High Altitude Battle

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    In which the hero of a video game has to go up in the sky and defeat the enemy. It can be as simple as a dogfight between planes/airships, or as complex as fighting enemies at a flying fortress in an all-out war. If the heroes and their opponents have the power of Flight to achieve this, this will lead to Air Jousting. If they are falling from the sky instead, well, that's another trope.

    Common with Sky Pirates, and a leading cause of Disney Villain Death.

    Examples of High Altitude Battle include:

    Video game examples

    • Ace Combat, obviously--
      • Ace Combat 2 and its remake Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy both have a high-altitude mission, "Rising High," that takes place at the upper limits of the player's operational ceiling—meaning there's going to be a lot of stall warnings.
      • Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere took the trope to its logical conclusion, involving a mission in Earth orbit. There's also a high-altitude mission in a SR-71 (or rather, a RF-12A).
    • The Final Fantasy series seems to love this:
      • Final Fantasy I had the "Castle in the sky," an entire floating dungeon that is the home of Tiamat, the fourth fiend.
      • Final Fantasy II's Big Bad raised his tower into the funnel of a great Cyclone, making it accessible only on the back of a flying dragon.
      • Final Fantasy III is the only game in the series to have random encounters from the deck of your airship. Only happens in specific areas.
      • Final Fantasy IV has two groups of flying enemies ambush the Red Wings (specifically, Cecil's command ship) as they return to Baron in the introduction.
        • Not to mention the Tower of Zot, which isn't on the world map and involves airships flying higher than their normal level to reach it.
      • Final Fantasy V has the party board the airship to invade the flying Ronka ruins—but first, they must contend with the automated defense systems. The boss battle is against the citadel's main gun.
      • Final Fantasy VI had two particularly memorable iterations of this trope. The first when the party goes to attack the Floating Continent, and has to contend with the Imperial Air Force (which is explicitly given the acronym IAF which is never used again, probably because they're slaughtered about two hours later) culminating in a battle while falling against a boss. Then, later, the party must fight Doomgaze as a randomly encountered enemy on the airship in the World of Ruin to get the Bahamut esper.
        • There's also the time Sabin and Cyan are falling down a waterfall and piranhas attack them mid-fall.
      • Final Fantasy VII has it as an optional fight against Ultima Weapon from the deck of the Highwind.
        • And let us not forget the absolutely ridiculous fight in Advent Children against Bahamut SIN, which mainly consists of party members launching Cloud what seems to be several miles up in the air to hit said Bahamut head-on.
        • Of course, Sephiroth and Cloud flew upward through nothing but the sheer force of their attacks alone. The blatant attacks on physics as a whole were encouraged by the creators for understandable reasons.
        • Also done in Crisis Core, in the cutscene battle between Sephiroth, Genesis, and Angeal. After Genesis decides to go one-on-one with Sephiroth, the fight heads skyward.
      • Final Fantasy VIII played this trope well: Balamb and Galbadia Gardens, both active and flying, launched a full-out war on one another. This, of course, leads to Squall punching out a Galbadian soldier while fighting for a jetpack... while hanging in mid-air.
        • Which was also an Unexpected Gameplay Change into a simple yet opaque fistfight simulation that wasn't used anywhere else in the game.
      • Final Fantasy IX presented a massive aerial battle where the Lindblum and Alexandrian fleets show up to protect the Invincible in the game's final hours.
      • Final Fantasy X has two mid-air battles where the party fights on the airship's deck: first against Evrae, the guardian of Bevelle. Rikku and Tidus's Action Commands can have Cid pull away and shoot the Farenheit's missiles at it. Then there's a Sequential Boss battle against Sin, where the Farenheit goes head-on against the abomination and blows away two of its limbs with its primary cannons after the party has weakened them enough.
        • There is also a Bonus Boss battle against Penance in the European/International version after you defeat all of the Dark Aeons.
      • Final Fantasy XI: Chains of Promathia had a battle take place amongst an armada of airships. (Almost qualifying as a Scrappy Level, given the sheer unforgiving difficulty of the fight at the time and the farming of a mission-specific consumable to even stand a chance.)
