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Video Game / Ace Combat

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Fly the infinite blue skies.

Focus. Control. Conviction. Resolve. A true ace lacks none of these attributes. Nothing can deter you from the task at hand except your own fears. This is your sky.

Ace Combat is a series of arcade-style combat flight games, involving flight sim levels of graphical detail but without all the fiddly realistic controls; the play style is something between Shoot Em Ups and the Action Game. Developed and published by Namco / Bandai Namco Entertainment under the Project Aces production team, the games are semi-realistic, featuring real-life aircraft and such things as planes stalling if they slow down too much, but combined with aircraft that carry hundreds of missiles at once and unlimited fuel. Most of the games take place in a Fictional Earth named Strangereal, one similar to and yet very different from our own due to existence of various powerful superweapons reigniting wars all over the world.

Part of Ace Combat 's appeal is that the games, starting from Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, featured real-life planes and experimental fighter jets, often working with well-known aerospace manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Fairchild Aircraft, Boeing Defense, Space & Security and Northrop Grumman, among many others, to achieve the impressive amount of authenticity and realism seen with the planes of the real-life military.

The series currently spans seven consoles and twelve games:

"*" denotes a game taken place in the Strangereal universe.
"**" denotes a game set in the real world and/or running in its own continuity.
  • Arcade:
    • Air Combat**: As an ace pilot codenamed Falcon 1, you are commissioned by the UN to carry out various intercept missions against a rogue state.
    • Air Combat 22**: Hostile forces have launched an all-out attack, and as one of three pilots for the 19th Aerial Force (Aeries, Top Gunner, or the returning Falcon 1) it's up to you and your squad to push them back.
    • Mach Storm**: Being the leader of Storm Squadron, you are assigned to stop the potential terrorist attacks unleashed in many parts of the real-world. Based off the Assault Horizon universe but with its own take.

  • PlayStation:

  • PlayStation 2:
    • Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skiesnote *: In 2003, Erusea has invaded its neighbors and by 2004 controls all of Usea. As Mobius One, top ace of the Independent States Allied Forces, it's up to you to drive them back and take the fight to them.
    • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War note *: In 2010, a series of mysterious recon activities leads to a war between the Union of Yuktobanian Republics and the Osean Federation. However, the real cause of the war is not as straightforward as it first appears. As "Blaze", your goal is to find out the true cause of the war and stop it from spreading. Was it really the Union of Yuktobanian Republics, or was it some other faction acting behind the scenes?
    • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan Warnote *: In 1995, the Belkan Federation attempts a land grab. As mercenary pilot Galm One "Cipher", you fight to thwart their goals; however, the driving of the Belkans to peace talks is not the end of things.

  • PSP:
    • Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception*: In 2020, the Democratic Republic of Leasath launches an attack on its southern neighbour, the Federal Republic of Aurelia, nearly overrunning the latter within ten days thanks to their airborne fortress Gleipnir. As Gryphus One, you lead Aurelia's survivors in taking back your nation.
    • Ace Combat: Joint Assaultnote **: Joint Assault deviates from the Strangereal world that every previous installment of the game has taken place in, instead taking place in real world locations such as Tokyo, London, and San Francisco. As Antares, a newcomer to Martinez Security, you fight the machinations of a powerful terrorist group across the world.

  • Game Boy Advance:
    • Ace Combat Advance*: In 2032, Corporations begin to dominate the world and corpocracies now control as much of the world as independent democracies. One corporation, General Resource, creates the Air Strike Force to help take over the remaining independent countries and use them to gain more resources. As a pilot of the United Air Defense, you are the last hope for the remaining independent republics as you stop General Resource from taking over the world. invokedThe first game in the series not to see a Japanese release.

  • Xbox 360:
    • Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation*: In 2015, the Federal Republic of Estovakia, after coming out of years of Civil War, invades the neighboring Republic of Emmeria. Due to the use of high-tech weaponry and grizzled veterans, the Estovakians were able to take over the Emmerian Mainland and drive the Emmerian military to Vitoze. As Garuda One, you lead Emmeria's survivors in taking back your country.

  • Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC:
    • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon**: In a departure from past games, Assault Horizon is set in the real world instead of Strangereal (hence why this game is not titled AC7). You take on the role various pilots in the 108th Task Force, a mixed arms force made up of NATO and Russian personnel. The 108th's mission is to combat a growing rebel movement in Africa, aided by Russian mercenaries who possess a terrifying new superweapon codenamed "Trinity."

  • Mobile Phone:
    • Ace Combat Xi: Skies of Incursion*: In 2020, the Democratic Republic of Leasath launches an attack on its southern neighbour, the Federal Republic of Aurelia, nearly overrunning the latter within ten days thanks to their airborne fortress Gleipnir. You play as Falco One, another Ace Squad who took part in the same war with Gryphus One, in an attempt to liberate your country from Leasath's control.
    • Ace Combat: Northern Wings*: The player takes command of Grendel Squadron, a secret squadron created by the Kingdom of Nordennavic, a small, neutral nation on the Anean Continent, to covertly influence wars that may threaten their homeland. It is set across a seventeen year period during wars featured in 04, 5, and 6.

  • Nintendo 3DS:
    • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacynote *: Despite the name, Assault Horizon Legacy returns to Strangereal. It's a remake and retelling of Ace Combat 2 adding elements from earlier games in the series, primarily Zero, with you taking on the role of Phoenix (aka Scarface One). AC2's wingmen Slash and Edge make a return, as does the enigmatic Z.O.E.

  • PlayStation 3

  • PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch:
    • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown*: Taking place in 2019, the Kingdom of Erusea declares war on the Osean Federation over a territory dispute after Osea constructed a Space Elevator called the "Light House". You take on the role of Trigger, a convicted criminal, and are thrown into the 444th fighter squadron — the Spare Squadron — for atonement along with other convicts.

  • Unknown/TBA
    • Title Unconfirmed, but occasionally, and tentatively, referred to as "Ace Combat 8" - the next iteration of the series was confirmed to be in development in August of 2021, but no details have yet been released.

Also worth mentioning is The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces for the Nintendo Wii, a Licensed Game of the Sky Crawlers anime. Though it has no direct ties with the Ace Combat universe, it was created by the same team and features the same arcade-sim air combat feel; as a result, many fans see it as a Spiritual Adaptation.

In 2011, the Strangereal series, specifically the third installment Electrosphere, seems to have been retconned into the United Galaxy Space Force series, also tentatively known as Namcoverse. Said series seems to unite many of the futuristic games previously released by Namco, where the Strangereal games are the chronologically earliest installments.

Release order

  1. Air Combat (1995)
  2. Ace Combat 2 (1997)
  3. Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere (1999)
  4. Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies (2001)
  5. Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (2004)
  6. Ace Combat Advance (2005)
  7. Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War (2006)
  8. Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception (2006)
  9. Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (2007)
  10. Ace Combat Xi: Skies of Incursion (2009)
  11. Ace Combat: Joint Assault (2010)
  12. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (2011)note 
  13. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (2011) note 
  14. Ace Combat: Northern Wings (2011)
  15. Ace Combat Infinity (2014)
  16. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (2019)

Strangereal chronology

The original/main continuity of the AC series is set on the Constructed World of Strangereal. The first two games were originally not really part of it but have since been retconned to appear that way.

  1. Air Combat: Skully Islands insurrection (1995)
  2. Ace Combat Zero: Belkan War (1995)
  3. Ace Combat 2 and its remake Assault Horizon Legacy: Usean Rebellion/First Usean Continental War (1997/1998)
  4. Ace Combat: Northern Wings: Various conflicts (1999 to 2016)
  5. Ace Combat 04: (Second) Usean Continental War (2004-05)
  6. Ace Combat 5: Operation Katina (2006), Circum-Pacific War (2010)
  7. Ace Combat 7 VR Missions: Second Free Erusea Uprising (2014)
  8. Ace Combat 6: Anean Continental War (2015-16)
  9. Ace Combat 7: Lighthouse War (2019)
  10. Ace Combat X and Ace Combat Xi: Leasath-Aurelia War (2020)
  11. Ace Combat Advance: General Resource Conflict (2032)
  12. Ace Combat 3: Usean Corporate War (2040)

