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Tear Jerker / Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

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AWACS Sky Keeper: Oh my god! Mother Goose One has been shot down!

With all the senseless death and destruction that occurs throughout the course of the Lighthouse War, Skies Unknown has strong claim to being the most tragic entry in the series.

  • The game begins with Avril reminiscing her time with her grandfather and his retired war buddies, noting that the old man is no longer there to see the F-104C Starfighter she helped rebuild taking off into the sky. The camera oddly fixates on an old runway compactor as Avril takes off, as if to say the age of ordinary pilots is well and truly gone forever.
    • The life's work and sole remaining connection between Avril and her late grandfather gets shot down on its maiden flight just because she is in a wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Brownie's gradual mental breakdown as she's chased relentlessly by Mihaly after the latter ambushes her. With her plane damaged and far less combat experience, Brownie is no match for the old pilot who stalks her through the cloud waiting for the perfect shot. In her last moments, she realizes she's not going to make it out alive and is screaming for others to help before Mihaly puts her out of her misery. Her death is but the first of the many tragic losses in the game.
  • The death of former president Vincent Harling, the man who helped end the Circum-Pacific War. After more than a decade of warfare that plagued the Strangereal world, he tries to foster relationships with other countries on the Usean continent by commissioning the Lighthouse as a means to help reconstruct Usea and bury the remains of the Ulysses disaster; only for it to become the spark of the Second Usean Continental War which directly leads to his death. Worse, everyone assumes Trigger was the one responsible for killing Harling as an Erusian unmanned Super Hornet, flying Osean colours and a spoofed IFF, sneaked a missile shot from behind him in the confusion.
    • Adding to the tragedy, Harling's death occurs on June 6th, the same date as the seven nuclear detonations that occurred at the closing days of the Belkan War.
    • Harsher in Hindsight when you remember that the Osean government didn't reveal the true circumstances of Wardog/Razgriz Squadron until about a decade after the Circum-Pacific War. Harling died only nine years after the Circum-Pacific War, never seeing the fighter squadron that saved his life and became one of his closest allies be vindicated. He may know the truth, but the rest of the world believed that Wardog's pilots had died a coward's death as traitors, and he would not be able to be there when that was finally overturned. Sure, there was speculation about how suspicious it was that days after the best squadron in the air force commits treason and vanishes into the ocean another squadron with the exact same numbers shows up so anyone with half a brain can probably realize it, but Harling was probably counting the days until he could clear the names of the people who saved his life. It gets even worse when you consider that one of the pilots of Wardog Squadron, Kei Nagase, is in space and needs the Space Elevator to go back down.
    • To top it all off, the music that plays during his death is a mournful chorus singing The Unsung War's main theme.
    • During the stealth portion of the mission (where you have to slip past enemy sensors to get to the space elevator), AWACS Sky Keeper talks about how Harling is "still the president in my eyes", talking about how he ended the Circum-Pacific War and built the Lighthouse afterwards. His monologue only serves to make the moment you seem to kill Harling utterly sting, and he sounds devastated and disappointed in you.
  • Stonehenge firing for the last time is sure to bring tears to your eyes. The battery was originally built to protect humanity from the Ulysses asteroid and even losing one of its guns to an asteroid from Ulysses, but then the Eruseans captured it and used it to secure air superiority in the Usean Continental War, forcing the ISAF to destroy all but one of the railguns. Fast forward to the Lighthouse War, the Oseans repair the remaining railgun that was knocked out during the Ulysses impact to bring down one of the Arsenal Birds, but in-between the facts that the gun was rusting in the desert for around a quarter of century and that they're only able to provide enough energy to fire just one shot it's clear from the get-go that this is its last act. In a way, destroying the Arsenal Bird redeemed Stonehenge of the death and destruction that it caused, and when the railgun powers down, the battery is finally laid to rest.
    • "When history witnesses a great change, Razgriz reveals itself... first, as a dark demon. As a demon, it uses its power to rain death upon the land, and then it dies. However, after a period of slumber, Razgriz returns, this time, as a great hero."
  • During the Battle of Farbanti, Osea and Erusea end up destroying each other's communication satellites, not only mutually eliminating the chain of command, but also creating a debris field that mostly annihilates the information network in orbit, reducing the entire Usean continent to a state of complete anarchy, with separatist movements erupting over existing nations left and right. Not to mention both Osean and Erusean troopers who can no longer tell friend from foe resulting in needless casualties. In just one fell swoop, any notion of long-lasting peace in Strangereal is gone in a blink of an eye. The whole situation is horrifying and even more tragic when one puts two-and-two together to realize how the Aurelian War could have happened with the Oseans unable to send any military forces to help Aurelia.