        • Which was itself topped by the final battle against Promathia, taking place in the celestial realm looking down upon Vana'diel. Considering all the work that goes into getting to this final mission, it is not a simple throw-away "this looks cool" setting, but the setting only heightens the gravitas of the mission.
          • The celestial battleground also features a Bonus Boss which, before the introduction of The Treasures of Aht Urghan and Einherjar/Odin, was considered the most challenging BCNM-style battle in the game. May even still be the toughest six-man battle, but that's up to debate.
      • Final Fantasy XII has the heroes infiltrate and do battle within enormous flying fortresses more than once. The Final Battle involves a long-running aerial battle/dogfight as the Imperial Armada and the Resistance Fleet (and their respective fighter ships) engage around Sky Fortress Bahamut, all while the protagonists fight the Final Boss at the very top of the fortress.
    • Your character in Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, en route to Guadalcanal, finds himself suddenly engaged in aerial combat, despite being a foot soldier. At first it's the same spin-the-business that you've grown used to, but before long you're flying the sucker into an assault on a base and another on an aircraft carrier. Smacks a bit of the improbable.
    • In Romancing SaGa 2, you had to enter a makeshift flying fortress to defeat Wagnas Said villain literally pulled the inner sanctum of said fortress out of the ground
    • You could defeat Byunei's Clone in Romancing SaGa 3 by joining forces with the Gwayne (child of Dora [Dragon that aided the Holy King to defeat Byunei; Gwayne could also be fought and defeated later]).
    • The Final Boss Battle against Gruntilda in Banjo-Kazooie included a part where the player had to use a flying pad to go after her while she flew in her broom. The second game had Mr. Patch, a giant inflatable dinosaur who forced you to fight him from the air.
    • Despite having pegasus and dragon mounts in every game, it took until Radiant Dawn for there to be a flying-unit exclusive map in Fire Emblem.
    • Sly Cooper does this in the third game, fighting against General Tsao atop bamboo stalks midway through the stage, then at the end of the level against a flying, animated dragon statue.
    • In Chrono Trigger there is a boss battle that clearly fits this trope. In the battle, your party is fighting against the pilot of a small flying craft—while your party is on top of the craft, and the craft is flying over the clouds.
    • Pretty much every level in the Star FOX series, except Adventures and the on-foot/tank/underwater sections.
    • Advance Wars: Dual Strike had some missions with an air-only top screen.
      • It also has several segments where you're required to do something in the air. Two of the levels are part ground, part Independence Day-like missions that involve you sending air units (jets, bombers, etc) to destroy the enemy's air support. Unfortunately, after the battle up there is over your air units are stuck in that location; you're given CO Power for each survivor, generally enough to give you a Tag Break. One of the later levels isn't necessarily this trope, but still requires you to destroy a satellite in space with ground-to-orbit missiles.
      • Days of Ruin had a mission that you fought on the enemy's air fortress. One of the enemy's minions in the mission cut-scene lampshades the fact that you not only snuck on to the fortress, but somehow managed to bring along tanks and artillery.
        • Days of Ruin only unfortunately. In Dark Conflict the minion's dialog is more or less enemy troops have entered the airship.
    • Secret of Mana: Possibly a subversion as the final fight is you on a flying fortress being attacked by a dragon.
      • Seiken Densetsu 3 has one of the God-Beasts fought atop Flammie. Really.
        • Strangely enough, Flammie is several times larger than the God-Beast, and she does nothing to help. Couldn't she just eat the darn thing and save you some trouble?
        • It gets somewhat hilarious if you have Duran in your party and use any of his spells. Duran's magic casting animation involves him thrusting his sword into the ground. Poor Flammie.
    • The last levels of Super Mario Land and final battle with Tatanga have Mario flying through the sky in an airplane.
    • The Palace of Winds boss battle in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap takes place who-knows-how-high in the air with Link riding the boss! How he gets off afterward is unclear.