Tropes list at vector 360, on the nose:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Jets in the real world can't carry anywhere near the number of missiles and bombs that the jets in the games can carry, but if they did you would be going back to resupply every few minutes so it's entirely reasonable for jets to carry dozens of missiles for each mission.
    • Beyond-Visual-Range missiles are the norm on jets, but what is cooler: pulverizing all the enemies in the map as soon as they pop up on radar or intense dogfighting?
  • Ace Pilot: The entire series is based on this trope and Improbable Piloting Skills, wingmen and allied aircraft excepted. Supposedly Mobius One may be considered the trope namer for 04, 5, Zero, 6 (and maybe X), especially if you take Ace Combat 5's Arcade Mode ("Operation Katina") as canon, where Mobius One (with the help of AWACS SkyEye) defeated a de facto resurgent Erusean military and at the final battle six X-02 Wyverns using only a F-22 Raptor a year after the events of Ace Combat 04, where he was the lead element in every major ISAF operation of the Usean Continental War of 2003-2005.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In Mach Storm, the CFA-44 Nosferatu from Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation is apparently a US Air Force plane, as you take off from an aircraft carrier commanded by Captain Nicholas Andersen and fight Russian planes straight from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: Strangereal was created solely as a setting which permitted repeated full-theater international conflicts for Ace Pilots to participate in, which have been non-existent in Real Life since the development of nuclear weapons - see Broken Aesop.
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: Pretty much every Ace Combat game requires the player to do this for some reason, most often because an enemy base is within the canyon and they have an undefeatable network of surface-to-air missiles covering the airspace above. Sometimes there are enemy planes or helicopters skulking in the canyons or other narrow passageways or tunnels, just waiting to achieve missile lock.
  • A.K.A.-47:
    • Weapons are referred to with generic descriptors instead of real names; thus in, for example, Ace Combat Zero, the F-14 Tomcat, Su-37 Terminator, JAS Gripen, and Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon all use XLAAs whereas the real planes would probably use different missiles for the long range role. The actual models of the missiles are all different and accurately based on a real missile at least similar to the missile's role, though; for example on the F-14 the XLAA resembles the AIM-54 Phoenix, whereas the Typhoon uses Meteor BVRAAMs.
    • Also, Electrosphere gives the airplanes slightly different names as part of the game's futuristic feel, such as the Eurofighter 2000E Typhoon II.
    • Justified with the minor mistakes the games sometimes make. They sometimes use prototype aircraft, so certain planes have names and functions different from usual (e.g. the F-16E Block 60 was named the F-16C Block 60, and in Ace Combat 2, the Raptor wasn't released yet, so they modeled the YF-22, the prototype version, instead).
  • Airborne Mook: Enemy aircraft, naturally. Enemy aces qualify as Elite Mooks or better, especially when they come in squadrons.
  • Airstrike Impossible: A recurring mission type. The series loves to force you to fly jets through underground bunkers or down the barrel of giant cannons, with at least one in every game, usually in the penultimate or final level.
  • Alternate Universe: Strangereal, a Constructed World similar to ours in many ways, except without nukes and continents closer together.
  • All There in the Manual: The full history of the Ulysses asteroid is never fully explored in any of the games. Project Aces released "Aces at War: A History" before the release of Ace Combat 7 to help better explain in good detail more background behind various characters and events in the franchise.
  • Americasia: The Osean Federation downplays this and combines with Fantasy Counterpart Culture by being Strangereal's version of the United States of America with a decided use of the Japanese Self Defense Forces and their military ranking system.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: The only player characters to definitely return in a later game are Mobius One (player character of 04, the arcade mode of 5 and the VR mode of 7) and Phoenix (protagonist of Air Combat and Ace Combat 2/Assault Horizon Legacy), though the latter's paint schemes are entirely different.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Shoot down enemy aces and you can slap on their paint jobs on your planes.
  • Animal Theme Naming: The Yellow Squadron's official designation is "Aquila" (Latin and Italian for "Eagle"). Over two dozen Belkan aces are named after various birds (in German), and another dozen, after animals (ditto). Aurelia's air force likewise have bird genera for squadron names, as do the individual pilots of Emmeria's 15th squadron.
  • Anti-Villain: The PS2 series hammer in the fact that your enemies are people too, with the wars being waged due to economic strife caused either by the Ulysses meteor or from the country itself.
  • Arbitrary Mission Restriction: Each game typically includes at least one mission where the player is required to fly through a trench, staying below the lip of the trench. It usually has one of two justifications: Either the mission is a stealth-recon mission, and flying above the trench will result in detection and immediate failure, or there is heavy anti-aircraft fire that can't reach the player in the trench, but will instantly kill them if they fly too high.
  • Armies Are Evil: Subverted in most games after 2. Especially considering when you see cutscenes of pilots and soldiers from the opposing army doing what they were trained to do without any complaints.
  • Armored Coffins: All the planes in 3 are piloted via a so-called COFFIN (COnnection For Flight INterface) system, which is a kind of neural interface that allows you to steer them with your brain but has no ejection seats whatsoever.
  • Arrow Cam: Holding down the missile button in most of the games will cause this to happen.
  • Artificial Brilliance: Ace pilots, when compared to the standard mooks. Yellow Squadron in 04 will use the Pugachev Cobra maneuver to get behind you, for instance.
  • Back from the Brink: In 2, 04, Zero, and X, the first mission starts as the last allied base in the area is under attack by enemy bombers with air support from starting fighters, which give a quick "tutorial" in anti-air combat with easy targets. 5 and 6 subvert it by having this mission a little later on (and 5 has the distinction of being the first base attacked instead of last).
  • Battleship Raid: Most games feature boss stages where you face a giant enemy aircraft, battleship or group of such aircraft: the Aigaion, Hresvelgr, Arsenal Birds, Arkbird and SOLG are all examples of this trope. Even the first game ended with a giant flying battleship.
  • Bigger Stick: Getting better planes or better upgrade parts for planes you already have.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: In-Universe, most of the fictional superfighters come out of nowhere with little explanation, like the ADF-01 in 2 (and especially its reappearance in 5). Starting from Zero and X these start getting some justification, most often being a sort of last-resort superweapon the enemy hopes to turn the tide with.
  • Bloodless Carnage: As the game mainly features air combat. However exception exists:
    • In Assault Horizon in a cutscene where Markov betrays his conspirators.
    • In Skies Unknown when the Scrap Queen plane crashes. She survives though, as it is the first video cutscene of the game and she plays a major role in the game proper.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • Joint Assault has BNN.
    • 5, Zero and 7 have OBC.
    • 7 also has ENN.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: You can't unlock the respective superplanes of each game without completing story mode at least once, depending on the game (and that's not even getting into unlocking the bonus paint schemes for them, which requires beating the game at the highest difficulties). 5 requires taking both story branches and finding specific ground targets to destroy; Zero, without Old Save Bonus, requires beating the game twice with different Ace Styles to unlock the X-02, and beating it three times with all the different Supreme Ace medals to unlock the ADF-01; and the PAK FA can't even be used in the story mode in Assault Horizon.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • The games like to talk about how terrible nuclear weapons are... despite that the Strangereal setting needed to be made in the first place because nuclear arms have prevented the kind of all-out wars between major military powers that the plotlines are built around. So nukes are bad, as we are told by a world that collapses into gigantic, pointless wars every five or so years because nobody has an effective deterrent against them. Historically, nuclear weapons were not developed in Strangereal until the 1980s by Belka (Strangereal's version of Nazi Germany). Superweapons such as airborne fortresses, railguns and laser platforms are supposed to fill the deterrent role that nuclear weapons normally would, but they do a poor job of it, not least for the fact that they aren't actually meant to be one in-universe; although some could act the role due to being well-known, built for a different purpose but also being effective as a weapon (Stonehenge was built and highly-publicized for the purpose of protecting the continent from the Ulysses asteroid, Excalibur was meant for missile defense, Chandelier also for shooting down asteroids, Arkbird was already fitted with lasers for destroying asteroid fragments still in orbit), for the most part they are in fact meant to be used in a shooting war, most of them being purpose-built for killing people and introduced to the world at large by firing the opening shots of a war (most of the airborne fortresses such as the P-1112 Aigaion from 6 or the Gleipnir from X) or quickly finished, repaired, or otherwise repurposed to turn the tide of a war that's gone badly (stuff like Megalith from 04, Arkbird and then the SOLG from 5, Chandelier from 6, etc.)
    • The "Nukes are bad" message that's often presented in the games is even more undermined by the fact that the massive conventional wars the series portrays are only possible because Strangereal is a world where nuclear proliferation never occurred, and thus no doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction arose to discourage overt conflict between superpowers. Even worse, the still-legitimate part of that message is broken by the fact that Belka, the only country in Strangereal known to have access to nuclear weapons as above, has since gone on to have a hand in, if not be directly responsible for, every single bad thing that's gone on in the series since the events of Zero. The only mainline games the Belkans and/or Gründer Industries don't have any hand in are Air Combat,note  Ace Combat 04,note  and Ace Combat X.note  This turns what could have been a still-legitimate aesop of "nukes are bad because they could destroy the world if left unchecked and used with reckless abandon" into an overly-simplistic Hitler Ate Sugar moral, that "nukes are bad because only the bad guys use them".
    • Most egregious is that there doesn't appear to be any kind of interventionism in Strangereal. Two countries can go to war with each other for reasons ranging from legitimate "not wanting to take in any more refugees" as in 04 to simply "wanting to test out their leader's new toys" as in X, and other countries (not even the superpowers like Osea or Yuktobania) will never involve themselves or attempt to broker a truce unless the conflict spills over their border. This is especially evident in the Aurelian War of 2020 (the aforementioned X) and the Anean Continental War of 2015-2016 (6); both wars took place on the borders of a major superpower (Osea in the former and Yuktobania in the latter) and neither country was known to have stepped in. Erusea is able to occupy Usea, a continent roughly the size of Asia for no less than two years, while utilizing a massive railgun network to maintain air dominance, yet no other nation ever intercedes on Usea's behalf, though this is averted in Ace Combat 7; at the beginning of the Lighthouse War, the official two major factions are the Kingdom of Erusea and the IUN, but the IUN is essentially a proxy of Osea and its allies, and much is had about the opinions of other countries who side with either the IUN or with Erusea. Erusea manages to score major moral and strategic victories by not only severely damaging Osea and the IUN in the opening volleys, but doing so without inflicting a single civilian casualty thanks to their advanced drones, whereas Osea's counter attack not only fails to inflict any strategic damage at all but does cause damage to civilian infrastructure, turning several neutral countries against them as a result. A later mission also deals with escorting an Osean plane across the border between Erusea and an Osean-aligned neutral country, and the neutral country's army units express frustration at being able to literally see the Oseans battling for their lives in the air above but are unable to do anything about it since they're still on the Erusean side of the border. The Eruseans, on the other hand, are anxiously waiting for the neutral country to make a wrong move, and even have combat engineering vehicles lined up on their side of the border simply waiting for the order to breach their defenses the moment it happens.
