Game Title: Vertical Strike Endless Challenge
Company: Project ICKX
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Battery Life: 3-4 hours
Download: 448 MB
The lack of good air combat games on handhelds in recent years has really bummed out the Ace Combat fan deep within me. The 3DS did get a remake of Ace Combat 2, but handhelds haven’t gotten a new Ace Combat game since the PSP and DS era with X and Joint Assault, both of which I really enjoyed playing on Sony’s PlayStation Portable.
The Switch has gotten some flight sims, but none of them looked overly polished or exceptional. That is, until I saw Vertical Strike on the eShop’s Coming Soon section. It was only five dollars, but it looked identical to the gameplay of the Ace Combat series. The AC fan in me couldn’t help but to chuck out a few dollars to buy it.
So, is it a good air combat game? Let’s find out. Here is my review of Vertical Strike: Endless Challenge!
This game has no story, so this section shall remain blank.
Vertical Strike is a Air Combat game, much like the Ace Combat series. During gameplay, you’ll be flying fighter planes and shooting down waves of land and air-based enemies.
The thing about this game is that there is no story campaign, like most Ace Combat games showcase. There are 2 Game Modes to play through: Arcade Mode for Air Combat and Arcade Mode for Land/Sea Combat. These two modes are essentially the same thing, except that in Air Combat, you only fight other jets, while Land Combat has you fighting both Airplanes and Boats on the water.
THe way this goes down is pretty simple. You start in your Hangar, where you choose the Aircraft you want to use on the mission, as well as the different weapons you can equip to that plane. This is pretty limited, as you only have 2 planes as options. Granted, one of these is modeled after the F-22 Raptor, my favorite fighter from the Ace Combat series, but only having 2 different planes available is pretty restrictive.
The weapons are a lot more in-depth, though. While we only have a couple planes, we have a good dozen or more weapon options that range from different types of missiles to bombs that can be dropped, offering diverse gameplay options for jumping into Arcade Mode.
Once you’re in Arcade Mode, it’s pretty simple. You fight endless waves of enemies until you get shot down or get tired and end your game session. This is where the game starts to feel like Ace Combat. You’re flying through the skies in a HUD system that looks like it was ripped straight out of the popular series all the way down to the camera angles of the plane’s third and first-person camera options.
The actual dogfighting feels right at home, but there are things good and bad about this. You get a lot of different gameplay options when in dogfights, notably an option for your plane to automatically fire off flares to ward off incoming missiles. That’s a feature that I really appreciate. However, the locking and aiming seems very unbalanced. The missiles have absurd accuracy ratings to the point where it took me a long time before I could launch missiles and noot instantly kill anything in front of me. On the other hand, the machine guns have incredibly slow aim-assists to the point where it’s difficult to even use them. It lacks a lot of the polish that Ace Combat has.
The ease of the missiles definitely makes the game fun to fly through and massacre incoming planes, but it won’t take long for you to realize that shooting down the planes in Wave 1 aren’t much different from Wave 10. You do get some “boss” enemies later on, but instead of being bigger or different planes, they’re just the same planes you fought before, but with more health and requiring more missiles to take down. Just like with the your arsenal, there’s not much variety in what and who you fight.
Adding in the fact that it has no multiplayer options and you don’t get rewards, outside of higher scores than before, the game starts to feel pretty old pretty quick. It’s good for quick sessions, but any Ace Pilot out there that wants customization and progression won’t find it here. It feels more like a technical demo of something that could come later than an actual completed project.
As such, don’t expect this game to last a long time. A single match could last as long as hours, or as little as a couple minutes. It’s a game built for quick-play sessions without any in-depth customization or progression involved.
I won’t say the controls are necessarily “bad”, but the way they’re laid out to you isn’t great, either. The default control scheme doesn’t have every option mapped to a button, requiring you to go into the menu to set it, yourself. That is, assuming you think of the features. I did this when I tried to switch camera perspectives and ventured into the menu, only to find it was there and wasn’t assigned to any of the buttons.
By default, the ZL and ZR buttons are used for brakes and acceleration. The Left Analog Stick is used for moving your plane around and spinning for turns, while the Right moves the camera for cinematic shots of your plane. The A button is used for firing off your missiles while B is used for firing your machine gun. Y is used for swapping your missile weapons.
It’s similar to Ace Combat’s system, but the lack of good optimization (and hint on how you do anything) makes starting out a very strange experience.
Graphically, the game doesn’t look half-bad. The environments definitely have a lack of polish and detail, but the planes have a lot of polish and detail to them. That’s another factor in me purchasing this, as the planes are smoother and have little to no jagged edges, making it look far more visually-pretty than the PSP and 3DS Ace Combat games.
Presentation is also pretty good, as there aren’t any frame drops or freezing. The game runs quite well.
Being such a simplistic game, I expected a fair amount of Battery Life. Here’s what we got. These are my times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 33 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 36 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 11 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 15 minutes
Pretty much what I expected. 3-4 hours isn’t too bad for a 3D game.