Tunnel Vision. By far the hardest tunnel mission ever in the Ace Combat series. Nothing quite felt so good as finishing this mission on full afterburners and with no damage.
Ace Combat 04
Ace Combat 04. Mobius One starts as a simple rookie, rushed into a last stand to fend off bombers going after the last remaining allied air base near the occupied mainland, on the other side. By the conclusion of the game, the pilot has a squadron to his name, has destroyed the rail cannon network that had facilitated the enemy invasion, shot down almost every elite Erusean pilot, flown into the guts of a massive ICBM launcher and pulled it apart, liberated two cities, and in the arcade mode of Ace Combat 5, his tactical skill and effectiveness are equal to that of an entire squadron. Repeat: Mobius 1 makes up an entire fighter squadron... by himself.
Mission 08: Shattered Skies, the Battle of Comona (the mission being to defend a satellite launch from aerial attack) may be described as a "furball", or a giant air-to-air brawl with missiles, complete with Crowning Music of Awesome.
The best part is that this is your first real chance to hit a member of Yellow Squadron and shoot down a squadron of stealth bombers!
Ally: A Yellow's hit and trailing smoke. Whose kill was that? Yellow 13: Who was it that shot me?! See who's responsible for that shot! Unnamed Yellow: It's a ribbon!
The first time you shoot down a member of Yellow Squadron while attacking the huge cannon system that has killed countless buddies. Then the game throws it in your face that the plane had a faulty engine! And it was still tough to take them down for many gamers.
Then stepped up during the battle for San Salvacion, where a few Yellows are over different parts of the city; each one shot down is worth far more points than any normal target, but there is no in-story note if you kill any of them beyond Sky Eye shouting "Got a Yellow!" when it happens.
Then outdone by Mission 17, Siege of Farbanti — capping off the attack on the Erusean capital and the decapitating of their military is the honest-to-Crystal Dragon Jesus splashing of Yellow 13 and his last four wingmen, no Worf Had the Flu excuse to defend them here!
The sequence leading up to, and the stage "Emancipation," always gives goosebumps. While not the start of ISAF's offensive (that was Operation: Bunker Shot), it marks the point where ISAF has gained the decisive advantage and the war's outcome sealed.
Yellow Squadron is in the air with you during this mission. If you seek them out, you can shoot them down here, too.
Moment of Awesome for players here: In the mission 'Lifeline', your squad takes down an oilrig and a refinery to cut off supplies for an invading force. Then Yellow Squadron shows up. they're supposed to be better than you, and your objective is actually to RTB is quickly as possible. The devs cranked the AI up to eleven on this incarnation of the Yellows just to drive the point home. They were shocked when they read various internet forum posts describing players actually landing hits, and being disappointed to find out that the planes were invincible at this stage in the game! (On ace difficulty, it takes two regular missiles to take out an enemy but just one for you to go down, meaning these players went 5 vs. 1 on the best AI in the game, and landed multiple hits without getting shot down!)
Not to mention the craptastic plane YOU are flying at the time vs the superfighters piloted by the Yellows.
The start of the final mission is a excellent example. Throughout the game, you are the only Mobius aircraft in theatre, causing so much damage that the mere sight of your plane terrifies the enemy ("There's a ribbon on that plane! It's the Grim Reaper.") Because of this, when you enter the mission Megalith and are greeted with Mobius Squadron you really get the feeling that, this is really the last chance, it's win or die here.
Sky Eye: "Sky Eye here. All Mobius aircraft report in." Allies: "Mobius Two on standby." "Mobius Three through Seven on standby." "Mobius Eight on standby." Sky Eye: "Preparations are complete, ready for battle. All aircraft, follow Mobius One."
Also, the reaction of the enemy planes: "You're not gonna believe this, Jean-Louis! All of them have ribbon insignias!"
Ace Combat 5
Grimm, despite having no combat experience yet, jumps into an extra plane during the raid on Sand Island knowing full well he's risking enemy attack while on the runway.
Also when Genette, the embedded reporter, throws it in with the blackballed Wardogs in the unarmed training planes after being held at gunpointby the base commander. Sure, he'd been branded a traitor with the actual pilots, but he's still with them every step of the way without so much as a complaint, even after ejecting over the ocean. The mechanic's dog rides along with them. Even if that one level was the most fun level ever.