    • In Wild9 you have 2 free falling stages where you slam the enemy into the walls or signs/debris that you pass
    • And then there is Skies of Arcadia - which is sort of 'all of the above', considering that all the ship battles are battles between flying pirate ships. Cruising around Floating Continents. And towards the end there surely is a climactic face-off with a flying fortress, too!
    • Phantasy Star 1 and 4 had this. In 1 and 4, you had to fight an evil king and the same evil king 2000 or so years later. Inside of his castle. On a flying island. In order to even get to the island in 1, you had to ride your Team Pet and fight a dragon in mid-air.
    • Tales of Phantasia featured a special series of battles culminating in a boss fight that takes place in the air. Only Cless (riding on a Sleipnir Pegasus) and Arche (who normally flies anyway) could participate.
    • Killer Instinct had several such battles, though for the most part they were atop buildings that were merely tall. The hidden Skybox stage was a simple square arena, suspended several thousand feet up in the air.
    • Power Stone 2 had a level which started on an airship, the ship explodes, and you free fall until you reach the ground where you can continue the battle, grabbing the umbrella during the free falling segment is necessary since if you don't grab it, you take damage when you reach ground level.
    • Yoshi's Island had a battle with Raphael the Raven on the moon, while Yoshi's Island DS has a literal battle in free fall against a boss where both you and the boss are constantly falling with no ground.
    • While the Another Century's Episode series did feature a lot of air and space based combat, one High Altitude Battle stands out in particular: The Final Boss of ACE 3 is the Shin Dragon from Getter Robo Armageddon, piloted by the game's Big Bad Berkt, in the combined skies of two Earths, each one caught in the other's gravity well. Both the Earths are rather easy to see, and the stage really is the ultimate expression of atmosphere (pun intended) that the series has.
    • Seen several times in Sonic the Hedgehog, especially with bosses fought as Super Sonic.
      • Although many bosses take place on levels set on airships, very few of these are technically a High Altitude Battle. Sonic 2 does feature a level where you pilot the Tornado chasing after the Winged Fortress Zone, but there's no actual combat against a boss. Sonic 3 however includes an actual airborne boss fight in the Marble Garden Zone. It's also That One Boss when done as Tails.
    • Pretty much all of Crimson Skies.
    • The first half of the final level in Metal Slug 3, as well as the Final Boss, which actually happens as you're both falling to Earth.
    • Several Super Mario Bros. titles feature levels set in the sky, including a full Sky World in Super Mario Bros 3.
      • On Super Mario 64, the third (and final) Bowser level is called "Bowser in the Sky".
      • Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 actually both take this further, as all of the battles with Bowser now take place in outer space.
      • New Super Mario Bros. Wii involves this with the battle against Ludwig Von Koopa in world 7. The castle and world itself is already in the sky, but the battle involves a fight on three moving platforms going quickly up a shaft. While the boss uses Yoshi's flutter jump and shoots five at once magic blasts at Mario and co.
    • Marvel Ultimate Alliance starts with a team of Marvel superheroes fighting off an invasion of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier while it's flying.
    • Wild ARMs 3 have you obtain the giant transforming dragon Lombardia. For most part, you're only using it for transport, and transforming some landscapes due to its rocket launcher utility weapon. After a particular event, culminating in a boss battle (plus a Sidequest), it is possible to do combat in midair. The mechanics are a little different, but stay similar to the main combat sequence on the ground (or on the sea of sands, for that matter).
    • Shadow of the Colossus cranks up the awesome with two boss fights that require you to ride a colossus right into the air, holding on while you go for its weak points.
    • Strangely averted in Persona 3. Despite the final battles taking place on top of a couple hundred-floor tower and against the moon itself, not once is the altitude of the scene brought into play.
      • Persona 4 however, has a final battle taking place above the town of Inaba. There's also a boss fight in Heaven, but altitude there is only really the result of Fridge Logic.
    • The final duel in Knights of the Nine takes place in the sky a few thousand feet above the world map.