    • On top of that, no sense of military reduction or oversight is ever implemented for belligerent nations; Belka is able to keep a significant portion of its once mighty air force and military, and Erusea is able to rebuild and revitalize its military 14 years after a devastating two-year occupation of an entire continent. For comparison, East and West Germany were founded in 1949, but didn't have their own militaries until early 1956 and late 1955, respectively, while Japan either gave up or was forced to give up its right to declare warnote  and refuses to maintain any weapon they think can't be used for defence.
  • Calling Your Attacks: From 04 and beyond, characters use the "Fox" brevity codes when launching missiles (04 using Fox 2 for the standard heat-seeking missiles and Fox 1 or Fox 3 for missile-based special weapons), with later games adding more appropriate codes as necessary (5 reshuffling what missiles go by Fox 1 or Fox 3, adding Magnum for air-to-ground missiles, etc).
  • Canon Discontinuity: Although not outright stated, the games that are set in the real-world Earth instead of Strangereal are clearly independent from each other, with no story reference toward each other. Ace Combat Infinity stands out, as it meshed both a plot set in the real world with special encounters of the Strangereal settings. The game was also focused around online multiplayer and was designed to be different in the first place.
  • Canon Welding:
    • The above-mentioned "United Galaxy Space Force" is an attempt to merge a number of their series with futuristic installments into a single continuity, with Electrosphere as its first installment chronologically.
    • Ace Combat 7 has numerous plot threads that connect back to 04, 5, and Zero, and even some very specific minor allusions to 2 and Electrosphere.
  • Cataclysm Backstory: The Ulysses meteor defined the Strangereal universe. When it was first discovered, many countries scrambled to create weapons capable of destroying it, leading to the building of the many doomsday weapons faced in the franchise. When it actually crashed, the economic and political consequences led to two of the wars in the games, the Anean and Second Usean Continental Wars. The devastation of Ulysses also ultimately spurred the construction of the Lighthouse Space Elevator in the early 2010s, as a means to assist with the rebuilding of the Usean continent with a strong supply of solar energy.
    • This also applies to the Infinity universe, where the "Ulysses disaster" led to the setting of the game being what it is.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: More dramatic and realistic elements have crept in over time, the biggest examples being Zero and Electrosphere.
  • Chasing Your Tail: And how! Expect to spend a lot of time staring at the back of other planes.
  • Colourful Theme Naming: Both Belka and Erusea's Air Forces use colors in their squadron names, though Erusea's squadrons are formally named after birds, with the colors being nicknames (e.g. the Aquila (Eagle) Squadron going by Yellow Squadron because of the yellow wingtips and numbers on their planes).
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
    • Enemies usually can maneuver better and lock-on much faster than you can even when using the same plane as you, and some bosses' superfighters have capabilities you'll never get.
    • You know this trope is in full effect in AC5 when enemy planes can fly through the goddamn ground to evade you. When it's the last target on a timed mission with 10 seconds left, controllers will be thrown through television sets.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Both used and averted. Your character does become a One-Man Army with many kills to his name, but any time an ace squadron shows up you will face a much tougher fight since they'll attack together.
  • Cool Plane:
    • Nearly every single fictional aircraft in any Ace Combat game is either the best plane in the game, one of the best planes in the game, behaves very uniquely or is simply extremely good-looking.
    • The earliest example of these fantasy aircraft being the XFA-27. It's a nimble little knife-fighter of a jet that can spam four missiles at once, and it looks like it came in from Macross. It's just a shame it can't turn into a mech. The sixth game gives us the CFA-44 Nosferatu, a plane so high-tech it nearly destroyed the economy of the nation that produced it (much like its vampiric namesake) - it can fire twelve missiles at once, it has twin railguns, stealth technology, and can deploy a pair of supporting Attack Drones. To hammer home the point of how utterly insane these fiction fighters are, in the third game Electrosphere, the Eurofighter Typhoon is one of the lamest planes you can acquire. In Real Life the Eurofighter Typhoon is one of the few jets in the world able to match the F-22 Raptor.
    • Subverted with the BM-335 fictional antiquated bomber from Zero, which resembles a World War II Heinkel (in-universe, it's apparently been around since 1951) and upon killing one may cause an ally to comment that it looks ancient.
    • Also plenty of the nonfictional ones. It's no coincidence that Ace/Air Combat (at least in the US), 04, X and Joint Assault feature the F-22 Raptor on the cover, since it's a top tier air-to-air king and has a distinctive look. This is Mobius One's "official" plane, as indicated by its being the default plane for Operation Katina, aka AC5's Arcade Mode. Some players, however, prefer the Su-27 Flanker and its variants/descendants, particularly the Su-37 Terminator and the Su-47 Berkut to the Raptor. The Sukhoi planes may be better dogfighters thanks to the Quick-maneuver Air-to-Air Missile (QAAM), whereas the Raptor has more "standoff" capability. This slightly evens out in AC6, where they are amongst the multiple planes that can use the QAAM (somewhat toned down from the 04 incarnation), so the cool doesn't always have to be useless.
    • Ace Combat X features a high number of fictional planes; some of which aren't that great compared to the higher-end real planes, though the best planes in the game (the Wyvern, Falken, and Fenrir) are fictional. However, all the made up planes except the Fenrir have the ability to be upgraded with new parts, altering their performance.
  • Cosmetic Award: Medals and paint schemes, especially ones acquired by downing enemy aces.
  • Crew of One: In all the games, whenever the player flies an aircraft that in the real world would require a crew of 2 or more to operate effectively, the empty seats are automatically filled in the aircraft's third-person models and the plane is able to execute all functions flawlessly.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Several annoying minor changes in the control settings across titles.
    • There's also severe differences between how to evade all the different superweapons, as well. In particular, Stonehenge in 04 requires you to be below 2000 feet, whereas burst missiles from 5 require you to be above 5000 feet. Then come the Gleipnir in X, where its shockwave ballistic missiles require you to fly below 2000 feet again, but its shock cannon requires you to climb above the Gleipnir... and then in its last appearance it turns upside down at one point, forcing you to fly below it again to dodge the same weapon.
    • Try switching between Ace Combat and H.A.W.X.. The controls are virtually identical... except the buttons for guns and missiles are switched. Thankfully, the PC version of the latter lets you rebind your controls.
    • The SAAM weapon got hit with this hard in the jump from PS2 to PSP and beyond, and with the equivalent weapon in HAWX. In 5 and Zero, among other tricks, you can launch an SAAM early, before an enemy enters the maximum lock-on range, and still get a kill on it because the SAAM will start properly tracking the target once you lock on. In X and later games SAAMs are now dedicated to whatever target you were locked onto when you fired them, meaning you can't do the above trick or redirect them in the case of kill-steals anymore, but you can actually target two enemies at the same time if you can keep them both within the missile's steering circle. Then in HAWX, if you try to do any of the above, or even so much as have the target leave the steering circle for a second, it's counted as a miss.
  • Defenseless Transports: Transport planes (and ships, less often) appear from time to time as either NPCs that must be escorted or targets to be destroyed. They can usually survive a few hits but can't fight back in any way.
  • The Determinator: The player-character is often this; surviving countless attempts by the combined armed forces of entire nations to kill him with barely a scratch.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: SAAMs usually fall into this. They require you leave yourself vulnerable and keep a target in your sights for the duration of the missile's flight, but they are some of the most accurate missiles in the series, making them extremely useful against enemy aces if conditions permit their use.
  • Dodge by Braking: The Pugachev's Cobra and its variants are maneuvers both you and some enemy aces can pull off. Just make sure that they're not flying at the same altitude as you are, or they'll opt for a very humiliating machine-gun-kill. The Yellows are fond of doing this. On the other side, if they try to Cobra and you are going slowly enough to not overshoot, it's a big invitation to light 'em up; one of the signs that the new Yellow Squadron from the final level are not nearly as skilled as the old group is that they use the Cobra to evade your squadmates without considering that maybe you or one of your other squadmates are then given a clear, easy shot at them while they're stuck in place.
  • The Dreaded: A staple of the franchise. Due to how impossibly good your characters are, enemies crap their pants in fear at THE VERY POSSIBILITY of your presence. A few enemy squadrons also have the same reputation, until they're shot down by you.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?:
    • Beautifully averted; by the time you're halfway through a given game, your Improbable Piloting Skills will be legend among friend and foe alike. Half the fun is listening to the enemies panic when they find out you're on the field.
    • That said, despite their legendary accomplishments, every playable pilot disappears from history shortly after their final victories. Probably voluntarily. The sole exception seems to be Mobius One, who continues serving ISAF after the end of 04's Usean Continental War, putting down a Free Erusea movement in 2006 (AC5's Arcade Mode) and helping put down another uprising in 2014 (AC7's VR missions).
  • Early Game Hell: You often start off with planes that simply aren't very effective at what they do, have slow acceleration and deceleration, and basic machineguns and missiles. Half the fun of the games are the numerous planes and armaments you unlock with progression, almost inevitably ending up with the best in the world or even a Super Prototype as you tear your way through formerly-significant threats like a hot knife through butter, especially on replays.
  • Earn Your Title: The player's accomplishments in battle are what eventually lead them to earning their notorious titles among both allies and enemies alike.
  • Easy Logistics:
    • You can run out of regular missiles and/or special weapons, and some games and difficulties give you limited cannon ammo, but you never run out of fuel; aerial refueling is just an interactive cutscene. In missions where you can Return To Base, once you successfully land or skip the landing interactive cutscene your plane is immediately repaired (except on harder difficulties) and rearmed. If you switch special weapons for yourself and your wingman (the latter in Zero and 6), the change and reload occurs instantaneously.