Ace Combat 5 also gets another one during the Mission "Sea of Chaos". After spending the latter part of the game branded as traitors, several ships from the enemy's fleet finally realizes that you were right all along and decide to defect in an inspiring cut scene ("This is missile destroyer Gumrak of the GLORIOUS Yuktobanian Navy. We cannot follow a fleet commander willing to sink one his own ships. All of you who believe in peace, follow me!"). You then get to fight two entire battle fleets, both from two completely different countries that are already at war with each other, to protect your new allies. As you utterly annihilate the enemy ships, the game's main theme song (an anti-war song no less!) plays in the background, while the sailors below react with terror (your enemies), with inspiration (your allies), or with disbelief (your old allies meeting your new comrades). Beautiful.
And then the next mission? You're catapulted off your aircraft carrier for the last time as it starts to sink (complete with a cut scene where the surviving crew salutes the sinking carrier, complete with inspiring music), are allowed to finally use your full selection of aircraft (instead of just the naval aircraft such as the F/A-18 family) thanks to a last-minute retrofit of your aircraft's nose gear to mate with the catapult after the carrier kill, and then just have about every squadron on both sides of the war join you for the final mission to save the world.
The cutscene of the last mission is pretty inspiring. The planes sent to intercept you? They form up with you instead. More planes appear? They're coming to join you. From both Osea and Yuktobonia, from every theatre of the war, they rally around YOU. During this scene they all join in sing the anti war song and one of them is an AWACS named Sky Eye.
Kei Nagase, the extremely pacifist borderline-Granola Girl, gets shot down in enemy territory during a blizzard. One mission later, you see her rescue right before rescue in a cutscene: Holding the enemy soldiers sent to capture her at gunpoint, while the narrator comments on her courage and skill.
The look on her face cements that moment, because you KNOW you don't want to mess with her.
Part II of the White Bird missions. When it turns out the Arkbird has been hijacked by terrorists and needs to be shot down, almost anything you do feels amazing whether it be dodging lasers, slowly taking the ship apart and even when it refuses to lay down and die. The music for the stage "White Bird (Part II)" fits perfectly and depending on how you do with the UAV Remote Planes, you may find yourself just about to fail the mission only to succeed at the very end just as the music starts to slowly die down as the Arkbird crashes into the ocean. Definitely one of the best missions in the game.
MISSION 18+ : 8492. Right after those bone chilling lines "The 8492nd squadron doesn't exist!", the airspace in front of you is FILLED with enemy fighters. Then, later, you go back and take on the squadron of dozens of planes, AND WIN.
In Journey Home, Chopper earns his Moment of Awesome when his plane is hit by an enemy missile, and rather then bail out over the city, he waits until the stadium is cleared out, but by then, his plane's systems are fried and he is unable to eject, so he guides the plane into the center of the stadium.
Remember that the mission begins as a ceremonial flight, before an attack is launched. The 8492 keeps reinforcements from arriving, before stealth bombers are sent.
The scene immediately after this is both a CMOA and a Tear Jerker. Edge and Archer are crying, but they and you seem to be shooting down the enemy with ease. Over the radio, the enemy muses that they must really be fighting the Demons of Razgriz, the demons having taken over the pilot's bodies. All round, good guy and bad guy freak out before the enemy retreats.
Screaming towards the SOLG in a F-22 on Ace difficulty, you're intercepted by the Ofnir and Grabacr squadrons. Fire off four XLAA missiles and jink hard right, then reacquire and kill the rest of them. If you're good it takes all of five seconds. In fact you can break the game somewhat here as there is about thirty seconds of canned battle speech, and over two minutes of sappy natter from your pilots after downing the two squadrons.
And the final scene, when you have to shoot down the SOLG, is awesome in the unique, anti-climatically serene way. Speeding towards the rising sun with your wingmen, destroying the final derelict of the past war (which isn't even hard but takes just enough time to savor the moment), while the triumphant Latin main theme starts to play — it's not quite a Tear Jerker but more like a heartfelt goodbye to the characters and the game world.
Want to do it one better? You can fly inside the SOLG. That's right, Razgriz One flew inside a falling satellite linear gun and destroyed it from inside out.