      • Case in point, one player claimed he dropped an item during the battle and then went to check if it landed. It did.
    • In an epic inversion of this trope, the first encounter with Meta-Ridley in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is set in a shaft sixteen and a half kilometers tall. You fight him in free fall and must defeat him before your altitude reaches 0.
      • To clarify: altitude zero isn't the ground. It's the planet core.
      • Metroid Prime 3 has an entire High Altitude Level: the Skytown/Planet Elysia area is exactly as high-altitude as the name suggests, and you do fight a boss there (Ghor). Of course, the main boss for that area, like the main boss for every planet, is fought planetside.
    • Dark Forces, Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast, and Jedi Academy all had some variation on this: three of them have sequences that take place on Nar Shadaa, "the vertical city" (think Coruscant but moon-sized), complete with vast canyons between buildings, while the fourth has a mission that takes place on Coruscant itself.
    • Adama vs. the centurion in the Battlestar Galactica: Razor webisode Free Fall. Thank goodness Adama remembered his parachute.
    • Mega Man X features a level set in an airport, culminating in a boss battle atop an aircraft as it takes off. The craft climbs steadily (and quickly) during the battle, and starts falling after the boss's defeat. Afterward, the wreckage can be found at the beginning of another level.
      • Similarly done in X5. In fact, flying Mavericks have this as part of their norm.
      • Mega Man X Command Mission goes as far as to place its final boss battle in the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere.
    • In Kirby Super Star Ultra, you fight Kabula the zeppelin in the airspace of Mt. Dedede, with an Unexpected Gameplay Change to a shoot-em-up.
      • Kaboola actually appeared in the first game in the series. A mint leaf gives you the power to repeatedly spit out air puffs. An infinitely lasting version is what Kirby eats before he takes on the blimp.
      • Every battle with Kracko takes place in a Bubbly Clouds arena, high in the sky.
    • Devil May Cry's final battle is held on another plane of existence, starting in the sky.
    • Stinkoman 20 X 6 does this twice. In level 3, Stinkoman finds a wall that he just barely can't jump over normally, and leaps into the stratosphere to get over it, having to collect gold nuggets to stop ascending, and slices of bread to finally land. Level 6 is an obvious cloud-themed level.
    • Mahou Sensei Negima's final battle of the School Festival arc was at approximately 4000 metres aboard a blimp which served as a final Place of Power.
    • At least one part of the final battle in both Kingdom Hearts games consists of Sora magically floating/flying while navigating obstacles thrown by the boss in order to attack it. The reason he suddenly has the ability to do so is never explained.
      • In the first game, he learned flight from Peter Pan (though why he only ever uses it in certain areas is never explained). In the second... well, technically, he's just falling. And never hitting the ground.
      • The very last part of the Final Boss of 358/2 Days is fought somewhere around 50 meters above the ground. You're not flying or on any sort of contraption, the game just acts like the ground is considerably higher than it actually is. The visuals suggest some sort of barrier has been set up by the boss.
    • The final battle of Touhou Scarlet Weather Rhapsody has you fighting a Celestial on the top of several stone pillars that spike beyond the atmosphere. How the human characters—or youkai, for that matter—could still breathe is never addressed.
      • For that matter, the true final stage of Imperishable Night takes place halfway between the Earth and the True Moon.
      • Hisoutensoku also has you fighting against a Goddess of the Earth while falling down from the skies of Gensokyo. Although that doesn't stop her from throwing pillars of rocks at you.
    • The Sky Garden in Illusion of Gaia floats high above the Nazca Lines and is the location of the second statue. The boss (and Point of No Return) is fought even higher, on a small, apparently free-falling platform. After beating the boss and getting the statue, you have to jump off and land on your cousin's airplane.
    • Super Robot Wars can have battles between flying units, as well as entire stages in various flavors of outer space.
    • Wing Commander III and Wing Commander IV subvert this, in that they are space combat games that require the player to descend into the sky (i.e. atmosphere) of multiple planets to accomplish plot-critical objectives. Needless to say, these special levels as a rule are much tougher than the conventional space battles seen elsewhere in the series.