    • This in and of itself is an example of Gameplay and Story Segregation, as storywise logistics do matter; just see the 04 missions where you take out a group of Erusean transport planes and then a forward operating base as the prelude to wrecking the "Invincible" Aegir Fleet, then afterwards destroy solar power generator facilities to both damage the enemy war machine and divert attention from an upcoming invasion. The third and fourth missions in 5 force you to keep flying the F-5, as well, because there's no time for you to switch. Fuel limitations are also shown in a few other missions, such as the squad requiring to stop off at a different air base after "Rendezvous" because they're low on fuel and can't get a tanker aircraft to them (and as such you're once again stuck doing "White Bird (Part 1)" with whatever craft you took to "Rendezvous"), and missions which start or end with aerial refueling are noted to take place quite a ways away from where you took off from, particularly ones directly over Yuktobania in the first half of the game.
    • The ending to Zero is a zig-zagging instance. The mission to Avalon has such a long travel time that from mission 16 to the end, you cannot switch, buy, or sell planes or special weapons. Then again, the at-most three minutes between the end of "Avalon" and the beginning of "Zero" somehow completely restocks and repairs your already flying plane (and rather bafflingly, removes all of your allies from the area).
    • Air Combat and Ace Combat 2 do have a fuel meter, but this is really just a disguised timer, since it empties at a steady rate regardless of how you fly.
  • Enemy Chatter:
    • A staple of the series: it seems that everyone and his mother — including allied ground units in the middle of raging battles, enemy air and ground units, police CBs and even civilian radio stations — are all broadcasting on your presumably encrypted and frequency-shifting channel, and (other than your wingman commands) vice versa. Strangely enough, it compels the drama factor of the series. Lampshaded late in Ace Combat 5, when Archer incredulously announces "the radio is picking up the enemy communications!" Which it's been doing the whole time.
    • It is likely that the enemy chatter isn't actually broadcasting over the radio all the time; more realistically, only the player can hear it, which is why the game will occasionally have the characters take notice when the enemy really is speaking on the same channel, for the convenience of knowing when the characters can actually hear the enemy.
    • Assault Horizon dropped it altogether save for when some enemies (mostly Markov and Illich) state that they deciphered your radio encryption and knew your frequency and the mission where you save the Russian prime minister.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: Your fighter's radar will show the location of enemies nearby, though stealth planes will fade in and out. Some games use different colored icons to indicate which targets are mission-critical (Zero). Others use the same colours to show how much health each target has left (5). Most of the games that came out after Ace Combat 6 often have stealth planes only show up on radar when they are in the front half of your plane's radar field.
  • Escort Mission: There is at least one per game in the PS2 era. A notable example in Ace Combat: Joint Assault has one of the players control a 747 jet while the others escort them.
  • Expansion Pack World: Each new game that came out in the series reveals more and more about Strangereal's geopolitical setup and history. A world map of Strangereal was revealed early on, but there's still a significant number of countries that haven't even been identified yet, much less a war between two of them to flesh them out. Downplayed with 7 which actually returns to the same continent where 04 took place, although it does add a little more detail about some of the smaller countries and regions in that area. In contrast, none of the three games that take place on Earth are connected to each other.
  • Featureless Protagonist:
    • The only detail you'll get about the player characters is their gender. To that end, most of the games' stories focus on people affected by the protagonist's actions (04 being the biggest example). A few of the games have played with this, notably Electrosphere, where it turns out the PC is an AI running several different versions of a hypothetical conflict, designed to test whether he can kill a specific person as revenge for the guy who programmed the simulation. Hell, one of the most detailed protagonists so far is Blaze - and all that's known about him is his gender and his hair color. Gryphus One also has one identifying detail: judging from the way he is described as a veteran and how AWACS Crux constantly addresses him as "sir" and acts very subordinate to him, it can be inferred he is a commissioned officer. If this is true, he would be the only player character who is one in the whole series, as opposed to a mercenary or a low-ranking pilot. In that same game, Mission 13 also has a few lines of dialogue from Falco One, who is the hero of Ace Combat Xi: Skies of Incursion and he mentions he has a son.
    • This trend was finally broken by Assault Horizon, which has multiple playable characters with visible faces and speaking roles: William Bishop, Doug Robinson, and Janice Rehl.
  • Fictional Earth: Strangereal is Earth in every possible way except for landmasses (which for the most part are Earth continents shifted in different directions and visually modified) and nations. You can even tell what real world counterparts the nations are based on. It has an Antarctica no different from the real one. It even has its own Pacific and Arctic Oceans. Almost all the aircraft used in the game exist in reality.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: A few times, naturally. Sometimes you have to actually play through the takeoff sequence yourself, to boot.
  • Fragile Speedster: The X-29 has incredible acceleration and max speed but takes hits poorly. So do its "cousins" the F-5E and F-20A in their respective games. The Cariburn is fast, but since a single missile hit can take the damage meter up to 51% even on Normal, damages easily. It blends with Glass Cannon as it can equip QAAMs.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Go ahead, drop that cluster bomb ten feet from friendly ground forces. They won't feel a thing. Or try to send a couple rounds through your wingman's cockpit if he's being annoying.
  • From Zero to Hero: Almost every entry in this franchise has the Player Character start off as an anonymous low-ranking fighter pilot who quickly becomes a One Man Armies who is The Dreaded and Famed In-Story. As the game progresses, allied units will start breathing a sigh of relief now that their premier ace pilot is here to provide air support, while the enemy side will either see the pilot's arrival as an Oh, Crap! moment or, if it's an enemy ace, as a Worthy Opponent.
  • Genre Blindness: At least once a game, a character will say something that will make you have to pause the game and cover your face in shame. For example, Ace Combat 6's "final" mission. You've won the war, people are celebrating, and your "mission" is to do a patrol while fireworks explode in the sky. Then one of your wingmen says "I'd like to say: Mission Accomplished". Cue enemy fighters and transcontinental missiles.
  • Germanic Efficiency: Being the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Germany, Belka has the most advanced technologies (many of the original fighters and superweapons in the series are attributed to Belkan engineering), the most efficient air force (they have the most Aces in any Ace Combat game to date; out of 169 named Aces in Zero, 139 of them are of Belkan nationality) and very skilled engineers (in the form of Gault 1/Anton "Dr." Kupchenko, who designed the superweapons of Ace Combat Zero as well as the ADFX-01/02 Morgan, and Gault 7/Lorenz "Feniks" Riedel, who designed the Battle Fleet for the Eastern Faction during the Estovakian Civil War and the subsequent Emmerian-Estovakian War). This dies down in between the Belkan War and the events of 5 due to painful punishments from causing the War.
    • It's also implied that General Resource, Ltd. from Electrosphere traces its origins to a state-run South Belkan munitions firm, and carries on that tradition in its own corporate power schemes.
  • Glass Cannon: The F-5E and MiG-21 in the PS2 games, and the A-4 in 2 are this, though since you usually get these in the beginning of the game, the player doesn't need to worry about biting the bullet. The Mobius F-22 and Yellow Su-33 in AC6 (as downloadable content) are also this, but it pays off when you have wicked manuverability. On Ace mode all your planes are a One-Hit-Point Wonder against missiles, so the question is how much Cannon and Speedster/Lightning you're packing.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Radar signatures. The colors used change depending on the game, but typically retain green for allies and red for required targets. This carries over into countries as well, with the flags of "good" countries typically being blue, whereas the flags of "bad" countries are usually in red.
  • Good Weapon, Evil Weapon:
    • It has been noted that in almost every game, the protagonist squadron and sometimes his allies usually fly Western fighter aircraft (usually American, and more often than not the F-22 Raptor) whereas the antagonist ace squadron(s) usually use high-tier Russian fighters (often a variant of the Su-27 Flanker). This is however subverted multiple times.
    • Phoenix, a.k.a. Scarface One from 2, prefers to fly the Su-35 Super Flanker (which is statistically the best normal plane in the game, matching or surpassing even the F-22 in six of seven attributes) whereas four of the five Z.O.E. aces use American jets (the fifth uses one of the series' first two fictional superfighters). This is played straight however in the remake when he uses the F-22 as his aircraft of choice.
      • Of course this gets subverted somewhat for the enemy in the remake, as only one of the five major ace squadrons (including the aformentioned Z.O.E.) flies Russian aircraft. Justified in all cases however, as both the original, and more poignantly in the remake, shows that this is the closest the series has gotten to depicting a Civil War, and would use Western fighters in its inventory. The squad flying the Russian aircraft are from Erusea, the antagonist country in 04 whose premier ace squadron also flies the Russian-built Su-37 Terminator.
    • In 04, ISAF would deploy a mix of Western- and Russian-made fighters during missions that are considered pivotal story-wise: a flight of MiG-29s fly top cover for you and a few other F/A-18s during the assault on Stonehenge, whereas the Siege of Farbanti has you accompanied by a mix of F-15s and Su-35s at its beginning as you shoot down enemy F-15 S/MTDs and Su-47s. Mobius One is often portrayed with the Raptor here as well.
    • In 5, the 8492nd Squadron flies the F-15 S/MTD up until the final mission, where they fly Su-47s instead. Your squadron's official plane is the F-14A Tomcat.
    • In Zero, out of the 12 major ace squads you face in the game, only three (Gelb [Su-37], Schwarze [MiG-31] and Gault [Su-47]) play this trope straight, the rest primarily flying American jets with a few multinational-European (Rot [Eurofighter]), French (Espada Two [Rafale]) and Swedish (Indigo [Gripen], Espada One [Draken]) ones thrown in as well. Meanwhile, your team is shown flying the F-15C.
    • In X some of the Redshirts fly Flankers.
    • The Rigel Squadron in Joint Assault mostly avert this at the start, with three of the four flying Russian jets, but then switch over to playing it mostly straight when they defect to Valahia in the fourth mission. Interestingly, the one guy among them flying an American jet is also the only one who is actually nice to the player character before the defection.
    • Averted in Infinity. Enemies will fly Fulcrums and Flankers alongside Harrier IIs and Raptors; allies can fly whatever they have available, whether they're Japanese F-2s, the Russian MiG-29, the American F-15, or otherwise. Story-wise it's zig-zagged with the Bone Arrow flight, with Omega flying a Eurofighter and Bronco flying an F-16F, whereas Viper flies a MiG-21 and Zebu a MiG-29; the player obviously has their own choice of craft, though the rental sets alzo zig-zag this, such as mission 2 suggesting an F-16C and then mission 3 suggesting a Su-25.
    • The very well known American AH-64 Apache helicopter is, in Strangereal, used mostly by the enemy forces.
    • 7 has a strong mix of Eastern and Western fighters present as enemies throughout the entire game. Almost every mission features a Russian Mig or Sukhoi, with star enemy ace Mihaly using a Su-30 in most of his appearances, but European Gripens, Rafales, and Typhoons are added into the mix in the midgame, and American F-117s, A-10s and A/V-88s appear now and then. The penultimate mission features numerous enemies using F-22s, Su-47s, Su-57s, YF-23s, F-15Js, Typhoons, and others.