  • After the Battle of Farbanti, which included the death of Wiseman, and the failed Escort Mission of Labarthe, the unnamed LRSSG commander who's been giving out mission briefings and debriefings ever since Trigger and Count joined the group is gone from the rest of the game, with the new Mission Control Jaeger remarking that the commander's fallen into utter shambles and spends every day sobbing his eyes out in his quarters. It's absolutely heartbreaking given that the LRSSG commander has been nothing but professional and amicable to Trigger, Count, and the rest of the group ever since the former two joined (Especially in contrast to the ungrateful, credit-stealing asshole Colonel McKinsey. The LRSSG commander makes it a point in Trigger's and Count's first LRSSG sortie that equipment is expendable and pilots are not; "we don't want any more casualties".), and now you have to carry on without him for the final few missions. You never hear from the commander again, not even after the final battle, which can make one wonder if he ever did rebound from the shock of losing his best pilot and his failed attempt at reconciling matters between Oseans and Eruseans.
  • Retreating Osean soldiers discovered that the fights between the radical and conservative Erusean factions on Tyler Island also resulted in dead civilians, many of them children. In a twist of how things usually play out in Strangereal, many of the dead adult civilians turn out to be Belkan consultant workers for the Erusean Air and Space Administration. To make things worse, the majority of the Belkans were shot execution style at point-blank range by the conservative Erusean soldiers, who blamed the radicals and all who worked with them for Erusea's downfall.
    • Made even more heartbreaking by a bit of radio chatter from retreating Osean forces: they'll need another 30 minutes before they head back to HQ... Because the soldiers of the unit want to at least give the children a proper burial.
  • The worst of things comes to Cossette, who has lost her entire family and her beloved dog to both radicals and conservatives. And nobody came to save her until Spare Squadron showed up three days after the massacre.
    • Spare Squadron's prison guard dog, which rushed ahead towards the crash site, also mourns the death of Cossette's pet. If even the guard dog, possibly the one that dragged Avril back to prison at 444th Air Base after her escape attempts, is whining in sadness at the sight and smell of a mass execution, you know just how sad the scene has become...
  • The aftermath of the satellites' destruction and rapidly dwindling supplies forces the Strider Squadron to raid an old town of Shilage for food and supplies, where refugees and the military of the former kingdom who no longer want anything to do with the Osean-Erusean conflict still gather. Both the opposing Sol Squadron stationed there and your own comrades make zero attempt at hiding their disgust at the action taken. But you have to complete the mission anyway because resources are running low and there is nowhere to run from the massive in-fighting that follows the incident's wake. Everyone in the LRSSG knows what they're doing is seven different flavors of wrong, and most of their dialogue leading up to the castle is them expressing just how messed up this whole situation is. Even Long Caster drops his usual casual demeanor, instead remaining very formal throughout the mission transmitting demands of surrender to any unit that will hear him, in hopes of reducing the chance of refugees getting caught up in the fighting. Sadly, no one seems to listen to him as the AA guns and SAM sites keep firing, forcing you to destroy them, and when Sol gets on scene, the first thing they do is give Long Caster and the rest of LRSSG an earful for sinking to the level of common bandits preying on the weak. You can almost hear all the LRSSG pilots shrinking a little lower into their seats in shame, and it makes one wish you could politely ask for food and supplies from Shilage and then offer to make their skies drone-free in return.
    • What leads the Sol Squadron to return to their own homeland in the first place; while Princess Cosette leads the Erusean in a war for 'independence', younger Sol Squadron pilots who hail from the former Grand Duchy of Shilage before it was eventually occupied by Erusean grudgingly tell Mihaly that some from their generation don't even remember their own language anymore. Comes the mission Lost Kingdom and they go back to Shilage Castle and try to rebuild their own homeland, away from Erusean influence, like many other nations after the massive Usean communication blackout. As with the fiasco with Harling's space elevator, unity is nothing if it means having to shut up and blindingly go along with the rest of the world.
  • The deaths of various named Spares. The first few times you might not even care about the convicts, but it's when Full Band is killed in unintentional friendly fire incident that it really starts to sting, considering that all of you just began fighting as a 'real' squadron, moments earlier.
  • The look of sheer terror and despair on Princess Cossette's face when she learns about Belka's involvement in the Lighthouse War, and the imminent Robot War her actions are about to bring should Trigger fail to stop it. Erusea and Belka will collectively share more guilt, shame, and even victimhood should the new self-aware drones succeed in mass-producing themselves. As IFF satellites are down, the drones will wage war on ALL of humanity if they manage to hijack the Space Elevator's broadcasting system. And Cossette unwittingly helped them do it.
