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Heartwarming / Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

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"Show them what Erusean... no, what fighter pilots are made of!"
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown may be the darkest entry in the series, but there are still plenty of moments in it that show that there is still hope in the world of Strangereal.

  • In the cutscene that plays after "Two-Pronged Strategy", Mihaly returns to the EASA Facility to deliver the data collected from the sortie. When he steps out of the plane, he’s exhausted and has trouble breathing, but his granddaughters rush to his aid, giving him a rebreather to help him relax and steady his breathing. It shows that despite his aloof demeanor, his granddaughters care about him very much.
  • In Long Day, should you deliver an outstanding job and destroy the vast majority of all three bases, Bandog will genuinely commend you and the rest of Spare for your efforts.
  • When Cossette visits the EASA facility, she, Ionela and Alma start singing, with Dr. Schroeder noticing that the pilots in the Princess’ personal aircraft, who aren’t Erusean themselves, are singing along with them.
    • Mihaly meanwhile, is sitting a ways away from his granddaughters, and while Schroeder says that he’s watching them with a stoic expression, you can tell that deep down he’s happy listening to his granddaughters sing.
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  • First Contact has a Throw the Dog a Bone moment near the end for Trigger. After constantly being insulted and belittled, it's nice to hear Wiseman express his gratitude for Trigger's efforts.
  • In the mission Faceless Soldier, when the Spare Squadron is ambushed by Erusean AI controlled aircraft masquerading as Osean Fighters, Tabloid suggests that the squadron form an element with Trigger, and for Bandog to register anyone not formed up on Trigger as an enemy. The squadron complies, and after Bandog recalibrates their IFFs, the music switches to an uplifting tone, and Spare Squadron finally coordinates like an actual squadron.
  • During Transfer Orders, Bandog—the Jerkass Reasonable Authority Figure, compared to unrepentant Jerkass McKinsey—admits to Trigger that he considers him a "breath of fresh air" who "doesn't stink" compared to the rest of Spare Squadron. This is the only time Bandog says exactly what he thinks about Trigger. When Count tries to do his own usual Jerkass actions by bringing up Trigger's 'crime', Bandog outright tells Count to "take a good look in the mirror."
    • At the beginning of the same mission, the 444th's air traffic controller, who also hated Trigger at first and has just as much power as Bandog and McKinsey to throw someone in solitary, also respects him. Just after liftoff, the last thing he tells Trigger is: "I hope we meet again in different squadrons."
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  • Fleet Destruction sees you back in the regular OADF forces, and not just that, you and Count are transferred to the elite Long Range Strategic Strike Group in recognition of your extraordinary feats in Spare Squadron (which includes, among other things, surviving an encounter with Mister X and destroying an enemy prototype drone that they didn't think could be defeated). It's a breath of fresh air flying with an AWACS who's professional about his job (and loves to make charming food-based metaphors), as well as trusty wingmen who don't constantly berate you for being Harling's alleged murderer (now that it's been determined that you didn't kill Harling after all); granted, said wingmen are a little hesitant about you at first, but once you start pounding the Erusean navy, they quickly get behind you 100%.
  • At the end of the mission Stonehenge Defense, after the Arsenal Bird has been shot down, everyone is congratulating Major McOnie for firing the shot. McOnie says that Lehmann deserves the credit, since it was thanks to his repairs that they were able to get Stonehenge to fire one last time, and that it was his idea to use their eyes and manually aim for the Arsenal Bird. Lehmann in turn says that the LRSSG are the real VIPs of this mission for buying them the time they needed.
    • And, strangely enough, Stonehenge firing for the last time. When the Ulysses asteroid was detected in the 90s, the people of Usea banded together to construct the battery to protect humanity from asteroid fragments, but at the beginning of the 21st century, the Eruseans captured it and used it to secure air superiority in the Usean Continental War, forcing the ISAF to destroy the railguns, except for the one (gun number 4) that was knocked out by a stray meteor during the Ulysses Incident, damage from which can still be seen in a gigantic crater by the facility wall. Fast forward to the Lighthouse War, the Oseans repair the remaining railgun that was spared from Mobius 1's wrath to bring down one of the Arsenal Birds, and they use a fleet of generator trucks to provide enough energy to fire just one shot. In a way, destroying the Arsenal Bird redeemed Stonehenge of the death and destruction that it has caused, and when the railgun powers down for the final time, the battery is finaly laid to rest. That is the symbolic take of Redemption Equals Death if you ask me.