  • Harder Than Hard: Ace Combat 04 and subsequent games have Expert and Ace difficulties. They also have an Easier Than Easy difficulty (Very Easy). Note though that some goodies (mainly ace appearances) only occur on certain difficulties. Just to clarify for anyone not clear on the concept: on Expert difficulty, one missile instantly kills you, and that's not the hardest difficulty. Ace Combat 6 had "Ace of Aces" difficulty available to purchase as DLC. It only took about 3 bullets to down your craft.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: You never get to see the main character either which is especially obvious in Ace Combat 5, where the between-mission cutscenes show the rest of your squadron frequently, as well as some other allies and enemies. Even when you try zooming in on the cockpit of your plane during a mission the pilot's face is hidden by a tinted visor and an oxygen mask.
  • Heroic Mime: The main character almost never speaks — bizarrely enough, this is true even in later games, where you have dedicated wingmen to whom you can give orders with an almost too simple "Yes/No" command, or call for Attack or Cover. Fanfic retellings have been known to fill these in.
  • High-Altitude Battle: Although every battle in the series takes place in the air (even if it's a helicopter flying only a few feet off the ground), a few stand out for pushing the limits of your airframe:
    • "Rising High" from Ace Combat 2 and Assault Horizon Legacy takes place so high (above 40,000 feet) that most aircraft will constantly stall if you try to climb at too steep an angle or if you lose too much thrust.
    • Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere has high altitude missions for the RF-12A2 (a futuristic relative of the SR-71 Blackbird), as well as a mission in orbit involving a weaponized space shuttle. You have to survive re-entry too.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Without countermeasures it's the only defense against enemy missiles. Yes, despite what some people claim, this is a basic tactic taught and used in Real Life. It just doesn't look the same as it does in (most) fiction because fictional missiles usually lack proximity fuses.
  • Homing Projectile: Missiles, both friendly and not.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: The least number of missiles any plane in the series carries is around 50, frequently you'll have many more, and then you have special weapons on top of that - don't be surprised when you see ordnance 'magically' rematerialize on your plane's wings in third-person view! Oh, and ditto for the gun both due to a lot of — or on some difficulty levels infinite — ammunition and a slower rate of fire than in real life where you have cannons with hundred-round bursts at around six-thousand rounds per minute.
  • Iconic Outfit: When appearing in other games as cameos, the protagonists (and when applicable, their famous rivals) always appear with their signature plane and their Nose Art. Lacking either one, and it definitely isn't them.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The highest difficulty level is Ace.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Almost all the superfighters have hard-to-achieve requirements, but the effort's well worth it.
    • Infinity -1 Sword: Of course, if it's too much effort for you, you can get high-tech planes like F-22, Su-37, Su-47, Su-57, and YF-23 much more easily.
  • Instant Expert: The player characters can switch between plane types with ease.
  • Instant-Win Condition: Some missions only need you to make a point limit and then it will be completed when time runs down regardless of enemy survivors. In others focusing on only the needed targets is enough to win. Subverted, however, as it's still possible to crash in the time between "Mission Accomplished" and getting to the results screen, causing a failure (from AC04 onward,) or in AC2's case, still finishing the mission but losing money due to having your downed plane replaced.
  • Interface Spoiler:
    • In most games there will be unselectable or empty boxes in the plane buying and selecting screens, giving away the total number of available planes.
    • in Zero, the named aces list has 169 entries, in rows of 5. Normally this would leave one blank space after the 169th ace (Pixy), suggesting there is a secret 170th ace. There technically is one: Mobius freaking One with his signature F-22 Raptor. Subverted, however, as there isn't a profile to unlock, since he appears in a bonus mission out of the storyline.
  • Interquel: With the retcon of Air Combat being the very first game of the Strangereal timeline, every game after Electrosphere (currently the last game of the timeline) retroactively becomes this.
  • In the Style of:
    • Directly comparing the "Megalith ~Agnus Dei~" with the standard rendition, or "Zero" with "Unsung War", the differences in rendering make it difficult to tell that they are meant to have the same lyrics.
    • "First Flight" from 5 is listed in the OST as an arranged version of "Blockade" from 04, but there's really not much similarity between the two unless you can slow the latter down massively. Operation Katina also has a remix of "Elemental Particle" from 2.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: A staple of the series. In many games, there is an Arch-Enemy or personal rival for you that isn't the Big Bad, and who is your greatest enemy.
    • The straightest examples are with 4, 6 and Zero. 4 takes the cake in that all of the cutscenes in the game are about your rival, developing and building up to your final clash with him.
  • It's Up to You: In real life, squadrons generally specialize, with different units being assigned close air support, getting air superiority or doing bombing runs. Your characters do all of them over the course of the game, sometimes at the same time.
    • The main character (and sometimes his squadron) can always and sometimes is singlehandedly turning the tide of the war. It also becomes a driving factor in the game where radio chatter reflects the infamy and fear of your allies and enemies when you appear on the battlefield, especially in Ace Combat 5.
    • Lampshaded in the arcade mode of Ace Combat 5, where it's revealed that the hero of Ace Combat 04, Mobius One, was proven to be more effective than an entire squadron, hence why ISAF sent him to deal with the issue alone.
    • And generally even when you do have a squadron, their AI is so passive that most players will end up with ten or more kills for every one they make between them.
  • Jack of All Stats:
  • Just Plane Wrong:
    • The Neucom's R-series (at least the more advanced ones). The R-211 Orcinus and R-102/3 shouldn't be able to fly with what we currently know about aerodynamics.
    • Questionable with the ADF-01 FALKEN: It flies well enough in X-Plane, which is one of the most realistic flight sims, but some things have been done in reality that simulators could not replicate and vice versa. Short of an extremely rich and well-connected fan building his own, we may never know. It's also one of the most over the top Superplanes, oddly (see Serial Escalation below).
    • The X-02 Wyvern, a fictional super-plane, has forward-swept swing wings, which would be likely to snap off under high-G maneuvers; those wings swing inward to form a large delta wing, which is certainly good design but requires the leading edges of one (or both!) wings to be soft enough to merge together when the are swung and strong enough to withstand the rigors of flight; and the diagonal canards and tailplanes swing downward to join the giant delta wing, which looks awesome but must result in a great deal of yaw instability at supersonic speeds. Flying wings do work, or the Stealth Bomber wouldn't be able to fly, but it also doesn't break the sound barrier.
    • This trope can also go the other way with very old aircraft that have been long out of production or retired. The most notable would be the F-14, of which most were retired and subsequently destroyed, and the remaining handful are sitting in museums. Unless you count the ones Iran has, of course.
    • The F-22 Raptor (which is only in service with the United States Air Force in reality) is in service with just about every nation in Strangereal, with even the unaffiliated mercenary Scarface squadron of the first two games able to get their hands on several right about when it first entered production.
    • The Su-37, of which only two were built, is a mainstay advanced fighter in Strangereal. In reality, it was designed as a technology demonstrator and was declared technologically obsolete with the advent of the Su-35S in 2010.
    • For balance reasons, every plane in the game is armed with a gun, even those that don't have them in real life (such as the F-117A, the F-35C or the EA-18G) or even couldn't have an internal gun (such as the F-15 S/MTD, whose right canard would be right in the way of a regular Eagle's gun; later games would at least put them in gunpods underneath the planes that didn't or couldn't carry an internal one), as well as dozens of missiles (such as, again, the F-117 and unarmed tech demos) that, unlike in reality, are viable and equally effective against both fast air targets and unmoving bunkers. Special weapons don't get much better, as even their lower numbers are still more than double what some of the most well-armed planes could carry, and while there is a distinction between weapons that can only target aircraft but not ground targets and vice versa, there's no similar distinction between ground targets on land and ground targets at sea, allowing you to e.g. fire an anti-ship missile designed to skim the surface of the water and still hit a hardened bunker built into the side of a mountain. 6 also allows every plane to perform tight High-G turns, which would normally tear some of said aircraft apart.
    • Sometimes justified when the game uses production or prototype concepts of planes and weapons before the final testing is finished (e.g., the production model of the Raptor is used in AC04, after the first two games used the prototype YF-22, and in trailers for AC7 Raptors are shown using external weapon pods, which were in testing for the FA-18C).
    • The Su-33 Flanker-D is consistently modeled with a catapult connecting bar that is not present on the real plane, enabling it to perform catapult-assisted takeoff like NATO carrier-based planes in addition to doing ski-jump takeoffs from enemy carriers.
  • Kaizo Trap:
    • In almost all the titles you can still crash or even get shot down after the "Mission Accomplished" but before you go to the mission results screen. This is particularly possible in 5, where sometimes the enemy AI glitches out and continues attacking you after the mission is over (realistic as it may be, they're not supposed to do that).
    • Averted in 2: control of your plane is completely taken away after you complete the mission. To avoid this issue, your plane just de-spawns entirely in missions where that would inevitably lead to a crash, and in every other one it will automatically pull up a couple hundred meters as soon as control is taken away from you; if it manages to crash at this point anyway, you lose credits to replace the plane but the mission is still completed. Assault Horizon Legacy, a remake of 2, is more in line with the rest of the series.
  • Kill Sat: Featured in Ace Combat 3, Ace Combat 5 and Ace Combat 7. The one in Ace Combat 3 was available as a special weapon. The one in 7 fires unavoidable, extremely powerful AA missiles at you if you stay above the cloud layer for too long, so it's more an environmental hazard than something you can fight directly.
  • La Résistance: Mentioned a few times in various titles, particularly in 04, where the viewpoint character for the story outside of gameplay fell in with them.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In one mission a pilot starts talking about his personal life, as pilots in the game are want to do. He is promptly told to shut up and concentrate on fighting.
  • Laser Cutter: The Tactical Laser System's shot.
  • Last Stand: Always happens in the last mission, the exception goes to Zero where it happened 4 missions before the last one.
  • Legacy Character: Kei "Edge" Nagase is likely to appear in some form throughout each game: as a mercenary, defector, airline pilot, The Lancer, The Cameo in a real NATO squadron, a pilot for Strangereal's version of NATO, writing a Character Blog on development of one of the games...