  • Doctor Schroeder's breakdown. He's lost his homeland, his motivation to continue his revenge-driven work, and any hope of regaining control of the drones he designed, due to the downing of nearly every communication satellite. He knows that he and his fellow Belkans will be held responsible for the chaos of the war. In fact, he expects Ionela to kill him after she's done destroying the data chip containing Mihaly's flight data. But then the girl tosses the now-empty pistol aside and tells him to wake up and help stop the war. And he finally complies.
    • The way he just sinks to the ground instead of having a true Villainous Breakdown speaks legions. Here's a man who went into his project full-bore, but the further he got, the more disillusioned he became, especially when it was clear Mihaly was suffering under the strains of combat, and his granddaughters were beginning to resent Schroeder for it. He makes it clear in his own monologue that despite him putting everything into this project, he no longer held the optimism that he did before, and honestly just wanted to go back to Belka, his home, but he couldn't bring himself to walk away. While Ionela's destroying the disk freed him of that burden, at the same time, it finalized the fact that his drone program, and all the hard work in the end, was completely pointless except to cause unneeded death and destruction.
  • When you think about it, Hugin and Munin's lives are tragic. The two AIs are clearly intelligent and self-aware and are capable of planning and learning. And yet because they are trapped in their programming to win the Lighthouse War by any means necessary, they have to be stopped. If they didn't serve as an extension of the Radical Erusean's will to win the Lighthouse War, they could have become something greater than a weapon. It doesn't help that their successor, Nemo, is also created to serve as a weapon as well.
  • While it's true that Mihaly's final fate serves as a good dose of Laser-Guided Karma for all of the people he shot down (such as Brownie, Champ and Wiseman), it's a bit sad when you remember the moment where Schroeder explains why Mihaly spent the entire Lighthouse War pushing himself to his limits: because his greatest joy in life was flying as a pilot.
  • While the game ends on an optimistic note, it's tempered by the fact that the peace which Trigger, Avril, Cossette and the others fought so hard for will ultimately be undone in 20 years as the decline in power of national governments, coupled with the rise of megacorporations like General Resource and Neucom will end up plunging Usea into another destructive war. Worse, it is all but stated that Schroeder's research into the Z.O.E. Project will become the foundation for the development of Nemo, itself a major catalyst to the Corporate War, rendering all of Trigger's efforts to stop Hugin and Munin's Robot War for naught.
    • The kicker? The Omega Ending of Electrosphere reveals that the Inter-Corporate War will be set in motion by the researcher who created Nemo himself, and who blamed a fighter pilotnote  for the death of someone close to him. Once again, the lust for revenge undoes the work of those who sacrificed everything to achieve peace. And adding to that, said researcher just so happened to have worked for Schroeder.
  • During "Unexpected Visitor", The captain of the Osean landing ship Puffin shares an adorable moment with Long Caster, she and the LRSSG AWACs two go back and forth for a moment geeking out on food and making it obvious that they really have some chemistry. Not even a minute later, she and the rest of the Osean fleet are dead when the Alicorn unleashes its full firepower on them.
  • Some of the Enemy Chatter. No drones defending the alicorn: every plane you shoot down has a living, breathing pilot. And possibly a WSO. One of the lines that plays when you down a fighter: "Damn you! That was our youngest pilot!
  • During Operation Domino when the LRSSG raided Anchorhead. A young female Port Commander was completely overwhelmed when Trigger unleashed hell on the unsuspecting fleet and ground forces, and that's before the Alicorn arrives at Torres starts blasting everything in sight with the ballistic missiles. The poor girl tries to do the best she could to control the damage, but eventually, she breaks down and wails that the whole situation is like a nightmare. Worse, we don't even know if she survived the LRSSG bombing or Torres's raid on the port later. Imagine what the Osean Navy went through when the Yukes raided Port St. Hewlett in Ace Combat 5. The same thing happened to the Eruseans here. It shows that while we're having so much fun bombing the hell out of everything in sight, your enemies suffered terribly and became shellshocked from your wrath.
  • Scream and/or Rage's breakdown in Anchorhead Raid. When Trigger shoots down one or the other, the surviving sibling completely loses it, and will go after Trigger with everything they've got. Long Caster tries to convince them to eject, but they refuse, choosing to die rather than be taken prisoner. Rage's breakdown is arguably sadder considering that he was originally the more level-headed of the two, and was often the one looking out for his sister. When she dies, his calm demeanor completely and utterly shatters. His last line before his plane explodes makes it clear he lost his grip on reality and is desperately trying to find his sister and make sure she is okay.
    Rage: Gotta catch up to her...