The final tunnel in Sudnetor in Mission 27. One of the toughest if not THE toughest tunnel in the series, ridiculously long, with an enemy plane chasing you and trying to shoot you down, having to speed out after destroying the core while dodging obstacles and with gates closing in front of you, shooting down enemy planes coming head-on, all set to one of the most triumphant tracks the game has to offer (in a game with a lot of them!). Especially for a newbie, it's hard not to celebrate after successfully tackling that gauntlet.
The Aces mission, with your fellow pilots singing "The Journey Home" as you approach the base. Then there's the defection of the Yuktobanian and Osean pilots to fight the Belkans, as they add their quite off key voices to the song, the tune growing louder and much more beautiful as more and more aces join you in the final battle. Check at 8:13 of this video and see for youself .
This is the Yuktobanian 172nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron. We love that song too.
If the dogfight with Ofnir and Grabcr goes on long enough, there's a couple exchanges where your squadron gives the enemy a piece of their mind.
Grabacr:We will reclaim the victory that was taken from us! Swordsman:Go back home! Don't ever come back again. Grabacr:We'll return to haunt you for eternity! Aaagh!
Swordsman:This battle is over! Accept your defeat! Grabacr:We will never give in! We'll give you a taste of the pain felt by all those innocent people! Archer:All that hatred is ancient history to us! And it should stay that way!
Ace Combat Zero
The first mission to the Round Table (Mission 3). After shooting down numerous planes, a squadron of enemy aces suddenly shows up and puts up one of the most difficulty fights in the entire game (especially if you're still using the default F-5 Fighter). If you manage to survive the hard encounter, Pixy then poignantly says "Yo, buddy. Still alive?"
The mission 'Diapason' from Ace Combat Zero. After five missions of relatively minor battles against the enemy army, it comes time to liberate the player's capital city of Directus from the occupying Belkan army. It starts out awesome right from the get-go, with inspiring battle music underscoring the fight. The Moment of Awesome begins when the citizens of Directus decide they've had enough and rise up and fight the Belkan Army, who up to this point had crushed your nation's army with no difficulty whatsoever. Through the radio conversations, you can hear shouts of "The Belkans are running!" and "Get the hell out of our city!" Soon, the citizens of Directus more or less take back the entire city by themselves. For that final bit of awesome, they then take control of the anti-air guns and start helping you shoot down Belkan fighters.
"Ring the bell! The Bell of Freedom!"
Another crowning moment is mission 10, the second visit to the Round Table; it's right after you've destroyed Excalibur, and as such the Belkans have begun to fear your abilities, not to mention that you essentially turn the battle around on your own. To top it all off? This is mission where you first become the Demon Lord.
"Galm's not fighting alone! Let's show 'em what the Osean Air Force can do!"
The absolute crowning Moment of Awesome of the game is the final mission, Zero. just watch and see for yourself. Also, "Demon Lord of the Round Table" is an MOA for the player.
At first you were merely Galm 1, according to AWACS Eagle Eye, then you were Cipher. In the final mission? "Demon Lord of the Round Table, I pray for your success." The usual "MISSION START" doesn't appear until after that line.
EITHER Solo Wing Pixy OR "The Demon Lord of the Round Table". FULL! FREAKING! STOP!
Ace Combat X
Gryphus One establishes his badass cred early on by dodging the shockwave from a SWBM that wipes out almost everyone else in his squadron. He proceeds to lead the retaking of Aurelia, takes down the Gleipnir airborne fortress that helped Leasath almost completely conquer Aurelia in ten days, helps to retake Griswall despite the Leasathian Frickin' Laser Beams, defeats Leasath's elite Alect Squadron and the Fenrir superfighters. If you make the right choices, he does the last two at the same time!
It gets better. If you're REALLY good and know the general placement of the fighters early on, you can shoot down the Alect planes WHILE CLOAKED. The mission briefing states quite clearly that doing that is too dangerous to approach head on which is why you need to destroy the mechanism that's providing the cloak with energy. If you can down all four of them, the game sometimes has trouble accepting that you could actually do that and skip to the last phase of the mission.
Speaking of the last phase, there's the obligatory AC tunnel mission. If the Alect squadron was fought, there's still one last man who escaped your wrath. Your job is to find him and destroy the fighter he's piloting AND escape at from a collapsing tunnel at the same time.