  • Lethal Joke Character: Assault Horizon Legacy includes the sub-sonic propeller-driven World War II-era F6F-5 Hellcat and A6M5 Zero. They lack the speed necessary to chase after a critical target in a later mission in the story and cannot use missiles, and aren't meant to be taken seriously in general. However, they have extremely powerful guns to make up for it, the Hellcat has a higher mobility potential than every other plane in the game except for the XFA-27.
  • Leitmotif: A portion of The Unsung War has found its way in every game since 5. Yes, even Assault Horizon.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Most of the late-/end-game planes can tank more hits than earlier ones while still being faster, more agile, and carrying more ammo. Especially the super fighters.
  • Like Reality, Unless Noted: Although Strangereal is a rather different alternate Earth from ours, it uses the same planes with an occasional twist or two, and many countries and events have clear parallels to those on our Earth. And then of course the physics breaking arcade elements the game adds for fun.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: There are various types of multi-target missiles in the series. The XMAA can target four different air targets at once, and the XAGM serves the same purpose but against air targets. Later games have variants allowing targeting of six air targets. And the ADMM in Ace Combat 6 allows you to target up to twelve enemies.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: In real life, air superiority and ground attack missions are generally given to units dedicated to those roles. In these games, not only do you get multiple types of missions, but you can easily swap out your planes to match whatever role is needed.
  • Manual Leader, A.I. Party: In the Ace Combat installments that give you permanent wingmen, you can usually select their planes and give them orders but you only steer your own plane on missions. Ace Combat 5 is the only one, however, where you can speak of a "party" (it had three wingmen as opposed to one in other games).
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Usually signaled by the arrival of your squadron.
    • Zero has a spectacular one when Excalibur makes its debut. One second, all the pilots in the operation relax after having cleared the airspace from enemy fighters, Cipher and Pixy form up with a flight of five cargo planes for what looks like an Escort Mission... then suddenly a laser beam sweeps down from the sky and insta-kills three cargo planes with zero warning. Cue everyone still alive screaming over each other in confusion and panic as this kicks in - including resident wisecracker Pixy, who for the first time in the game sounds more than a little nervous.
    Allied pilot: AWACS, requesting orders!
    Allied pilot: What was that? Where did that attack just come from?!
    Pixy: What the hell happened?! AWACS, what's going on?!
    AWACS: Hold on! Incoming emergency message from Operations HQ: enemy launching long-range attacks, current airspace is within range.
    Pixy: Now you tell us?! Where should we fly?!
    (Excalibur fires again, destroying the last two transports)
    Allied pilot: Plane 4 just vanished! Allied planes are disappearing from radar!
  • MegaCorp: By Electrosphere in the Strangereal continuity, even powerful corporations have their own militaries, including air forces.
  • Midair Collision: This is one of the most embarrassing ways to fail a mission in the games, especially crashing into a bomber you are chasing or a plane you already shot down.
  • Mighty Glacier: The A-10 Thunderbolt II, usually having the worst speed, but having the most powerful machine gun and toughest defense by a landslide.
  • Minimalist Run: Using only the starting plane. Probably most easily done on 6, because although the F-16 isn't spectacular, it's still far better than the F-4 or F-5 the player usually starts with in the earlier games.
  • Missile Lock-On: Missiles generally take a second or two to lock on to a target, if it stays near the center of the screen. Each plane has its own "Anti-Air" and "Anti-Ground" stat which shows how fast that lock-on is. Enemy aces generally maneuver violently enough to make locking on to them quite difficult.
  • Mission Briefing: Every mission starts with a summary of objectives and a map displaying enemy forces and any allied ground forces, zooming in on certain areas by pushing left or right on the directional pad, as well as hinting by the number of each enemy type which plane type would be best-suited. 6 would dub these Operations, since in these areas you're to provide close air support against surface targets, achieve air superiority over aerial targets or both, and letting you benefit from a captured airfield, electronic (increased missile guidance) or fire support courtesy of the assisted allies. The briefings are more useful for some missions than others. If a briefing suggests that the flight will be quiet, such as a ceremonial flight above a rally or a patrol during ceasefire, assume the worst. The only truly non-eventful flight is a Free Flight, which can only be done after you clear the campaign at least once.
  • Mission Control: An Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft constantly supervises you, providing mission and story updates as well as things like reminding you that you've locked on to an enemy or vice versa, that you or the enemy has launched a missile at the other, or you're in gun range, as well as whether a missile hit or missed. Amazingly, it's not actually as irritating as it sounds. To the developers' credit, his information is usually useful and the guy comes off as friendly and genuinely concerned about the pilots. It also helps that there is enough dialogue played infrequently enough to keep it from getting stale.
  • Mook Chivalry: Generally averted; although individual mooks tend to hang out at specific areas and only actively chase you when you get close, enemy squadrons have no qualms against taking your lonely self on all at once. It becomes justified later in each game, where you're infamous enough among them that they can't possibly expect to take you out one-on-one.
  • Mooks: Although wide and varied, and still capable of damaging you significantly, it's present in all games where you take on whole squadrons of fighters. Especially early on in the American version of Electrosphere, all of Neucom's fighters are the same plane. Averted of course by the ace squadrons; even when your plane is superior (in their first appearances on non-SP playthroughs it's not) they tend to be better pilots. Gets iffy though when for gameplay reasons the difference becomes really marked (Espada 1 in Zero flies a starting plane and is still one of the most difficult aces in the entire game).
  • Mundane Fantastic: The setting that the series takes place is a relatively grounded world that’s not so different from Modern Day Earth. Despite that, nobody seems to make a big deal over the fact that airships, laser weapons, and giant railguns have been used in several wars since the Belkan War in 1995.
  • Musical Spoiler: You can tell that something is about to happen if the music suddenly goes quiet or changes.
  • My Nayme Is: The usual Japanese L/R translation issues are found throughout the series.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: All of the optional Erusean aces are named after famous astronomers.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: In an unusual twist, it's the player, who, depending on the game, may be the Grim Reaper, the Demons/Ghosts of Razgriz, or the Demon Lord of the Round Table, among others. The enemy forces usually start to cower at the mention of your name.
  • Necessary Drawback: QAAMs have the same short range as regular missiles to balance their high accuracy/maneuverability, long-range missiles tend to be inaccurate unless launched at the right angle, and SAAMs could have been overpowered in combining XLAA range with QAAM maneuverability... were it not for you having to keep your aircraft's nose pointed at the target (and the target within a SAAM-exclusive circular reticle) for the duration of the SAAM's flightnote , which can make you a sitting duck while the missile is flying. The air-to-ground weapons and parts have similar issues.
  • Nerf: Certain SP weapons have been subjected to significant nerfs after they prove particularly dominant.
    • QAAMs were nerfed heavily from Shattered Skies to Unsung War, going from nearly perfect seekers to barely better than regular missiles.
    • Zero gave SAAMs a de facto nerf without actually changing their parameters by making the AI much more aggressive, which makes it much harder to keep them on target, both because the plane you're shooting at will try much harder to escape the circle, and because other enemies will be much more likely to force you to take evasive maneuvers of your own and break your lock.
    • Assault Horizon Legacy nerfed the tactical laser system from a near instant-kill beam of death (as in Ace Combat 5 and Zero) to a whiffle bat that needs several seconds on target to score a kill. It was also nerfed in Infinity and 7 for multiplayer balance reasons. 7 in particular is a case of in-universe Uniqueness Decay as a weaker mass-produced version was added to common planes while the original overpowered versions remained on the FALKEN and Morgan.
  • New Game Plus: You can start a SP New Game to restart the campaign with your attained money, unlocked planes and paint jobs (and in Zero with your Ace Style Gauge where you left it in the previous campaign), or do Free Mission(s) to bump up your ranking and/or time, shoot down named aces, and in 5, Zero and X gain money. Note that in Zero your Ace Style Gauge is only affected by the campaign, so feel free to be merciless in Free Mission. Free Mission also has a Free Flight option (except in X) where you can fly around all by yourself with no time limit or objectives and explore the maps. In addition, all three PS2-era games require using New Game+ to unlock their super-planes, in addition to other requirements.
  • No Ending: To the setting as a whole due to Electrosphere being set in the 2030s in a world where technology corporations and the military-industrial complex dominate most of the world and having a Gainax Ending that creates more questions than it answers. Due to the game's low sales, developer Project ACES has refused to continue the story and instead have focused on conflicts set before the Corporate War while still foreshadowing its eventuality.
  • No Name Given: In addition to the player characters, several enemy aces like Yellow 13 and most of the AWACS spokesmen go only by callsign.
  • Nom de Guerre: All pilots have at least one callsign. These are either squadron identifiers (Galm 1, Wardog 2, Yellow 13, etc.) or unique nicknames (Cipher, Edge, Heartbreak One) and many pilots have both.
  • Nose Art: A staple of the series, from about Ace Combat 3 onwards. Shooting down certain enemy Ace Pilots allows you to slap their paint jobs onto your planes of the same model. Other special paint jobs were unlocked by completing certain plot missions. Ace Combat 6 also introduced downloadable custom paint jobs.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo:
    • Subverted with the implicitly stated and sometimes detonated nuclear arsenal from various games. What's interesting about this is that although nukes exist, nuclear proliferation doesn't seem to. As such, nuclear weapons are seen as more frightening In-Universe than they are in Real Life, which is the reason The 'Verse exists in the first place.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: In most games, once you start to liberate enemy territories, you're likely to hear someone invoke this trope. The liberation of Directus in Ace Combat Zero is the most notable example. After you begin your fight against Belkan forces, the citizens of Directus decide to join in and fight back with whatever they can get their hands on. With you and Pixy covering the air, they take back the city by themselves.
    Civilian: Get out! Get the HELL out of our city!
  • Oh, Crap!: Enemies have this reaction when your characters show up in later parts of the games. Your allies have this reaction when they get targetted by the local superweapon. The two words are explicitly dropped in X: Skies of Deception when your allies see that there's another Fenrir in Archelon Fortress trying to escape to Leasath and they can't do anything about it themselves.
    • Zero has a rather good example in the first Round Table mission if the player is up against the Rot Squadron.
      Final Rot pilot: Impossible! Am I the only one left?! Requesting backup!!
      • And in the penultimate mission:
      Enemy: He's coming... the Demon Lord is coming here!
  • Old-School Dogfighting: the emphasis of the series. All balancing and adjustment is centered on the idea of close-in knife fights between planes, even though long-range missiles have reduced, if not eliminated, the prevalence of such things. As a simple example, the F-14 Tomcat may be armed with (something that looks like) the AIM-54 Phoenix, but the weapon system cannot be used beyond visual range; instead, you can fire eight of them at once. (Even though the F-14 can only carry 6 at a time.)
