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Nightmare Fuel / Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

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Wit: Perfect movement. Just like Mihaly- *static*

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is easily the darkest entry in the series, with a more realistic depiction of War Is Hell, its high body count number, and the fear of not knowing friend from foe.

  • Mission 3 "Two-pronged Strategy" is where we are first introduced to Mihaly and the Arsenal Bird.
    • Halfway through the mission, Brownie is ordered to retreat due to her aircraft being damaged. Gargoyle One is sent to escort her outside the operational airspace, when they're ambushed by Mihaly. Mihaly effortlessly wipes out Gargoyle One, and proceeds to go after Brownie. Only, he doesn't finish her off right away, and simply toys with her, causing her to have a mental breakdown, until she's screaming and begging for support. Unfortunately, it's at this point that Mihaly decides to put Brownie out of her misery, and there's nothing anyone can do to help her.
    • The Arsenal Bird shows up just before this. Its design is clearly reminiscent of the Arkbird, but unlike the Arkbird, the Arsenal Bird is completely unmanned and was designed solely for combat. It can also deploy a huge number of unmanned drones to defend itself, but the most nightmarish part about the Arsenal Bird is its Deflector Shield that renders it invulnerable to almost every attack. A large chunk of the plot revolves around just how powerful of a monster this airborne drone carrier is; even after both are taken down, there's always someone around to comment how even in death, they're still intimidating. The disturbing strains of "Two-Pronged Strategy" only make things worse.
    • The contrast between the Arsenal Bird and the Arkbird is a bit terrifying itself, if symbolically; the Arkbird was a bird of peace...but the Arsenal Bird is a bird of war.
  • For Mission 7 (First Contact), picture the following: You and the 444 Squadron have been tasked with taking out anti-air and radar facilities. Simple enough. Then, the Cyclops and Strider Squadrons are pursued by the UAVs and you have to help them out even though there's a risk of getting your plane electrocuted. Not as simple, but still manageable. But then, an Su-30SM ambushes and effortlessly dispatches your squadmate, Champ. Bandog tells you to keep the new arrival busy while everybody else flees, and you'd think this would be the perfect opportunity to avenge Brownie, right? Instead, you desperately try to keep your cool as Mister X pulls off aerial stunts that you can barely keep up with, even as his on-board computer constantly issues serene warnings such as "Systems malfunction. Systems malfunction." and "Over-G! Over-G!" And as the fight drags on throughout the swirling winds, thick clouds and ever-present lightning strikes, you notice that Mister X is breathing laboriously. As the two of you trade missiles and gunfire, you realize that he sounds... old. And despite his age, he’s easily the most dangerous pilot you’ve had to fight against since the Lighthouse War began, and he’s determined to see if you can provide him with the challenge he so desperately craves. And in the end, he calmly withdraws with his squadron, but it’s only a brief respite… because deep down, you know you’ll probably have to fight him again.
  • IFF systems are meant to make it simple enough to identify friend or foe. The second act of Mission 09, however, opens up with what appears to be Osean fighters approaching Spare Squadron, staying silent when Bandog asks them to identify themselves...and then opening fire on the Spares, leaving the Spares helpless and unable to not only unable to distinguish who's enemy or otherwise, but not even able to lock onto enemies they can identify since their IFF systems don't let them target aircraft marked as friendlies, including these fighters that are clearly non-Oseans spoofing their IFF signals. It takes some quick thinking on Tabloid's part in the midst of Spare Squadron's numbers being horrifically reduced for Bandog to be able to sort out who's friendly and who's enemy.
  • During McKinsey's escort mission to Bulgurdarest's border, everything seems to have calmed down after you took down all the SAM sites and the Erusean interceptors. Then a white unidentified aircraft flies past you and the cargo transport, ignoring all hails to identify itself as it stays motionless for a few seconds, before diving down in a twirl and engaging you in a brutal dogfight to the sound of its theme; because the song takes drum cues from "Zone of Endless", it becomes clear to Ace Combat veterans that this is an advanced drone unlike the other ones seen in the war. During the Battle of Farbanti, Mihaly pulls a similar maneuver in his introductory cutscene, meaning that the ADFX-10's pattern was not a coincidence.
  • After the Osean/Erusean ASAT strikes take down communications, order within both armies completely breaks down, to the point that there's factions committing outright warcrimes. One cutscene shows Erusean soldiers lining up a group of civilians, including children, and shooting them all dead for suspicion of being tied to the radicals in the armed forces... all while the Erusean Princess watches with silent horror.