Ace Combat 6
In Ace Combat 6, there is one moment that also qualifies as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. You and your wingmate are on the verge of court-martial for disobeying direct orders. The two of you get sent on a secret mission to blow up the enemies WMD stockpile. However, after you do that, and try to escape, you get ambushed by 50+ enemy fighters. You will desperately try to shoot them all down, but, there are too many, and even with unlimited ammo, you will not be able to. Just when all seems lost, a whole host of friendly blips show up on your radar. Every single pilot who you have helped/saved throughout the entire game shows up to help you, and the resulting furball is a scale not seen since the Battle of Shattered Skies ten years ago (in-game) in Ace Combat 04.
Also, in Ace Combat 6: "We're going to take back Gracemaria today!"
And then you do, by pasting Pasternak (which is its own Crowning Moment). In the cutscene that follows, McKnight's tank finally reaches the endpoint of the tunnel to the Gracemaria Central Bank. He blows through the final wall, revealing (not the oodles of money he expected, but) the treasures squirreled away during the initial siege of the city, including an antique suit of armor known as the Golden King. What does he do? He has the Golden King ride the tank's barrel like a horse, and parades it through Gracemaria proclaiming the end of the war.
Pasternak: "Corrupt governments and marred lands are no longer worth fighting to protect. There's only one thing left worth fighting for. And that's the future!" Pasternak says this during the battle to retake Gracemaria, after sending his squadron away when it becomes apparent that there is no winning the battle. He is piloting a badass superplane and has a legion of drone planes at his command, yet there is no way he's anything but a dead man seeing as he's fighting the entire Emmerian military by himself. All he's doing is providing a distraction so his teammates can get away with their lives, and he knows it.
And he becomes That One Boss doing it. Especially if you're dumb enough to fight him with anything but QAAM's.
Bonus points if you managed to beat him without QAA Ms, as this troper accomplished in the first play-through.
The final mission, where Talisman takes down the Chandelier railgun singlehandedly by flying straight down its barrel.
Ace Combat: Infinity
Reaper, the Player Character, destroys Stonehenge in Mission 4, as well as both an upgraded CFA-44 "Nosferatu" with its insane laser drones and the heavy command cruiser in the next mission. His reputation as an Ace is established within the first five missions (with more to come in the future).
Mission 7 has the player pay a visit to The Round Table and fight the Butterfly Master again.
The epic conclusion in Mission 8, especially the second half (after the meteorite strike), with an epic remix of "Blue Skies" accompanying the heroic battle.
The Special Raid Mission, "Moby Dick Pursuit" (any of the three variants), where both player teams, usually competing for better scores, team up to fight together and destroy Aigaion, along wih two Kottos and Gyges warships.
Thousands of bullets flying in the air coupled with hundreds of missiles going every which way, frantic radio comments by AWACS and the enemy... every moment of the six minutes of these missions is incredible. Especially if you and the other players manage to tackle the mission for an "S" rank, which results in huge money rewards (becomes insane if you're using Forced Sortie).
Special mention goes to the rariest version of this mission, where you encounter a golden-plated Aigaion. It is no longer armed with cruise missiles... now it has Frickin' Laser Beams that are capable of destroying your missiles and delivering a One-Hit Kill to you!
On August 19, the Aigaion Special Raid was replaced with STONEHENGE RETURNS. The mission's difficulty has been amped up due to the constant railgun fire and enourmous amounts of targets to destroy. It feels extremely satisfying to get an S rank in any of the three mission variants, especially the "Gold Ring" one.
The January 2015 update trailer, showing the SOLG satellite new super planes - X-02 "Wyvern" and ADF-01 "Falken" (as standard aircraft!) and having "The Unsung War" as background music.
Even better, the Gold SOLG mission features the song in the background again, as the players try to destroy not only the satellite itself, but also a bunch of Mrgans and Falkens!
Emergency missions that happen about halfway during regular Online Mission Co-Op. Their variety is like heaven for longtime Ace Combat fans. The Emergency Missions include:
Fighting elite fighter squadrons (such as Titan, Quickshot, Specialist or Scylla)
Destroying either a fleet of stealth destroyers or a bunch of transport carriers in "Pipeline Destruction"