  • The final two missions are a nonstop flood of moments:
    • The cutscene that plays prior to the mission has Ionela shooting the drive containing all of the flight data that Schroeder collected from Mihaly. However, despite having every reason to hate Schroeder due to the pain he put her grandfather through and for the chaos caused by his drone program and desire for revenge on Osea over Belka’s defeat, Ionela instead casts the pistol aside and convinces Schroeder to help Avril and Rosa shut down the drone production in order to end the war. The Belkans are given a chance to finally end the cycle of revenge and destruction that has plagued Strangereal since the Belkan War, and Schroeder doesn't waste it.
    • Strider's introduction to the mission is them flying into a massive furball, but one moment singles itself out in the intro cutscene. An Osean Hornet is being pursued by an enemy fighter and calls for help. Who answers? None other than an Erusean Flanker, who says, "Let's show them what Eruseans—no, what fighter pilots can do!" and blasts the pursuing plane away. As the two planes fly in formation, with the Hornet's pilot thanking the Flanker for his support, it becomes obvious that in this battle, borders no longer matter; it's a fight between instigators of war and protectors of the peace.
      • This is turned up to 11 when you realize that the annoying pests of Sol Squadron is also allied with you this time. They have nothing but disdain towards the LRSSG for ransacking their home, but they also love their country of Voslage and its newfound independence even more. If allying with their enemy will help them regain their homeland, so be it.
    • When Cossette enters the Lighthouse, she sees a painting on the wall that Harling had commissioned, showing people coming together and dancing, with multiple Space Elevators in the background. This is what finally convinces her that Harling truly wanted peace, and what makes her change her mind about destroying the Lighthouse, to protecting it instead.
    • There's a lot of pain and suffering along the way, but eventually the peace-desiring factions of the Oseans and Eruseans do join up together, fighting as a team a la 5. Mission 19 opens with an Erusean pilot saving an Osean, before they both split up into mixed-force flights to get back into the battle.
      • As an aside, a YouTube comment noted that we don't know what faction the friendly Eruseans are from. They could've been conservatives, they could've been radicals, hell, they could've been a mix of both sides—but no matter what they felt in the past, now they just want to help end the war.
    • Immediately after that, the Osean HQ calls upon the LRSSG's two aces, Trigger and Wiseman, to show them what they've got, seemingly unaware of Wiseman's death in the Battle for Farbanti. After Count soberly comments on this, Long Caster agrees with him that there aren't just two aces in the LRSSG anymore: the entire LRSSG qualifies as a force of ace pilots because of how skilled they've gotten over the course of the war. Wiseman would be proud.
      Count: We don't have two anymore... Guess nobody told them.
      AWACS Long Caster: That's quite true, Count. It's not just two. Wiseman trained his squadron well. Everyone still in it is an ace, and he'd be proud of you all.

    • And after spending several missions having to identify targets before shooting them, the Oseans and Erusans have joined forces and are working together, so there's no need to worry about hitting the wrong targets.
    • Mission 20 starts with a squadron introduction: Trigger isn't flying with Strider Squadron anymore. Instead, the squadron line of the introduction simply indicate that Trigger's is flying as part of an unnamed independent squadron, symbolising the entire international coalition. More than that, his callsign is now "The Three Strikes". It's the ultimate expression of Trigger's reclamation of his alleged crime. Finally, the nation indicators for the squadron are struck out using sin lines, leaving only Trigger's personal icons. Everyone, Oseans, Eruseans, and yes, even the Belkans have come together to stop the end of the world.
    • Count follows Trigger into the tunnels to take care of one last drone. Why? For the bragging rights? No, he follows Trigger because they've relied on him so much up to this point. Now it's Trigger who will need help, and Count intends to return the favor. If this and his Taking the Bullet for Trigger don't seal their fire-forged friendship for the player, then nothing will.
      Count: Don't worry, I learned something from my last squadron: "Stick with Trigger, and you'll make it."
    • After Trigger destroys the final rogue ADF-11 drone and flies out of the space elevator's windbreak to a hero's welcome, a transmission is heard being broadcasted from space. It is none other than Kei Nagase herself, who had become an astronaut after the Circum-Pacific War and had just returned from a seven-year long deep space mission, thanking Trigger for allowing her ship to dock at the space elevator. Nagase's dream to see humanity explore outer space has finally come to fruition.