  • Everything about Mission 16 is this. From the eerie electronic synth playing in the background to the chaos occurring in the city below as the Osean forces clash with the Erusean Radical and Conservative factions, neither side being able to determine friend from foe due to the collapse of the satellite network. Later in the mission, you're tasked with protecting an EASA transport plane carrying Schroeder and Mihaly's granddaughters when the drone fighters escorting the transport suddenly attack you without warning. Even worse, the drones' AI hacks the land based UAV launchers to summon reinforcements, overriding Erusean commands to abort their launch, indicating that the drone program Schroeder worked tirelessly to perfect has gone rogue and has put all of Strangereal in danger.
    • Remember when it seems like you killed Harling in Mission 04? And when you and the rest of Spare Squadron got attacked by "Osean" fighters in Mission 09? Labarthe, the Erusean defector who's the escortee of this mission gives a pretty nasty reveal: The Erusean Radicals were giving their drones and IFF spoofings a spin, with two of their deployments being in Mission 09 with that "self-identify as Oseans and then attack Oseans" stunt, as well as in Mission 04, where he reveals that yes, one of those drones killed Harling and made an Osean (read: you) take the fall for it. Those bastard drones were the reason you got kicked out of the regular forces, had your reputation as a soldier completely ruined, and sent off to a penal unit to die, and who's to say that they aren't capable of other Frame-Up jobs with their IFF-spoofing technology?
  • After the Osean-Erusean coalition manages to destroy the second Arsenal Bird, the war appears to be finally be over. Cue the arrival of Hugin and Munin, two highly advanced UAVs containing Mihaly's flight data that decimate the Osean-Erusean forces in quick succession. Worse, in the final mission where you have to confront them, they are seen trying to use the space elevator's transmission capabilities to transmit all their combat data to automated drone factories across Usea and mass-produce an army of drones that combines the advanced technology of Hugin and Munin's construction with the skills of the top ace pilots in the world and none of the human restrictions. Even worse, in the final battle, they are still learning: the drones are recording and analyzing Trigger's flight style on top of the already-formidable data they have from Mihaly. In short, these two drones came very close to triggering a Skynet-esque revolution that would have plunged all of Strangereal into an apocalyptic Robot War.
    • As the final fight progresses, casualties among your allied aces pile up as Hugin and Munin brutally mow them down without giving them a chance to eject, with Salamander 3 and Skoll 2 being killed within seconds of each other right after they panic over the comms.
    • What's even scarier than that? What sounds like a screech can be heard several times over the radio feed. Hugin and Munin are communicating with each other. Or worse, they're laughing at you.
    • Just how smart they can be? During the underground tunnel chase below the space elevator, the fleeing ADF-11 manages to hide itself and ambush you from behind with its laser guns where there is no room to dodge, and funneling you into a single tunnel to boot. Everything could've gone wrong if it wasn't for Count blocking the shot.
    • Then there's their nature and origin. The A.I. program is derived from the latest iteration of the Zone of Endless system, marking its first appearance since the Usean coup d'etat in the late 90s. Then comes the reveal that the drone program given to Erusea, as well as the origin of Z.O.E. itself, came from none other than Belka. It seems that whatever the conflict, the grudge of the fallen nation will come back haunting the free world of Strangereal, and this time, their revenge really was a hair's breadth from being fulfilled.
    • The cutscene that plays prior to the final mission shows what appears to be recordings from previous cutscenes being displayed as the Z.O.E. activates while an eerie choir is playing in the background (a darker rendition of the game's credits theme that's sung at several points in the story). The implication is that Z.O.E. has been silently watching the events of the war unfold in real time, gathering data and information to improve itself before being unleashed upon the world.
    • The shot of Z.O.E. activating, revealing an eerie red electronic camera lens very similar to the HAL 9000's infamous camera eye, amidst a completely dark background, provides the page image.
    • And the worst part? It's all for nothing. Electrosphere's Omega Ending reveals that Nemo, its protagonist, is actually an AI acting out a simulation, no doubt a descendant of Z.O.E. Out of malice and revenge, it's ultimately released to the world to recreate whatever route you followed (with one route basically described as killing everything/everyone in sight). Every single action made at the Lighthouse, all for naught, thanks to one man's desire for revenge. Not crazy enough for you? According to concept art, that one man worked for Schroeder.
  • The VR mode, funny enough. Since you can't have sudden camera changes in VR without risking motion sickness, there is no perspective shift when you die! If you're shot down you get the pleasant experience of being in a burning cockpit as the flames creep towards you, before the screen mercifully blacks out.
  • Imagine you are in a massive air battle where you are significantly out numbered. However, you making headway on the enemy. Then suddenly two unknown fighters come into the battle, one of them takes out an enemy fighter. Reinforcements? Nope. They're coming after you and only you and they are relentless and by now you may be low on ammo. This is what Trigger has to deal with in Unexpected Visitor.