    • One of Rage's lines during his Villainous Breakdown is him ranting to Trigger that he and his sister "tried to be heroes, too" in the past, but whatever happened resulted in both of them being turned into the broken mess that they are in the present. It gives nasty implications to what both of them went through under Clemens's (or someone else's) command which caused them to snap and turned into crazy Blood Knight who are out for Trigger's blood personally because they hated seeing someone else becoming the hero that they really hoped to be but could not and are instead being used as expendable tools for someone who doesn't even care if they live or die. It makes the Dalsen siblings not so different from you while you are flying in Spare Squadron. They are what you could have been, and that almost makes them tragic villains in their own right.
    • Scream's heartbreaking reaction when she sees her brother goes down isn't much better. Despite her brother's last words telling her to stay focused, she ends up breaking down completely and starts wailing about how she can't fight Trigger and Count alone before telling Trigger to just put her out of her misery, simultaneously laughing and crying at the same time. When Trigger finally shoots her down, her last words completely contrast that of her brother's. Rage said that he'll catch up to his sister to make sure she's okay. Scream didn't believe that. She thought her brother was the one that would go to heaven while she'll end up all alone in Hell, and the only thing she could still do is snarl one last threat to Three Strikes telling him that she'll be waiting for him there. To further twist the knife, pay attention to Scream's fighting methods after Rage is shot down; she actually becomes less aggressive. This is the same woman who is known as the violent one, who ranted at how badly she was going to kill Trigger during "Unexpected Visitors." Now, she is so utterly broken by Rage's death that she can't even muster the will to fight and it's not until her grip on reality slips so much that she believes Rage is still alive that she begins fighting aggressively again.
      • If Scream manages to shoot Trigger down, rather than feeling glad that she was at least able to avenge her sibling, Scream laments that with Trigger dead, she has no one capable of giving her the death she desires to escape the pain and grief of being alone without her brother.
      Scream: How dare you die so easily! How am I supposed to die now?!
      • Something to take note of is how Scream interacts and fights with Rage; she always follows his lead, letting him formulate the plans and issue the orders, and she goes along with him dutifully, even if she occasionally complains or trades barbs with him. Add onto this the way she talks about him postmortem, describing him as having gone to Heaven (while she condemns Trigger and herself to Hell), and more or less saying he was the one good person in not just her world, but the world by her point of view. It increasingly becomes clear that under that unstable, psychopathic exterior of hers is a girl who absolutely adored her brother...and you just blasted him out of the sky in front of her. Her predicament and hatred for Trigger makes a lot more sense; its not that Trigger's a bad person, per se, but what would you do if someone killed the only truly good person left in the world?
  • During the final SP Mission, 'Ten Million Relief Plan', Torres notices that one of the SACS pilots hasnít written his will yet and asks if he has any family left. The pilot responds that his family died in the war, and upon hearing that, Torres clears him to take off, and tells him to sacrifice himself to hold off Trigger while he prepares to fire the Alicorn's main cannon to Oured.
    • Even worse when you consider what Torres really is. The entire crew of the Alicorn, all 300 of them, sailors, pilots, and soldiers, are utterly devoted to their captain and his cause of ending the war, believing it to be reality, Torres is a madman with an obsession with death and killing that borders on fetishistic and in the end likely doesn't even give a damn about them apart from a means to an end; when the Alicorn is finally struck the death blow, instead of giving the order to abandon ship or even making a minimal effort to evacuate and save his crew, he just gibbers on and on about his grand plan to kill a million people until the ship finally explodes and sinks, taking everyone with it.
  • As a result of their country's long history of meddling in world affairs since the Belkan War, the Belkan people have come to be viewed with suspicion and hostility amongst the nations of Strangereal, to the point that the image of the Belkan as a conspiring warmonger is a commonly held stereotype. After Usea descends into chaos following the collapse of the various satellite networks, and the reveal that the pro-war Radical faction developed Erusea's drone force thanks to technology loaned from Belka, elements of the anti-war Conservative faction in retaliation start to hunt down and kill any Belkan national in Usea that they can find regardless of whether they were affiliated with the Radicals or not, including the Belkan engineers that lived and worked at the Tyler Island Space Center, and their families. In the end, the actions of the Grey Men and other Belkan ultranationalists have not only done nothing to restore their country's former glory, but they have also made their own people, many of whom want nothing to do with the cause of Belkan revanchism, victims of their grudge against Osea and the world.
  • Mobius 1, a bringer of freedom and justice to the Usean Continent when it was occupied by Erusea in 2004, has more or less become the career anti-terrorism pilot for the IUN-PKF, as he has been deployed again against the Free Erusea group. Pilots younger than Mobius 1 haven't reached his level of expertise. Put that through your head. Over 15 years have passed, and this one fighter pilot has to tackle a terrorist group with entire wings of fresh recruits who deserted from the Erusean Air Force (along with planes and supplies) and nobody else in the IUN-PKF is capable of flying alongside him. Apart from SkyEye and the few younger pilots who can't keep up in performance, Mobius 1 is literally flying alone.