  • Once a Season:
    • Ever since Ace Combat 5, it has apparently become a tradition to kill or almost kill off one of the player's wingmen. Since Zero, 6 and Assault Horizon always has the player flying with only one wingman, well...
    • Every main-series game since the fourth has included Mobius One's paint scheme for the F-22A and Yellow 13's paint scheme for the Su-37 or its nearest equivalent. Later games have added more character references, such as the Wardog/Razgriz and Zipang from 5 and Scarface One from 2.
    • And of course, tunnel flights, canyon flights and fights against humongous superweapons.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: The player's plane on Ace difficulty, at least against missiles.
  • One-Man Army: In the original Air Combat, Phoenix is literally the only one driving back the rebellion. In 2, Phoenix can invoke this by choosing to not hire a wingman. Deliberately invoked in "Operation Katina" in 5, as Mobius 1 and Sky Eye are sent to fend off Erusean rebel forces. Galm 1 from Zero is eventually acknowledged as "an indispensable component in (the) war".
    Enemy: It's that Ustio mercenary, damn him! He's turning the tide of battle in their favor!
    Enemy: He can't be human!
    Enemy: He's like a demon...
    Ally: That kind of pilot... they call a Demon Lord...
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Electrosphere, where corporations have long superseded governments in economic and political control.
  • Operation: [Blank]: Most missions have titles of this form displayed during the briefing; this is usually completely independent of the actual stage name. Exceptions include:
    • Operation Free Gracemeria in Ace Combat 6.
    • Ace Combat 5 has the Operation Desert Arrow mission, though the stage name omits the word 'Operation.' There is also Operation Desert Blitz, with the stage name being Desert Lightning, a lesser extent of this.
    • Operation Bunker Shot in Ace Combat 04.
  • Orchestral Bombing: Later games in the series have orchestra for a lot of their music. Come the or certain boss battles, and Ominous Latin Chanting sets in as well.
  • Orphaned Etymology: The aircraft names and designations are an example for the entire series, since they are real-world aircraft being used on a planet where the countries that manufactured and designated them do not exist. For example, the F-14 Tomcat is called such even though there was never an America — nor, for that matter, a North American continent — to give it that specific name (the closest equivalent being Osea), but it could also have been the F-112 if the Tri-Service Aircraft Designation System of 1962 had not passed. It gets even more ridiculous when you consider that the game uses fictional manufacturers (such as North Osea Grunder Industries) that manufacture all sorts of planes, even those made by different countries, while still keeping their original designations. A special mention to the MiG-29A in Ace Combat 7, whose hangar description specifically mentions how it earned its real life nickname.
    Its nickname is "Lastochka," the Russian word for the swift-flying swallow.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Z.O.E, or "Zone of Endless" for the player's sake, first appeared in Ace Combat 2, and is given literally no explanation or acknowledgement. Its remake, Assault Horizon Legacy, acknowledges this mysterious enemy plane that sometimes shows up to challenge Phoenix, but still leaves Commander Olsen and everyone else confused as to just what the heck it is. There are vague hints about a secret Belkan program being developed in Zero and 5, but it isn't until 7 that the players learn that the Z.O.E are all advanced AI drones. In all of this, there's no in-game acknowledgement, mention, or discussion about "Zone Of Endless" anywhere. It still remains something that only the players know about.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: The real-life planes are almost always outdone statistically by the game-original super fighters. Of course, unlocking them is also easier, making them more frequently used anyway. Besides, the fifth gen fighters certainly aren't lacking at all.
  • Playable Epilogue: The games typically include the so-called "Free Mission mode", where you can fly individual campaign missions out of order as often as you want on any difficulty. This mode (along with New Game Plus) is usually unlocked after completing the campaign on any difficulty and lets you use all hitherto unlocked planes and upgrades, in order to e.g. hunt down the remaining aces or improve your completion ranks. Ace Combat 7 averts this, by making Free Mission available right away... which makes grinding, unlocking, and playing through the Campaign on the first playthrough with any plane on the aircraft tree possible to those who have the patience to do so.
  • Point Defenseless:
    • AA guns usually aren't much threat on lower difficulties, much less able to take down your missiles and bombs, such that when "high-performance" triple-A that can show up in X: Skies of Deception, the briefing and AWACS guy feel a need to emphasise it. Also, Sulejmani's Varcolac from Joint Assault mounts a rear-facing anti-missile Gatling.
    • Assault Horizon averts this in a mission tasking you with destroying an enemy naval fleet, where their CIWS defenses actually are capable of shooting down your missiles, thus requiring you to coordinate with several pilots and launch enough ordnance to overwhelm those defenses. On the player's side, they can also destroy shoulder-fired SAMs with their guns in helicopter missions.
    • Infinity includes lasers mounted on UAVs (in the campaign) and a special gold-painted variant of the P-1112 Aigaion from 6 (in co-op), which could shoot down missiles launched within their attack range. Aegis vessels zig-zag this; in co-op they're as useless as ever, but in Naval Fleet Assault, they can shoot down missile-type weapons... but not bombs, or even other air-to-ground weapons that work exactly like missiles.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "<player character>, engage."
  • Product Placement: Assault Horizon is brought to you by the US Air Force. "It's not science fiction."
  • Prolonged Video Game Sequel: The Ace Combat series has done this so often, it should be called "Sequel Longevity Sinusoid". Most games in the series have between 15 and 20 levels, with the exceptions ofAce Combat: Joint Assault (26 levels), Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception (29), Ace Combat 2 (30), Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (32), and finally, Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere with a whopping 52 levels, the most of any series title so far. Note, however, that these "prolonged" sequels feature some degree of non-linearity, while the games of default length are mostly linear.
  • Radio Silence: A few mission across the series impose this for storyline reasons, sometimes combined with altitude restrictions or avoiding enemy radar. At most, this is just a break from your wingmen's chatter until you arrive where you need to be or are inevitably discovered early.
  • Recurring Boss: Most often a named enemy ace squadron plays this role, such as the Yellow Squadron in 04. A more minor example would be the Scinfaxi-class submarines in The Unsung War, as you end up fighting both in short order.
    • In 2 and its remake Assault Horizon Legacy, this happens with ZOE, who you encounter at certain intervals. Beast Squadron from AHL comes in twice, but only on a certain route.
  • Red Baron:
    • Typically, as your skills become more and more recognized, you or your squadron get a nickname, referring to a plot point or squadron logo. For instance, Gryphus One from Ace Combat X becomes known as "Nemesis" by the obviously uncreative enemies, and "the Southern Cross" by allies, since the constellation is painted on your aircraft, there's the "Ribbon" in 04, and the Razgriz squadron (alternately the Demons or Ghosts thereof) in 5. Possibly the hardest to top would be the "Demon Lord of the Round Table" in Zero.
    • Possibly rivalling that, one enemy in the sixteenth mission refers to Mobius One as "the Grim Reaper."
    • And one of the minor allied pilots from Ace Combat 6 (e.g. one of the ones you can't unlock a profile about, but is still identified by name in subtitles) is literally the Red Baron, albeit named for the character from Namco's earlier arcade game Sky Kid (his two wingmen are Sky Kid, named after the game, and Blue Max, the other playable character from it).
    • It first applies to your wingman in Zero; Pixy already has the nickname "Solo Wing" (he completed a mission and crash-landed his F-15C Eagle despite losing its right wing), he has a custom paint scheme (his new Eagle's right wing is painted red), and your opposition has already heard of him.
  • Redshirt Army: The majority of allied pilots are considerably less capable than the PC.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: Lots of it in ACZ. Also, Scinfaxi, Hrimfaxi, Arkbird, Grabacr, and Ofnir in AC5.
  • The Remnant: Erusea does this not once but twice. Leasath also does this.
  • Roboteching: The key ability of QAAMs; some cruise missiles also give you quite the spinny chase.
  • Self-Plagiarism: The arcade game Mach Storm basically consists of the scripted DFM sequences in Assault Horizon stitched together in a full game. Infinity in turn is essentially taking iconic levels from previous games and turning them into four- to eight-player co-op missions, though for the latter it does have an original (if still Mythology Gag-filled) story and has many a Remixed Level.
  • Sequel Escalation: Subverted by the superfighters, with the Falken being one of the first introduced and easily being the most over-the-top, though it wasn't playable until the fifth game (although it got a bit crazier by then). Later planes have at least looked more down to earth, with the CFA-44 looking more like a modern, fifth generation fighter.
  • Sequential Boss: Every flying fortress mission is the series counts for this.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: The missile ranges are below their real-world equivalents' (the standard missiles are consistently given a range of about 900 feet). The XLAA ones, in particular, are ridiculously short.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Some of the player characters get this treatment.
  • So Last Season: Zig Zagged with starting planes. See the article for the rundown. To summarize, your starting plane varies in effectiveness and reliability over the course of the game You mostly start out with either cheap F-4s or F-5s, in 6 you have a reliable F-16C that can reasonably carry you through the game, in 3 you have a Typhoon, a high-end plane... for the other games that don't take place 20 Minutes into the Future, but for this one is woefully inadequate.
  • Some Dexterity Required: Some games in the series have "Expert" controls, which are actually not expert, they're just normal... for real airplanes. Standard controls involve the plane's nose going left and right when you press those directions on the stick (this is called "yaw"), the same as it would if it were a car. Expert controls involve the plane rolling left and right, with the actual turn accomplished by then pushing up on the joystick to make the plane's nose "pitch" up (which, if the plane is rotated 90 degrees, means "to one side"). The dexterity required for this control scheme is mental rather than physical, as you have to completely reconceptualize how to turn your plane.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: With few exceptions, the later a plane is available, the statistically superior it is. On the other hand, missiles and other special weapons don't get better on later planes.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Osea, the largest country in Strangereal, occupies most of the continent of the same name; essentially everything west of Belka and Sapin, whereas Yuktobania is of similar scale on the Verusean continent. Assuming that Strangereal is the same size as Earth and that the map given in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War is an equal-area projection (which seems likely, given that the unchanged continent of Antarctica is more in line with a Gall-Peters projection), Osea is about the size of Russia, India, and Mexico combined and Yuktobania is slightly smaller, at about the size of Russia, India, and South Africa combined. Both of these nations, fittingly, are the setting's superpowers, though Osea is the larger of the two. Compare to the Usean Continent, which is stated to have at least 18 different nations but is far smaller in size (albeit most of them are part of various alliances like the Federation of Central Usea and/or ISAF).
