suggests that maybe exists a 170th secret ace. There is. Mobius freaking One with his signature Raptor. Subverted, however, as there isn't a profile to unlock, since he appears in an bonus mission out of the storyline.
  • It's Up to You: The main character (and sometimes his squadron) can always and sometimes is single-handedly turning the tide of the war. It also becomes a driving factor in the game where radio chatter reflects the infamy and fear of your allies and enemies when you appear on the battlefield, especially in Ace Combat 5. Lampshaded in the arcade mode of Ace Combat 5, where it's revealed that the hero of Ace Combat 04, Mobius One, was more effective than an entire squadron.
    • And generally even when you do have a squadron, their AI is so passive that most players will end up with ten kills for every one they make between them.
  • Jack of All Stats: The MiG-29 Fulcrum usually is this.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Averted for the most part, although it does indulge in Rare Vehicles quite a bit. Also subverted as some implausibly cool-looking superfighters have been successfully modeled as airworthy under the limitations of early 21st century flight technology. Doesn't stop the fanboys from claiming that no American (IRL at any rate) jet should be able to outmaneuver, much less gunkill a MiG or Sukhoi bird.
    • Interestingly, the YF-23 (Black Widow) most likely would be able to outmaneuver most MiGs, due to being technologically superior. The Su-47 Berkut, on the other hand, would likely be the most agile plane in the world...if it had ever been made. And if the wings didn't rip off during high-speed maneuvers due to the incredible stress placed on forward-swept wings.
    • Except of course, the Neucom's R-series (at least the more advanced ones). The R-211 Orcinus and R-102/3 shouldn't be able to fly with what we currently know about aerodynamics...
    • Questionable with the ADF-01 FALKEN; It flies well enough in X-Plane, which is one of the most realistic flight sims, but some things have been done IRL that simulators could not replicate and vice versa. Short of an extremely rich and well-connected fan building his own, we may never know.
    • This trope can also go the other way with very old aircraft that have been long out of production or retired. The most notable would be the F-14, of which most were retired and subsequently destroyed, while a remaining handful are sitting in museums. Unless you count the ones Iran has, of course.
  • Kaizo Trap: In almost all the titles you can still crash or even get shot down after the "Mission Accomplished" but before you go to the mission results screen. Averted in 2, however - control of your plane is completely taken away after you complete the mission, so in ones where that would normally result in a crash no matter what, your plane just de-spawns entirely. In others, if the plane manages to crash anyway, you still complete the mission, but lose credits to replace the plane.
  • Kill Sat: Featured in Ace Combat 3 and Ace Combat 5. The one in Ace Combat 3 was available as a special weapon.
  • La Résistance: Mentioned a few times in various titles.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In one mission a pilot starts talking about his personal life, as pilots in the game are want to do. He is promptly told to shut up and concentrate on fighting.
  • Laser Blade: The Tactical Laser System's shot can be swept around akin to a sword of sorts.
  • Last Stand: Always happens in the last mission, the exception goes to Zero where it happened 4 missions before the last one.
  • Lethal Joke Plane: F-117A in Zero and 6, EA-6B in Zero, pretty much any non-afterburning jet with QAA Ms.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Most of the late-/end-game planes. Especially the superfighters.
  • Like Reality Unless Noted: Strangereal.
    • The Matrix.
  • Minimalist Run: Using only the starting plane. Probably most easily done on 6, since while the F-16 isn't spectacular, it's still better than your starting planes in earlier games.
  • Missile Lock On
  • Mission Briefing: Every mission starts with a summary of objectives and a map displaying enemy forces and any allied ground forces, zooming in on certain areas by pushing left or right on the directional pad, as well as hinting by the number of each enemy type which plane type would be best-suited. 6 would dub these Operations, since in these areas you're to provide close air support against surface targets, achieve air superiority over aerial targets or both, and letting you benefit from a captured airfield, electronic (increased missile guidance) or fire support courtesy of the assisted allies. The briefings are more useful for some missions than others. If a briefing suggests that the flight will be quiet, such as a ceremonial flight above a rally or a patrol during ceasefire, assume the worst. The only truly non-eventful flight is a Free Flight, which can only be done after you clear the campaign at least once.