      Nagase: This is Captain Kei Nagase of the spaceship Pilgrim One. The ocean of stars in our galaxy is finally within reach. To the pilot who gave this spaceship a place to dock, we are forever grateful. The universe lies ahead of us, waiting to be discovered. And now, at last, we have a gateway to ascend to it, over and over again. I salute the pilot, who gave us all a future.
    • Near the end of Dark Blue, if Trigger takes the time to fly up the elevator, the other pilots will call out for Trigger and Count. And if you wait long enough, Rosa Cossette D’Elise will call out for Trigger, calling him a beacon of light in a world of darkness.
      Cossette: Can you hear me? We’re all waiting. A world of darkness needs a light to shine. We’re waiting for that beacon of light!
    • After Trigger flies out of the Lighthouse, everyone is cheering for him except Húxiān, who's frantically asking if anyone has seen Count's plane leaving as well. After Count finally answers back, she lets out a laugh in relief and asks for his location. For all the bickers between the two throughout the game, this moment shows that Húxiān really has come to care for Count, and Count is much nicer to her than he was when he first joined Cyclops Squadron. Really, Trigger, Count, Jaegar, and Húxiān have become a tight-knit squadron over the course of this war, and this moment highlights it.
    • The Aces at War 2019 artbook reveals that Pilgrim One's mission wasn't just space exploration, it was also to intercept an incoming asteroid and prevent another Ulysses disaster. The man who sponsored Pilgrim One's mission and convinced Nagase to be the captain? None other than President Vincent Harling. Whether he was the one Osea deserved, he truly was the President that Osea needed, and a leader who's a great example for others to follow.
    • Yuktobania is a world away from Erusea, and politically even further away than Osea, and thus has no involvement in either side of the Lighthouse War. But as soon as the war ends, the Yuktobanian military is dropping humanitarian relief supplies to the refugees camped out at Lighthouse. 9 years ago, the two superpowers became locked in a brutal conflict, intent on wiping the other out. Thanks to the actions of their leaders (deposed in secret by a secret Belkan organization) and the Wardog Squadron (later becoming Razgriz Squadron), Osea and Yuktobania put aside their differences and came together in peace, emerging as friends and allies. Considering that Yuktobania is the only superpower that hasn't sustained major damage aside from satellite destruction, this gesture of goodwill cements the humanitarian legacy that Harling and Nikanor created together.
  • In “Ten Million Relief Plan”, the LRSSG are accompanied by a squadron of Osean P-1 anti-submarine aircraft who are given the extremely dangerous task of deploying sonobuoys to track down the Alicorn’s position underwater while exposing themselves to attacks from the SACS Squadron and the Alicorn’s UAVs. If you manage to protect all of the P-1’s by the time they finish deploying the sonobuoy barrier, one of the pilots will remark that all of the pilots returning alive from the operation was considered very unlikely in the calculations before thanking Trigger.
  • The cutscene that plays at the end of ‘Ten Million Relief Plan’, really emphasizes how important Trigger is. As Alex and David discuss how it would a bad idea to kill Trigger once the war is over, a collage of missions is presented, with the ones that Trigger took part in had lower casualty rates than ones that didn’t. During said collage, Trigger is represented as a green arrow, and as it flies along, blue arrows follow it, with more and more joining in as it flies along. It ends with Alex saying; "Go Trigger's way, and you'll make it. He leads the way with the arrows flying upwards in the shape of the Lighthouse, further establishing Trigger as a "beacon of light" that Cossette had called him in the final mission.
  • "Pensées", if you read the lyrics to that love song a certain way.
    • The Erusean folk song was sung by the endangered citizens of Tyler Island, who were noted to be partly made up of the families of Belkan researchers. Its as if Belkans have found a new home among a new people.
    • Belka and Eruseas's own histories mark them as Birds of a Feather:
      • Both of them are monarchies that emerged out of a previous federal or republican government.
      • Both fought multiple wars against the world (that were put down mostly by Osea).
      • Both once held power over smaller nations that left the mainland power the moment things got too difficult for either nation.
      • Both were highly nationalistic, and bent on revenge for previous defeats.
      • They both hate them some Osea for similar reasons.
      • And finally, they manage to come together and set aside their hatred of Osea in order to put down an even greater threat to the world that they had inadvertently unleashed (Hugin & Munin), giving both of their countries an second chance.
    • Taken all together, "Pensées" and its lyrics has a triple meaning. First as a love song, second as a Erusean folk song, and third and finally as a metaphor and homage to the relationship between Belka and Erusea from warmongering aggressors bent on revenge, to fighting side by side with their hated enemies in the name of peace.