  • Rage and Scream's Villainous Breakdowns when you kill their other sibling first in "Anchorhead Raid" are quite unsettling. The former goes into a murderous fury as he spends the rest of the mission screaming that he will kill Trigger, while the latter alternates between tearful, maniacal giggling and begging Trigger to kill her. Should Scream be shot down last, in her final moments she will state that she's sure her brother will be in heaven... because she will be waiting for Trigger in hell.
    Rage's aircraft is shot down.
    Scream: "RAAAAAGE!"
    Rage's aircraft explodes.
    Scream: "AAAARGH! [sobbing] I TOLD YOU NOT TO CALL ME AN IDIOT!"
    Count: "Only one left! We'll run 'em down together, but the death blow will be from you, Trigger!"
    Scream: "NO!"
    Long Caster: "Don't let the enemy's emotions make you lose your cool."
    Count: "Hah, I don't pity 'em, not one bit."
    Scream: "I can't do this alone! He was real smart, YOU KNOW THAT?! NO! I can't do anything, not on my own! NO! I don't want to live! KILL ME! [Laughing Mad] JUST KILL ME, THREE STRIKES! ...Three Strikes. [Laughing Mad] I'll kill you! [Laughing Mad] NO! You wanna kill me, right?! C'mon, man! I'm all yours! [laughing and sobbing] C'MON! TELL ME TO DIE! ...I'll kill you. We tried to be heroes too. We really tried. I know you're there, Rage. Let's do this! DIE!'re dead! Together, we can do this! As long as you're here, I can shoot him! RAGE! DON'T LEAVE ME ALL ALONE! YOU CAN'T JUST LEAVE ME LIKE THIS!"
    Scream's aircraft is shot down.
    Long Caster: "That's a hit! We got the bat!"
    Scream: "[Laughing Mad]"
    Long Caster: "Unidentified aircraft, eject."
    Scream: "No."
    Long Caster: "Eject now."
    Scream: "No! (trembling) Ugh... I know Rage's going to heaven, so I'm gonna be all alone again in Hell. I'll be waiting for you down there, Three Strikes. Three Strikes, I'll--"
    • If Rage is shot down last, his final words are more unsettling than Scream's. Instead of saying she's going to heaven, he admits they're both going to hell, but he'd still rather go to hell than live in a world where Trigger's alive.
      Scream's aircraft is shot down.
      Scream: "(hyperventilating)"
      Scream's aircraft explodes.
      Rage: "SCREAM! Dammit, you'll pay for this, Three Strikes!"
      Count: "Only one left! We'll run 'em down together, but the death blow will be from you, Trigger!"
      Rage: "Oh, I'll kill him! I'll kill him, alright!"
      Long Caster: "Don't let the enemy's emotions make you lose your cool."
      Count: "Hah, I don't pity 'em, not one bit."
      Rage: "I'll kill you! (hyperventilation) I'll kill you! [Laughing Mad] I'LL KILL YOU! You'll pay for this, Three Strikes! How dare you! You're dead...! She was my one and only...! What makes you a hero?! We tried to be heroes too! We really tried! I'll kill you! I can tell... I know you're with me! Here we go, Scream, we do this together! I can't do this alone, but if I have you with me... I'll kill you!"
      Rage's aircraft is shot down.
      Rage: "AAARGH! SCREAM!"
      Long Caster: "That's a hit! We got the bat!"
      Rage: "Ugh...! Scream...! Three Strikes! (hyperventilation) [Laughing Mad] It's just as I imagined. No matter what we do, this... is how we end. But know this, Three Strikes! I'd rather go to hell than live in a world shaped by you! So yeah, we're heading there now!"
      Long Caster: "Unidentified aircraft, eject."
      Rage: "(hyperventilation) Aaargh!"
      Long Caster: "Eject now."
      Rage's aircraft explodes.
  • Anchorhead Raid demonstrates what it is like to be on the other side of the slaughter Trigger commits. In the mission, if you kill all targets, you destroy four fleets made up of battlecruisers and air defense cruisers with escorts, a divisions worth of ground equipment, multiple air wings, five targeted strikes on Erusean Royal Navy officers including the Vice Chief of Naval Ops, a fleet admiral, two war hero captains and a task force commander being groomed as future commanding officer of the entire Navy and the Mimic Squadron is finished off here. After high command flat out refuses to believe one squadron could do all that this exchange takes place:
    Erusean Command: Four aircraft destroyed the entire port? You must be hallucinating!
    Radar Officer: It's not a hallucination, it's a nightmare!