  • Mission Control: An Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft constantly supervises you, providing mission and story updates as well as things like reminding you that you've locked on to an enemy or vice-versa, that you or the enemy has launched a missile at the other, or you're in gun range, as well as whether a missile hit or missed. Amazingly, it's not actually as irritating as it sounds. To the developers' credit, his information is usually useful and the guy comes off as friendly and genuinely concerned about the pilots.
  • Mook Chivalry: Generally averted; enemy squadrons have no qualms against taking your lonely self on all at once. It gets justified later in each game, where you're infamous enough among them that they can't possibly expect to take you out one-on-one.
  • Mooks: Although wide and varied, and still capable of damaging you significantly, it's present in all games where you take on whole squadrons of fighters. Especially early on in the American version of Electrosphere, all of Neucom's fighters are the same plane. Averted of course by the ace squadrons; even when your plane is superior (in their first appearances on non-SP playthroughs it's not) they tend to be better pilots. Gets iffy though when for gameplay reasons the difference becomes really marked. (Espada 1 in Zero flies a starting plane!)
  • Musical Spoiler: You can tell that something is about to happen if the music suddenly goes quiet or changes.
  • My Nayme Is: The usual Japanese L/R translation issues are found throughout the series.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: In an unusual twist, it's the player, who, depending on the game, may be the Grim Reaper, the Demons/Ghosts of Razgriz, or the Demon Lord of the Round Table, among others. The enemy forces usually start to cower at the mention of your name.
  • Necessary Drawback: QAAMs have short range to balance high accuracy, long-range missiles tend to be inaccurate unless launched at the right angle, and SAAMs balance accuracy at long range by making you a sitting duck while the missile is flying. The air-to-ground weapons and parts have similar issues.
  • New Game+: You can start a SP New Game to restart the campaign with your attained money, unlocked planes and paint jobs (and in Zero with your Ace Style Gauge where you left it in the previous campaign), or do Free Mission(s) to bump up your ranking and/or time, shoot down named aces, and in 5, Zero and X gain money. (Note that in Zero your Ace Style Gauge is only affected by the campaign, so feel free to be merciless in Free Mission.) Free Mission also has a Free Flight option (except in X) where you can fly around all by yourself with no time limit or objectives.
  • No Name Given: In addition to the player characters, several enemy aces like Yellow 13 and most of the AWACS spokesmen go only by callsign.
  • Nose Art: A staple of the series, from about Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere onwards. Shooting down certain enemy Ace Pilots allows you to slap their paint jobs onto your planes of the same model. Other special paint jobs were unlocked by completing certain plot missions. Ace Combat 6 Fires of Liberation also introduced downloadable custom paint jobs.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Subverted with the implicitly stated and sometimes detonated nuclear arsenal from various games. What's interesting about this is that while nukes exist, nuclear proliferation doesn't seem to.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country!: Happens in just about every game.
  • Oh Crap: Enemies have this reaction when your characters show up in later parts of the games. Your allies have this reaction when they get targeted by the local superweapon. The two words are explicitly dropped in X: Skies of Deception when your allies see that there's another Fenrir in Archelon Fortress trying to escape to Leasath and they can't do anything about it themselves.
  • Once A Game: Ever since Ace Combat 5, it has apparently become a tradition to kill or almost kill off one of the player's wingmen. Since Zero, 6 and Assault Horizon always has the player flying with only one wingman, well...
    • Every main-series game since the fourth has included Mobius One's paint scheme for the F-22A and Yellow 13's paint scheme for the Su-37 (Su-35 in 06 since the -37 isn't in the game.) Later games have added more character references, such as Ragriz from 5 and Scarface One from 2.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: The player's plane on Ace difficulty, at least against missiles.
