Analysis / Ace Combat

The Strange Charm of Strangereal

When Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was first announced, long-time Ace Combat fans complained just about everything in it. One of the biggest complaints (just as it was with Ace Combat: Joint Assault) was the decision to move the setting from the Constructed World of the previous console releases, Strangereal, (back) to our familiar Earth. The devs have certainly had good reasons: one, they were running out of new scenery to host another major armed conflict (Anea was the last unvisited continent); two, the time frame of the series slowly approached Electrosphere—and thus, the point where the series had to abandon its main gimmick, Real Life fighter jet models. And yet the fans cling to the good ol' Strangereal. What exactly makes it feel right when our Earth doesn't?

Quite simply put, Strangereal is a world where World War I never happened. Sure, the lore mentions wars involving Belka in the same time frame as Earth's World Wars but they have never had the same impact as WWI (presumably because the wars did not drag on for extended periods of time). The implications of this are immense, if you think about it:

Strangereal has just enough connections to Earth for players of any cultural background to identify with their side without Misplaced Nationalism mixing up the picture, and, in the end, fulfills the ultimate escapist fantasy of a military airplane geek to soar majestically above the battlefield without having to face war's nasty underside down on the ground. One however must note that if belligerent countries do not use long range missiles first, they will almost always send the planes to do initial combat, which almost always precedes any eye contact between surface forces (navies and armies).
  • At least at first glance. Since Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, Project Aces has not shied away from exploring political themes that are unique from the gung-ho attitude of most games in the flight sim genre. You can tell a lot of stories with the blank canvas that is Strangereal.