Video Game / Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies

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"Amidst the blue skies, a link from past to future. The sheltering wings of the protector..."

"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, and without question it's the most successful, being responsible for over a quarter of every Ace Combat game sold.

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. He despises the dirtier tactics that his own people use (for example, placing AA Guns over hospitals) and views the war as meaningless. His only desire is fighting you.
  • 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.
  • Back from the Brink: In what would become formula for future AC games, the game starts with Erusea ready to bomb the hell out of your last General Headquarters. You come in and completely turn the tide of the war.
  • BFG: The centerpiece of the Erusian military an entire array of 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 decimating entire battalions of aircraft as long as they're within their range, which covers the better part of the Usean continent, a landmass approximately the size of Australia. Their only weakness is that that only applies to anything above 2000 feet.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Averted. 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, and he gets it. Happens again exactly one In-Universe year later, during the decisive battle for Farbanti... And he gets it again.
  • 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.
    • Also, the first and last levels both begin with the same quote.
  • Bowdlerise: The game had the unfortunate coincidence of releasing in Japan on September 13, 2001. As a result, a few promotional media releases were either taken off or edited. Also, some of the cutscenes were edited to be less grim outside of Japan, with changes as follows: originally the letter's author expressed desire to assassinate Yellow 13 with a knife and he had swiped a pistol from a drunken solder. He later pulled this gun out when Yellow 13 stopped the barkeep's daughter. The barkeep's daughter also had a shotgun in hand when the author found out about the resistance.
  • Child Soldier: The barkeep's daughter is a member of the resistance.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: In-game radio chatter subtitles are blue for friendlies, yellow for civilians, and red for enemies.
  • Colorful Theme Naming: Most of Erusia's squadrons are nicknamed after colors (IE Red, White and of course the infamous Yellow Squadron).
  • 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.
  • Darker and Edgier: A first for non-Japanese players. No longer are your enemies part of a terrorist group or a greedy corporation like the previous games. No, they are part of a standing, professional military simply fighting for their country. And while the cutscenes show little to no violence, it still shows that living under the occupation of a foreign army is no joke. Furthermore, in levels featuring ground battles, you'll hear the desperation and fear in the voices of soldiers from both sides on the radio with gunfire and explosion in the background. How this game got away with an E for Everyone rating is anyone's guess.
  • 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."
  • Featureless Protagonist: The most famous one in the entire franchise. Unlike other examples, where we learn little tidbits about their personality, we know literally NOTHING about Mobius One other than that he's an unbeatable Ace Pilot.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The barkeep's daughter has a crush on Yellow 13, but Yellow 4 staunchly protects him. 13 is oblivious to all of this. How much of this influenced the younger girl's decision to bomb the runway, notably a mistake that severely affected 4, is up for debate.
  • 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: The enemy pilots try to invoke this by taking on Yellow Squadron's emblem in the final mission. ISAF responds in kind by creating Mobius Squadron.
    Yellow Squadron: You're not gonna believe this, Jean-Louis!
    Jean-Louis: What is it?!
  • 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: Stonehenge kills everything above 2000 feet.
    • 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.
  • Logical Weakness: Stonehenge and Megalith were created to shoot down giant meteors at long-range. Thus, close-range attacks at low altitude, especially with erratic and unpredictable fighters that don't have predictable flight paths, are rather effective against it. Stonehenge itself actually doesn't do anything at all. All of its defenses are Erusian military anti-air and SAM units on the ground[[spoiler, as well as the Yellow Squadron]].
  • Lowered Monster Difficulty: Befalls Stonehenge and Yellow Squadron. Both are justified. Stonehenge was created to shoot down meteor fragments from afar, not small airplanes, so up close its terrifying firepower doesn't work very well against small airplanes. Meanwhile, Yellow Squadron's downfall is a gradual process that only begins after you shoot down Four. The more experienced pilots from early in the game are constantly rotated out and replaced with rookies to build up the force. It's entirely possible that many planes you shot down mid game were actually Yellow Squadron pilots without their insignias.
  • 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.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Yellow 13 bears more than coincidental resemblance to real-life WWII ace pilot Erich Hartmann. Both Yellow 13 and Hartmann were astonishingly lethal combat pilots who were noted for being more proud of the fact they never lost a wingman than for the number of kills they made (Hartman's total, at 352, is the highest confirmed kill count in history). Both were also seen as generally honorable men despite fighting for the "bad guys" (Yellow 13 as a Erusian, Hartmann in the Luftwaffe). Unlike Yellow 13, however, Hartmann survived the war, eventually returned home (though not before he spent more than 10 years in Soviet POW camps), and survived to the age of 71.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: If, in the final mission, you choose to not shoot down the missile coming out of Megalith before you escape, the game shows you the effects of your actions.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 is often sent to do missions alone, such as escorting fleeing allies, shooting down cruise missiles and providing close air support. His 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.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The "proper" name for Yellow Squadron is actually Aquila Squadron.
  • 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, despite the latter being responsible for the death of his lover and prized student.
  • 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.
  • Puppy Love: The narrator had a crush on the barkeep's daughter.
  • 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.
    • The last mission even has the characters wondering if they actually won the war.
  • 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. But only for the first time you meet them.
  • 13 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.
  • Took a Level in Badass: YOU, done entirely through Gameplay and Story Integration. You start out as a rookie pilot, taking on simple missions before your squadron gets wiped out by the Yellows. A few missions later, you actually land a hit on one of them, leading to the birth of your legend as Mobius One, a legend that grows until you actually shoot one of them down and destroy Stonehenge, cementing you as The Dreaded.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Sky Eye is an excellent example of this, as well as Voice for the Voiceless. Being an AWACS, he's on the back lines of the battlefield picking up comms, jamming enemies and calling out everything that Mobius One usually does (Kill confirmations, missile firing and bomb dropping).
  • 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: Mobius One doesn't even have a callsign because his "Squadron" consists of his AWACS Sky Eye and... him. Even when he finally gets a squadron in the last mission, nobody dares to call him anything else other than Mobius One... Or the Ribbon Fighter.

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