  • One Man Air Force
  • Operation Blank: Most missions have titles of this form displayed during the briefing; this is usually completely independent of the actual stage name. Exceptions include:
    • Operation Free Gracemeria in Ace Combat 6.
    • Ace Combat 5 has the Operation Desert Lightning mission, though the stage name omits the word 'Operation.'
    • Operation Bunker Shot in Ace Combat 04.
  • Orchestral Bombing
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: The real-life planes are almost always outdone statistically by the game-original superfighters.
  • Point Defenseless: AA guns usually aren't much threat on lower difficulties, much less able to take down your missiles and bombs, such that when "high-performance" triple-A that can show up in X: Skies of Deception, the briefing and AWACS guy feel a need to emphasize it. Also, Sulejmani's Varcolac from Joint Assault mounts a rear-facing anti-missile gatling.
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: "<player character>, engage."
  • Product Placement: Assault Horizon is brought to you by the US Air Force. "It's not science fiction."
  • Radio Silence: A few mission across the series impose this for storyline reasons, sometimes combined with altitude restrictions or avoiding enemy radar. At most, this is just a break from your wingmen's chatter.
  • Rare Vehicles: Many (real-world) flyable aircraft are either prototypes, technology demonstrators, or canceled projects that never made it into mass production.
    • Most Egregious is the Aurora and every boss plane. Not to mention "normally" (on any difficulty regardless of performance) flyable top-tier/endgame planes such as the "S-37A" (04)/"S-32" (5)/Su-47 Berkut (Zero and 6).
      • The Su-47 and F-15 ACTIVE have it the worst in 04 - Erusea has enough of them that they're letting the Redshirt Army fly them in the penultimate mission, when only one of each currently exists in the real world.
      • Subverted in a sort of weird way in Zero: Gelb Squadron is the only encounter in the game where you're guaranteed to fight Su-37's. There are two of them in the squad, the same number built in real life. There are, however, two more named Su-37 pilots later in the game, but they only appear on Ace difficulty, and one of them (who may or may not be the future leader of the Yellow Squadron), only in the Knight Style.
    • Another offender is the F-14 Tomcat, which was retired in 2006, with a few planes going to museums and the rest getting scrapped. While most of the AC games were made before the retirement, Assault Horizon is particularly egregious offender since the game was made in 2011, is set in the near future, and one of the trailers shows an entire squadron of operational F-14s. Another possible offender the same game is the PAK FA, which at the time of the game's release is still in the testing phase, and only a few prototypes exist.
      • The PAK-FA is tentatively expected to be ready for action around 2015, the year Assault Horizon takes place, though.
  • Real Life: The newest installments of the series, Joint Assault for the PSP and Assault Horizon for the 360 and PS3 take place in real-world locations.
  • Real Men Fly Pink F-22 Raptors: Your only excuse for flying a plane with an Idolm@ster girl painted on it.
  • Reality Ensues: The gamebreaker-ness of the QAAMs can be interpreted as what happens when you put a nigh-undefeatable real-world heater in a world where the standard missiles are overfed tabbies that can be shaken off without needing countermeasures.
  • Recurring Boss: In 4, 5, 6, X and Joint Assault.
  • Red Baron: Typically, as your skills become more and more recognized, you or your squadron get a nickname, referring to a plot point or squadron logo. For instance, Gryphus One from Ace Combat X becomes known as "nemesis" by the obviously uncreative enemies, and "the southern cross" by allies, since the constellation is painted on your aircraft, there's the "Ribbon" in 04, and the Razgriz squadron (alternately the Demons or Ghosts thereof). But yeah, the best is the "Demon Lord of the Round Table" in Zero, hard to top that.
    • Possibly rivaling that, one enemy in the sixteenth mission refers to Mobius One as "the Grim Reaper." This doesn't happen too often, though.
    • And one of the minor allied pilots from Ace Combat 6 (IE one of the ones you can't unlock a profile about, but is still identified in subtitles) is literally the Red Baron.