  • Even if it's wartime, the detached way Osean military announces the deaths of targeted Erusean officers (at your own hands no less), along with effects it would have on future Erusean government in relation to Osea's own gain during Anchorhead Raid can be quite chilling to some people, that widespread killing is now done by just casually pressing buttons often with lost-lasting ramifications no matter who did it to whom. Even more so when you put Torres and later the drones into focus.
  • Torres and the crew of the Alicorn can come across as pretty unnerving once you learn more about them. To start, when the Alicorn started her initial shakedown cruise, something went wrong and the crew ended up stranded at the bottom of the ocean for almost two years before they managed to be rescued. But...something had changed in them. Now, every single member of Torres' crew is utterly devoted to him, and the man himself is a borderline-manic extremist who can be best described as the bastard lovechild of Colonel Kurtz and Marko Ramius. To get an idea of just how fanatical they are for Torres, listen carefully to the SACS squadron as they flee the airspace: They're reciting a mantra as they fly, and the escorts even go so far as to throw themselves in front of missiles aimed at the payload plane. When you finally down the payload plane, the pilot screams, "SALVATION!" and detonates his payload rather than eject. What Torres has done is created a cult... one that has the keys to one of the deadliest superweapons in Strangereal history.
    SACS Pilots: "I hereby swear that I will be a proud, brave, and vigilant soldier. To uphold the honor of our nation and its military. To submit to the orders of my superiors."
  • The Alicorn is an terrifying weapon in her own right. Originally built by Yuktobania, she is the bigger and more vengeful sister of the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi. Her standard armaments and force projection capabilities are staggering and the equivalent of an entire carrier strike group. This includes two side railguns that have immense firepower and tracking capabilities (and are incredibly durable, capable of sustaining multiple missile impacts before failing), similar to Mihaly's railgun in his final fight. The railguns and standard armaments wiped out an entire Osean fleet sent to capture it without taking a scratch. Then there's the hidden, 600mm (as in, larger than a battleships main guns) monstrosity of a rail cannon underneath the runway that can launch thermobaric shells from long distance, as well as nuclear warheads, with a range of over 3,000 kilometers. Add onto that VLS launchers that can send a miniature Macross Missile Massacre at all sorts of targets and the capability to launch swarms of multi-purpose drones (that are armed and capable of engaging targets alongside advanced "barrier" drones that project EM fields that nullify missiles and cannon fire) this level of blistering firepower makes the Alicorn a mobile Stonehenge with the destructive capability of Belka's V2 nuclear weapon and the ability to stay submerged and hidden for long periods of time before emerging to strike its target. Not to mention it's durability; Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi for the most part were powerful, but withered under sustained fire as soon as they surfaced. Alicorn on the other hand, can take multiple volleys of sustained fire to its hull, shrug off a combined ASROC (dedicated anti-submarine munitions) strike from a fleet of Osean missile destroyers, lose multiple ballast tanks, and still be capable of submerging and retaliating. It's almost as if Yuktobania when designing her, looked at the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi and decided to combine each of their capabilities into a far more durable, nightmarish and powerful weapons system. Then Erusea bought it and went even farther in enhancing its capabilities...
    • The Alicorn is an upgraded successor of the already powerful Scinfaxi-class submarine; Yuktobania sold the Alicorn to Erusea as scrap after the Circum-Pacific War only for Erusea to extensively refit her and deploy it to the frontlines once the war began to turn against them, making the Alicorn yet another relic of Osea and Yuktobania's Cold War that has come back to haunt Strangereal. In terms of raw destructive potential, the Alicorn outclasses every other superweapon that has been shown in the franchise thus far. And as mentioned above, it's in the hands of a madman that's willing to use it to butcher millions of people.
  • The sheer lengths that Torres is willing to go through to nuke Oured in Ten Million Relief Plan, from faking his surrender in order to buy time for the Alicorn to prepare its rail cannon, which is a massive violation of the international rules of war, to flooding the sub and forcing it to sink just so that the rail cannon can gain the elevation it needs to fire and hit its target, regardless of the risks to the ship and her crew. At the same time, Torres' true nature comes to light as he rants over the radio about how "beautiful" and "elegant" it is to kill a million people and demands to know why Trigger and the others cannot comprehend and appreciate this. Beneath all of his posturing of wanting to end the Lighthouse War, Torres was nothing more than a monster that got off on the thought of butchering millions of innocent people.
    Torres: A powerful boat, a powerful gun, powerful ammunition! Add to that lots of people and a precise aim! Then sprinkle death over all of it, and the formula is complete!...Don't you see?! Don't you see?! [laughter] Landing a clean shot on a difficult target! That is what makes it elegant! That is true beauty!