    • The Symbiote Vulture boss battle in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows cranks this trope to epically extreme levels as, considering the fact that you're Spidey, the battle takes place high above New York and quickly becomes a warzone when SHIELD troops arrive... and there is no ground. Therefore, you'll have to swing across hovercrafts and use air combos and web strikes on the Vulture and his mooks to keep up in the sky. Speaking of which, the game's final mission and boss is on the SHIELD Helicarrier.
    • The last boss well, except for the bonus harder than hard dungeon in Dragon Quest VIII DEFINITELY qualifies for this trope.
    • The fight against Orange in Gunstar Heroes.
    • The Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version of Rocket Knight Adventures has the entire last round set in a space station, which is made blatantly clear when the Pig King is fought in what appears to be a conservatory and Axel Gear is fought for the last time in a large glass room. Indeed, the very last battle with what is assumably the main computer running the Pig Army is defeated in a space jump by re-entry, as Sparkster is in an escape pod and thus unable to fight back, making him also an indestructable hunk of data.
    • Rosenkreuzstilette has the fights against Luste and Iris.
    • In the Licensed Game for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there is a level where you chase and destroy a Sentinel as it crashes down into the earth from high altitude (the battle practically took place on earth, but this qualifies for it's action sequence).
    • Drakan had aerial battles between dragons.
    • The Protagonists of Nostalgia travel around the over world map in an airship. Needless to say, when they face the enemy sky pirate Scarlett, this trope takes effect.
      • And every other random encounter on the over world map.
    • Happens in Drakengard on occasion; nearly all of the bosses in the first game were fought in flying missions.
    • In Armored Core, the battle with AF Answerer is this if you want to avoid being nuked every two seconds.
    • Assault Suits Valken has three: a dogfight during atmospheric reentry, a side-scrolling segment at the beginning of the fourth level, and a shuttle chase at the end of the same level.
    • In World of Warcraft the gunship battle in Icecrown Citadel, in which players blast a gunship of the opposing side with cannons, defend it from teleporting boarders, and slay the mages that freeze their ship. Also notable for being the stupidest fight in the entire game, in which the Horde and Alliance take time out from fighting their mutual enemy to kill each other while in the process of storming his citadel.
    • The Halo series has several air combat sequences, and the sixth level of Halo: Reach is IN SPACE!
    • Kratos faces Erynnis' true form in such a battle in Ghost of Sparta. In the second game you'll have to slay the Dark Knight while riding the Pegasus.
    • Yaiba has some battles of this kind, including the one against the Spiderman, Batguy, Kotaro Fuuma, Onimaru, Gekko and Yamata no Orochi.
    • Einhander has Schwarzgeist, whom you battle in the Thermosphere.
    • Gilgamesh in an ancient Hindu spaceship dog fighting Berseker on a magic-hijacked F15J. Yeah, Fate/Zero is built on the Rules of Cool and Awesome..
    • Rock Man 4 Minus Infinity has Mega Man fight Mothraya on Rush, combining this trope with Bullet Hell.
    • Stage 2 of Granada is like this, taking place atop an enormous flying battleship. Falling off the edge is a regrettable action.
    • How this can be brought up with NO mention whatsoever of actual air-combat simulators is beyond me. Anyone who's played an air-combat simulation set from WWII forward has probably flown high-altitude bomber raids, escorts or interceptions.

    Non-videogame examples

    Anime and Manga

    • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, the finals of the Battle City arc and Kaiba's duel with Allister are both on top of aircraft.


    • A free-fall parachuting gunfight happens in the action movie Shoot 'Em Up.
    • This happens in the climax to the Iron Man movie, and it serves a tactical purpose.

    Western Animation

    Real Life

    • Almost from the beginning of military aviation, pilots have engaged in high-altitude battles. Even the comparatively primitive aircraft of WWI could operate at altitudes above 10,000 ft. And of course there's the strategic high-altitude bombing campaign against Germany and Japan. Even today, air-to-air combat frequently occurs at high altitudes, and the importance of fighting from a perch is emphasized with the fighter pilot's saying: Altitude is Life.