    • It first applies to your wingman in Zero; Pixy already has the nickname "Solo Wing" (he crash-landed his F-15C Eagle despite losing its right wing), he has a custom paint scheme (his new Eagle's right wing is painted red), and your opposition has already heard of him.
  • Redshirt Army: The majority of allied pilots are considerably less capable than the PC.
  • The Remnant: Erusea does this not once but twice. Leasath also does this.
  • Roboteching: The key ability of QAAMs; some cruise missiles also give you quite the spinny chase.
  • Sequel Escalation: The superfighters got steadily more over-the-top with time.
  • Sequential Boss: Every Flying Fortress Mission is the series counts for this.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: The missile ranges are below their real-world equivalents'. The XLAA ones, in particular, are ridiculously short.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Some of the player characters get this treatment.
  • So Last Season: Zigzagged with starting planes. See the article for the rundown.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: With few exceptions, the later a plane is available, the statistically superior it is. On the other hand, missiles and other special weapons don't get better on later planes.
  • Space Elevator: The International Space Elevator "Lighthouse" is the alleged casus belli for 7's war and plays a large part in the game's events.
  • Speed Run: Taking the fastest plane available through the enclosed-area Scrappy Levels at maximum power. Like taking "Greased Lightning" from 2 in the X-29 or "Aces" from 5 in the MiG-31.
  • Spinventory
  • The Squad: Mostly averted in 04 (you almost always have four wingmen flying with you, but none are explicitly named, and in the final mission it's subverted in that Mobius Squadron is really just Mobius One plus a squadron's worth of pilots in Raptors with his insignia), used in 5 ("Heartbreak One" Bartlett, Blaze, Edge, Chopper, and Archer), and it's pairs in 2 (Scarface 1/"Edge" or "Slash", though only in certain missions... and there are supposed to be other pilots in Scarface), Zero (Galm 1 "Cipher"/Galm 2 "Pixy" then PJ) and 6 (Garuda 1 "Talisman"/Garuda 2 "Shamrock").
  • Stealth-Based Mission: 2, 3, 5, X and 7 have missions that force you to fly below a certain altitude, avoid circles representing radar coverage, or both.
  • Strictly Formula
  • Super Prototype: Most of the superfighters, though some of them are subversions.
  • Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder: In 7, the purpose of penal units like Spare Squadron is to act as expendables in probing the Erusean drone network for weaknesses that the proper units can exploit, and several characters die in the process. Trigger and a few others manage to thrive, though, and eventually win a pardon and transfer back to a proper unit.
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: In-universe. While the first game had many of the elements that make the series what it is, the graphics are hideous to the point of Fake Difficulty in the first canyon mission and many features were only present in rudimentary form. It was also just old enough to be incompatible with analog controllers, requiring the player to use the D-pad to control the plane. The second game introduced analog controls, better graphics, and something closer to a real plot. The series didn't really find its niche until 3 came out, when it introduced story dialogue given during missions via radio chatter, special weapons to use, and everything else that every game following after that have become known for having.
  • Theme Naming: The series loves doing this.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • Getting hit by the Chandelier missiles in 6. There's a launcher with a barrel so big you can (and need to) fly a plane down it, and it fires a missile in timed intervals. It's worth mentioning that getting shot down by the Chandelier literally maxes out the Xbox 360's PROCESSING POWER! The amount of power needed to render the cannon's special effects when it fires combined with your plane disintegrating in the air drops the framerate down to about 3 frames per second. Overkill indeed.
    • On your side it's easy to single a target out for a full "burst" of special missiles, heaters and gun rounds. Or drop a FAEB/LSWM/MPBM on a single ground target. It's wasteful to the max, but overkill man!
  • Timed Mission: Every one. In the first two games this was represented by a fuel meter, making it slightly more plausible, though oddly enough RTB was almost never an issue.
  • Title Drop: The EU non-numeric titles Distant Thunder, Squadron Leader and The Belkan War all show up in their respective games. There's also Shattered Skies—both a dialogue phrase and the name of AC4's eighth mission.