  • Spinventory: In almost every game, when selecting the plane, the camera will start rotating around the plane to give a full view. Some of them let you manually rotate the camera and look at the planes at your own leisure.
  • The Squad: Mostly averted in 04 (you almost always have four wingmen flying with you, but none are explicitly named, and in the final mission it's subverted in that Mobius Squadron is really just Mobius One plus a squadron's worth of pilots in Raptors with his insignia), used in 5 ("Heartbreak One" Bartlett, Blaze, Edge, Chopper, and Archer), and it's pairs in 2 (Scarface 1/"Edge" or "Slash", though only in certain missions... and there're supposed to be other pilots in Scarface), Zero (Galm 1 "Cipher"/Galm 2 "Pixy" then PJ) and 6 (Garuda 1 "Talisman"/Garuda 2 "Shamrock").
  • Squad Controls: Ace Combat 5, Ace Combat Zero, and Ace Combat 6 gave you control over your wingmen. Seeing how the game is about aerial combat, your options are usually "Concentrate Fire", "Disperse and Engage", and "Cover Me". You can also toggle permission to use special weapons. Unfortunately, in AC6, the controls were already simplified compared to ACZ and this feature seems to have been abandoned completely in later Ace Combat games (where the wingmen are completely AI-controlled).
  • Stealth-Based Mission: 2, 3, 5 and X have missions that force you to fly below a certain altitude, avoid circles representing radar coverage, or both. 5 gets one odd version in an Escort Mission where you can fly through circles representing radar coverage just fine, but then the cargo plane you're escorting will follow you through it and promptly get blasted by friendly SAMs.
  • Stone Wall: Bombers in the later games, which are absolute crap at air-combat and getting anywhere fast, but have unbeatable defense and anti-ground capabilities.
  • Storming the Beaches: Many games have the player providing air support for an amphibious landing at some point. Examples include Operation Bunker Shot in 04, Lit Fuse in 5, and the Aenea Landing in 6. 5 also has the player repel a landing in Front Line.
  • Story Branching:
    • Two Ace Combat games include major story branching: Electrosphere and Skies of Deception. However, only the former has Multiple Endings; in the latter, all branches converge for the final mission. Minor branching is present in other games, as well, but it usually avails to one or two mission-long branches, which converge back again into the linear storyline.
    • Ace Combat 2 has your allies launching two simultaneous operations against the enemy, "Alphaville" and "Bellissima", and lets the player decide which operation they want to support. It also has hidden missions that can be unlocked by destroying certain targets in specific missions, but which overall have no effect on the progression and can be skipped. Like Electrosphere, there are also multiple endings, though they're all basically different versions of the same ending depending on whether you shoot down a recurring enemy every time he shows up and, if you do, whether you succeed in shooting down a cruise missile before it can impact with a city.
    • Ace Combat 5 branches off at two different times before converging back into the main story. Your wingman Chopper asks you a question in the middle of a mission and your Yes/No answer determines the choice. The question he asks has nothing to do with anything relevant to the missions. Arcade Mode also has a mission path that branches at two separate points, though it still sends you through the same number of missions per playthrough and the last level is the same for all four paths, other than the placement of enemies and whether the final encounter is four (top path) or six (every other path) X-02s; the paths are basically more of a difficulty select than actual branching.
    • Ace Combat Zero features three branching missions with three different paths, each being split between anti-air, anti-ground, and anti-air/ground missions, but this has little to no impact on the progression of the story. In a subtler way, the story also branches based on your Ace Style.
  • Strictly Formula: To the point that two of the three PS2-era games even have the exact same number of missions. Ace Combat 5 initially follows much of 04's formula, but begins to diverge a little over halfway through.
  • Superweapon: The series tries to include at least one per game. Many of them were built as a response to the Ulysses meteor that threatened Strangereal in 1994.
    • In Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies features two:
      • the Stonehenge was built as a series of rotating cannons capable of shooting down the Ulysses meteor and any other fragments from it. For the first half of the game, it serves as a long-range anti-air weapon against the ISAF forces that forms a perimeter that prevents them from advancing. It can shoot down any bombers attempting to get too close. One mission tasks you with destroying the solar farms that provide power to it, but then you have to avoid getting shot down by it by staying below a certain altitude and flying through a series of canyons just to escape its range.
      • Once Stongehenge was destroyed, the Eruseans fall back to the Megalith, which was capable of firing ballistic missiles anywhere across the Usean continent. Failure to blow it up before it activates is an instant game over.
    • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War has the SOLG. It's a Kill Sat that can launch nukes. Should it lose contact from whoever is controlling it on the surface, it is programmed to fall from orbit and destroy a pre-determined city.
    • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War has the Excalibur, a Wave-Motion Gun that catches the allied forces off-guard when giant lasers start blasting at them from long distance. The assault to destroy it proved daunting, as it can still fire at anything approaching it only until they actually get within half a mile.
    • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown features the Arsenal Birds, two gigantic AI-controlled airborne carriers that are able to dispense dozens of Attack Drones to do its fighting. They also have Deflector Shields that prevents damage from conventional weapons. All throughout the story, their arrival on the battlefield forces the Osean forces into retreating, because the two of them form a perimeter around the Space Elevator that is key to winning the war. It takes the final cannon from Stonehenge that wasn't destroyed in Ace Combat 4 to pierce through the shields and destroy one of them.
  • Super Prototype: Most of the superfighters, though some of them are subversions.
  • Theme Naming: The series loves doing this. Colors, animals, famous people, they've all been done.
    • Osean fighter squadrons are mainly named after fantasy elements, with Wardog being the exception.* Between Ace Combat 5, Zero, and 7, there's the Razgriz, Golem, Skeleton, Basilisk, Cyclops, Salamander, Gargoyle, Wizard, Sorcerer, Mage, Mimic, Strider, Salamander, Mace, Wand, Drake, and Enchanter squadrons.
    • With one special exception, all Osean naval vessels are named after birds. Examples include: Albatross, Kestrel, Kestrel II, Vulture, Egret, Crane, Pheasant, Ptarmigan, Hornbill, Shoehorn, Stork, Bunting, and Sunbird, and many more.
    • At least two Erusean squadrons are named after birds. Although they're known as the Yellow Squadron in Ace Combat 04, their official name is "Aquila" (Eagle). This follows the story precedent set after the death of Edgar Grint (Albireo One) in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy. By 2019, however, their squadron names have more to do with various European mythologies, like Skoll and Sigurd squadrons.
    • Belkan fighter squadrons are named after colors in German.
    • Chess Motifs. The callsigns of all named aces in the penultimate mission of Ace Combat Zero are the names of chess pieces in German and Russian.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • Getting hit by the Chandelier missiles in 6. There's a launcher with a barrel so big you can (and need to) fly a plane down it, and it fires a missile in timed intervals. It's worth mentioning that getting shot down by the Chandelier literally maxes out the Xbox 360's processing power! The amount of power needed to render the cannon's special effects when it fires combined with your plane disintegrating in the air drops the framerate down to about 3 frames per second. Overkill indeed.
    • On your side it's easy to single a target out for a full "burst" of special missiles, heaters and gun rounds. Or drop a FAEB/LSWM/MPBM on a single ground target. It's wasteful to the max, but overkill man!
  • Timed Mission: Every one. In the first two games this was represented by a fuel meter, making it slightly more plausible, though oddly enough RTB was almost never an issue and the meter depleted at the same rate regardless of what you did.
  • Title Drop: The EU non-numeric titles Distant Thunder, Squadron Leader and The Belkan War all show up in their respective games. There's also Shattered Skies — both a dialogue phrase and the name of AC04's eighth mission and as a dialogue while selecting a plane for the last mission. The Unsung War and Zero also serve as the names for their respective games' final missions and their Ominous Latin Chanting final themes, the latter also showing up in a dialogue phrase during it.
  • Truth in Television: Most of the planes and how they perform too.
  • Try Not to Die: On occasion. 5 and Zero in particular punctuate the briefing for their respective final missions by saying that any outcome other than you returning safely is unacceptable. Zero also has a humorous variant, where Pixy tells PJ in their first meeting that, if he gets shot down, he should crash somewhere where Pixy can't see it.
  • Unlockable Difficulty Levels: In the older titles, unlocking the ultimate Ace difficulty mode requires you to finish the campaign at least once on Normal or Hard.
  • Unknown Rival: ZigZagged. Each game in the series has a rival ace for the Player Character to eventually dogfight against later on in the games. Thing is though, the Player Character of each game is a Featureless Protagonist, so we never learn what the player character’s opinions on the rival ace is, or if they even acknowledge them.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: There are some fighter-ish planes you can't acquire for your collection, and non-fighter types i.e. bombersnote , recon, and AEW&C are wholly unusable. The Harrier, SR-71, Tu-95 Bear, and B-52 are common examples. The enemy controlled variations of the FALKEN in 2, Morgan in Zero, and Nosferatu in 6 all have special features that the player versions never had, although in the FALKEN's case this is turned on its head by giving the playable version something else entirely that the NPC version didn't have.
  • Videogame Caring Potential: There's satisfaction to be gained from helping the Redshirt Air Force out rather than just gunning for the targets and leaving them to die. 6 rewards this by giving you extra points, and allowing you to request fire support from said allies.
  • The War Sequence: Several missions in the games really drive home the point that you are fighting a war. A case of Real Life Writes the Plot with 6, as a better graphics engine allows for nearly every mission to have this scale.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The series has several superweapons that qualify, including the XR-900's Heavy Laser from Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, the Arkbird's laser cannon, Excalibur from Ace Combat Zero, and the ADF-01 FALKEN's Tactical Laser System. The TLS returns in both Zero onboard the FALKEN and the ADFX-01 "Morgan" (which has only half the number of shots), and has a spiritual successor in Ace Combat 6 with the Electromagnetic Launcher (EML) onboard the CFA-44 "Nosferatu."
  • We Do the Impossible: The player characters uniformly have or earn a reputation as aces that can do anything behind the sticks of a fighter plane.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: With the sole exception of Mobius 1, and to a lesser extent Phoenix, every Player Character disappears after their game is over, with nothing to indicate where they went and why. Phoneix returned after the Scully Islands Insurrection to deal with the Usean Coup D'etat and presumably retired afterwards as he was hired as a mercenary. Cipher was also hired as a mercenary and presumably used his payout from the Belkan War to disappear from public eye as well. Mobius One returned for 5's Arcade mode and 7's VR mode and was presumably involved in 7's storyline as Erusea is not shown to be in control of North Point at any point. