Video Game: Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies

"I was just a child when the stars fell from the skies, but I remember how we built a cannon to destroy them and in turn how that cannon brought war upon us. War was an abstract thing, nothing more than a show on TV. Until on that final day of summer...."

The fourth game in the Ace Combat series and the first on the Playstation 2. Released in 2001.

In 1999, the gigantic asteroid Ulysses 1994XF04 entered Strangereal's atmosphere. In response, a coalition of countries decided to activate the weapon that they had constructed in anticipation of this disaster, the Stonehenge Turret Network. It succeeded in destroying the largest fragments of Ulysses but there were still many impacts; on the Usean Continent alone, 500,000 people were killed.

The Federal Republic of Erusea bore the brunt of the damage from Ulysses and was left crippled, economically. 5 years later, in desperation, they seized the town of San Salvacion as well as Stonehenge, due to its value as an anti-aircraft weapon with a range that covered practically the entire continent. Almost overnight, Erusea had achieved complete air dominance and began a massive invasion, pushing back all of the other countries. This was the start of the Usean Continental War.

The other nations banded together to form the Independent State Allied Forces (ISAF) but were still beaten back, in no small part due to the power of Stonehenge, and prepared to make their final stand at North Point, on the northeastern tip of the continent. This is where you come in — you play one of the few remaining ISAF pilots stationed at North Point, callsign Mobius One. It is up to you, and you alone, to turn the tide against Erusea.

Shattered Skies was one of the groundbreaking games of the series. It was instrumental in laying the foundations of Strangereal along with Electrosphere and all the previous games were retconned to take place in the same universe. It also completed the refinements to the controls begun in Electrosphere and which have formed the basis for all games since. Even today it remains one of the more highly regarded Ace Combat titles.

Tropes found in the game

  • The Alliance: ISAF.
  • Airstrike Impossible: To attack Megalith in the final mission, you have to fly through a series of tunnels to Attack Its Weak Points. The last tunnel? You're relying on the ground team to get the exit doors open in time for you to escape, because there's no room for you to turn around inside.
  • Anti-Air: In addition to the usual assortment of flak guns and SAMs, there's also Stonehenge, the mother of all anti-aircraft weapons (see "BFG" below).
  • Anti-Villain: Yellow 13.
  • Award Bait Song: "Blue Skies".
  • Awesome but Impractical: The FAEB. You get only 8 of them, whereas the most UGBLs you can get is 18, and the damage improvement is not enough that you can't destroy more targets with the larger number of wimpier bombs. Additionally, the FAEB is only available on the F-15 S/MTD, whereas any given UGB variant is available on five or six planes.
  • BFG: The centerpiece of the Erusian military is several BFG's referred to as the Stonehenge Turret Network, due to the arrangement of the giant cannons in a ring a few thousand feet in diameter. These guns are capable of downing almost any aircraft within their range, which covers the better part of the Usean continent, a landmass approximately the size of Australia.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: The AWACS Sky Eye tells the pilots it's his birthday in the Back from the Brink mission, asking them to give him victory for a present. Happens again exactly one In-Universe year later, during the decisive battle for Farbanti.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On one hand, the ISAF defeat the Erusians, and Mobius One survives to be acknowledged as the war's greatest pilot. On the other hand, the war takes many lives, including the narrator's family and the Yellow Squadron members he befriended (the latter thanks in large part to you), though he seems to have found some peace by the time he starts writing to Mobius One.
  • Book Ends: Mobius One's involvement in the war officially begins and ends on Sky Eye's birthday, September 19th.
  • Child Soldier: The barkeep's daughter is a member of the resistance.
  • Cosmetic Award: Partly averted, as you have to pay for alternate paint jobs, and the ones for shooting down enemy aces cost noticeably more.
  • Crowd Song: Pilots celebrate the destruction of the Aegir fleet by singing their national anthem. Later, the people in San Salvacion also celebrate their liberation by singing the same anthem.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Beautifully averted, as is typical for the series; Mobius One ("that ribbon fighter") single-handedly turns the tide of the Usean Continental War. Especially awesome in the mission "Siege of Farbanti", where you can hear chattering from the ground soldier saying "The ribbon fighter is here! We're going to win."
    • Probably the best examples come from "Whiskey Corridor": early on in the mission, one ally will say "I don't care if it's a lie! Tell them Mobius 1 is flying cover!" Shortly afterward, an Erusean soldier refers to you as the Grim Reaper.
    • After single-handedly destroying Stonehenge, everyone praises you, including Yellow 13.
  • Epilogue Letter: The entire framing device, a set of letters written to the player character Mobius One by a man who was a kid at the time of the war. He is writing to you to reassure you that Yellow 13 did not begrudge you killing him by shooting him down over Farbanti, and telling you his story so that you know his understanding of the man you killed, and whose love interest you killed before that, is accurate. He concludes in a heart breaking manner, stating that 'Yellow 13 died happy.' You never learn either Yellow 13's or the kid's names.
  • The Empire: Erusea is this to the ISAF's Alliance.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Played straight with Yellow 13, as he believes in fair fights and hates cowards. He would rather be angry about the resistance blowing up his squadron's runway, indirectly killing Yellow Four than you for single-handedly destroying Erusea's superweapon, Stonehenge; in fact, he actually praises you for it. That said, when he finds out that the barkeep's daughter was responsible for the runway bomb, he lets her go, as she's just barely a teenager. Setting up AA guns on top of hospitals will also make him hate you, even if you're on his side.
    • Mission 11 has you escorting a civilian airliner, and one of the attacking enemy pilots will ask if that is really the target, to which his comrades reply, "Don't ask questions, just do your job."
  • Five-Bad Band: Although Erusea's Yellow Squadron doesn't fit the roles listed in the trope, Yellow Thirteen always has his flight approach in a five-plane "V" formation.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The most prominent nickname for Mobius One (a one-man airforce) is "ribbon".note 
  • Four Is Death: Mobius One, the player character of the fourth game in the series, is referred to as the Grim Reaper, and the first Yellow Squadron member he kills is Yellow 4.
    • In a meta sense, this is partly why the game's name is 04 rather than just 4.
  • Genre Blindness: One ally has the uncanny tendency to say "watch me earn my ace wings today" at the start of missions where Stonehenge ends up shooting at you.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Allies will occasionally say over the radio "Sierra Hotel", which is NATO phonetic shorthand for Shit Hot (meaning something is good). Allies will also exclaim "Die, you S.O.B.!". Keep in mind that this game is rated E for Everyone.
  • Goldfish Poop Gang: The Yellows have lost levels in badass by the last time they get fought. Justified as, in order to bolster morale, they had to accept less skilled pilots in the unit as the more experienced pilots rotated out. Then comes the Megalith mission and what's left of their unit gained some levels back.
  • Harder Than Hard: The first in the series to have this. You think Expert (where one missile kills you) is difficult? Wait till you play Ace.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: It is literally impossible to shoot down the Yellow Squadron in the mission where they first show up. The AI is ramped up to ensure that no missile will EVER hit them (not even a QAAM), and they're agile enough to keep flying circles around you to avoid gun fire. Even if you do hit them, they're immune, and the only way to beat the mission is to escape to the refueling zone as the mission dictates.
  • I Am Spartacus: When taking on Megalith, the fighter wing Mobius One is part of is renamed Mobius Squadron in his honor.
  • If I Can't Have You: The Eruseans eventually realize that they can't hold onto San Salvacion and try to bomb it instead.
  • Instant Death Radius: Getting within range of Mobius One's QAAMs is effectively a death sentence, unlike the nerfed versions in later games.
  • Kick the Dog: Some Eruseans set up an AA gun on a hospital in the narrator's hometown, prompting Yellow 13's displeasure.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: Averted with Erusea's Colourful Theme Naming, where the Yellow Squadron are the best of the best, and Red are the generic mooks that get shot down every mission. Mobius One's planes are also more associated with gray and blue colors, especially in the Mobius insignia.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: In the mission "Deep Strike", there's a ravine. After splashing the targets, you get a warning that Stonehenge is firing your way and you need to take your plane below 2000 feet. Guess how you do that? It also applies to the spare visible missiles in "Megalith".
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Yellow 4 when she's with Yellow 13.
  • Legacy Character: Edge, or Nagase from the second and third games, returns as first officer of a civilian airliner you have to protect.
  • Lowered Monster Difficulty: Befalls Stonehenge and Yellow Squadron. The latter is justified by the more experienced pilots from early in the game rotating out and being replaced with rookies.
  • Mighty Glacier: The A-10 Thunderbolt always has the highest defense rating out of all the planes from AC04 onward, but is one of the slowest.
  • Number of the Beast: "Megalith" has Mobius One start at 6666 feet, and it is something of a level from hell with that tunnel-flying.
  • Nose Art: Mobius One's ribbon, and the variety of Ace Custom paintjobs seen throughout the game.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The final mission's briefing theme. Normally there is music for mission briefings, but this is just the sound of a beating drum and ambiance. Justified, since the briefing stresses how important it is considering the target is a fortress that could launch missiles on any intended target, including asteroid fragments.
  • Oh, Crap: Past the midpoint of the game, your very presence invokes this in Erusean forces. Also, the arrival of Yellow Squadron causes this in ISAF forces until Mission 8.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: "Rex Tremendae" and Megalith - Agnus Dei.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: Mobius One's insane piloting skills in this game are noted in the arcade mode for Ace Combat 5, where he and Sky Eye are deliberately sent in alone to take care of a resurgent Erusean military force.
  • Parental Abandonment: The narrator loses his parents when a downed plane crashes into the cape with his family home.
  • Pet the Dog: In one cutscene Yellow 13 is briefly shown holding a small dog and petting it. Later reinforced when he saves the narrator and the barkeeper's daughter from military policemen.
  • Pixel Hunt: There's an early mission where you have to shoot down cargo planes hidden behind radar jamming, though you can shoot down the E-767's causing it. A later mission then requires you to manually identify and shoot down radar-jamming zeppelins with your gun in a valley so an allied spy plane relying on radar to fly can safely make it home.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The mission result screen for the penultimate mission "Siege of Farbanti" notes that the victory over the Eruseans came at a high cost. In an earlier mission (specifically, the assault on Stonehenge), the briefing notes that HQ is predicting a 40% casualty rate for the mission.
  • Real Men Fly Pink Raptors: The Ace paint scheme for the MiG-29 is a dark pink.
  • Redemption Promotion: The Yellows, as with every other NPC in the game, can only use the standard, easily-evaded missiles. Once you have access to their plane, you can use QAAMs and murder everything else in the sky with little trouble.
  • Rousing Speech: One of these is delivered as you choose your plane for Megalith. However, it's done without a dedicated cutscene or subtitles, and thus it's easy to miss.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: The mission located in Whiskey Corridor takes place in a desert containing the remains of a long dried out river and harbor with several of these dotting the landscape.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: No matter which Yellow Squadron bird you down in the "Stonehenge" mission, it will always be Yellow 4's... even if you used the XMAA missiles to shoot down four of the five at the same time.
  • Shout-Out: Every main-series game since Shattered Skies has included Mobius One's paint scheme for the F-22 Raptor, and Mobius himself also appeared in 5's Operation Katina and the Boss Rush levels in Zero and Joint Assault. Most later games also have paint schemes based on Yellow 13 for the Su-37 or, in games that don't feature that plane, its closest equivalent (the Su-33 in 6, for instance).
    • In the game itself, there is the Sky Kid bar and Air Ixiom. They're named after older Namco games (though the latter game is Star Ixiom).
    • In one mission you have to protect two civilian airliners. On one of them the captain is unable to fly and the plane is taken over by a First Officer Nagase.
    • The ace paint scheme for the MiG-29 is apparently a reference to a manga called Red Prowling Devil, which stars a female pilot who flies a MiG-29 with the same crimson paint scheme.
  • Story-Driven Invulnerability: Yellow Squadron.
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: Yellow Squadron combines this with Four Is Death: Yellow 4 is the first squadron member to die in battle, and Yellow 13 is her romantic interest (not to mention commanding officer).
    • In the final mission, Bravo One's team is ambushed and takes heavy casualties on the 13th floor of Megalith.
  • Title Drop: Nearly every mission title has one in briefing For example . Both the NTSC and EU subtitles (Shattered Skies and Distant Thunder, respectively) also get dropped, the former as the name of the eighth mission, and the latter as a phrase in the introduction.
    • The Rousing Speech said when selecting an aircraft in the final mission drops the game's subtitle once more.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Sky Eye is an excellent example of this.
  • Weapon of Choice: The F-22A for Mobius One and Mobius Squadron in the final mission. The Su-37 Terminator for Yellow Squadron.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Hitting an allied plane with your machine guns will cause SkyEye to shout at you to cease fire.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Yellow 4 and the poorly-maintained engines.
    • A lesser example from the same game: Stonehenge has eight cannons, but one is out of commission during the assault on it.
  • Worthy Opponent: Yellow 13 sees Mobius One as this. After the Comona missionnote , he'll state in the cutscene that he saw a pilot who showed potential and could be a great opponent if he lives long enough to hone his skills. After destroying Stonehenge and shooting down Yellow 4, he'll flat out state that he is impressed to find such a skilled pilot and that you're worthy of praise. The narrator also states at the end of the game that he died happily knowing you were the one to do it.
  • You Are Mobius One

Alternative Title(s):

Ace Combat 04, Ace Combat 04 Shattered Skies