  • Truth in Television: Most of the planes and how they perform too.
  • Try Not to Die
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: There are some fighter-ish planes you can't acquire for your collection, and non-fighter types i.e. bombers, recon, AEW&C are wholly unusable. The Harrier, SR-71, Tu-95 Bear, and B-52 are common examples. The enemy controlled variations of the FALKEN in 2, Morgan in Zero, and Nosferatu in 6 all have special features that the player versions never had.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: There's satisfaction to be gained from helping the Redshirt Air Force out rather than just gunning for the targets and leaving them to die.
  • Violation of Common Sense: The series loves to force you to fly jets through underground bunkers or down the barrel of giant cannons, usually in the penultimate or final level.
    • Assault Horizon has a truly epic one. You have to stop an ICBM from striking the U.S. with a Trinity warhead. It's already launched, though. Do you just volley missiles at it before it gets out of range? HELL NO. You close in on it, activate DFM, and accelerate up after it until you're practically taking damage from its exhaust, firing guns and missiles the whole way up.
  • The War Sequence: Several missions in the games really drive home the point that you are fighting a war.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The series has several superweapons that qualify, including the XR-900's Heavy Laser from Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, the Arkbird's laser cannon, Excalibur from Ace Combat Zero, and the ADF-01 FALKEN's Tactical Laser System. The TLS returns in both Zero on board the FALKEN and the ADFX-01 "Morgan" (which has only half the number of shots), and has a spiritual successor in Ace Combat 6 with the Electromagnetic Launcher (EML) on board the CFA-44 "Nosferatu."
  • Weapon of Choice: Mobius One and his Raptor, even though it's only available from the penultimate mission of Shattered Skies on. Various other pilots also swear by a certain plane.
    • Almost all of the promotional material for Zero shows Cipher and Pixy in F-15s.
    • The official planes of the Wardog/Razgriz squadron are F-14 Tomcats.
  • We Do the Impossible: The player's reputation.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • In 7, Princess Rosa Cossette D'Elise starts a war with Osea out of the belief that the Lighthouse Space Elevator is a vector for Osean imperialism to encroach on Erusea's sovereignty. It eventually turns out that she's been manipulated by warmongering radicals who demonised something genuinely intended to be benevolent, and from that point she regrets what she's done and starts trying to end the fighting.
    • 7 also subverts this with Captain Matias Torres, who initially attempts to present himself as a Trumanesque figure trying to kill many in nuclear fire in order to force an end to the war before even more are killed. As the story arc goes on, though, the façade cracks slowly but surely, eventually revealing that the decorated Hero of Comberth Harbor has Fallen and all that's left is a Laughing Mad Large Ham obsessed with the twisted beauty of a difficult shot that will result in mass murder.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In 7, Trigger's earliest allies like Golem and Mage Squadrons seem to just disappear after he gets transferred to Spare. They are never heard from again, not even in the final climactic battles where everything and the kitchen sink is supposedly getting deployed.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: Your offensive options in the first two games consisted entirely of short-ranged missiles and an even-shorter-ranged Vulcan cannon. Electrosphere allowed you to swap those out for weapons with differing powers and ranges, and every game after that added special weapons such as bombs.
  • Wing Man: Right from the beginning, with the exception of Ace Combat 04. They were a complete waste of money in the first few games. Quiet wastes of money.
  • With This Herring: Usually (but not always) you start off with a dinky outdated plane.
    • Double Subverted in Electrosphere, where you start with a sleek, snazzy 2003 Eurofighter Typhoon... in 2040, when fusion-powered super planes equipped with superpowerful lasers are under development.
  • Wolfpack Boss: All the time against enemy ace squadrons.
  • Worthy Opponent: Various enemy aces view the player characters this way.
  • You Are Scarface/Mobius/Wardog/Garm/Garuda/Gryphus One
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: The final missions of Ace Combat 4 and 5, twice in Zero (the Belkans deploying nuclear weapons and V2)and the start of 6. Not helped by how difficult it is to even try thwarting stage one.

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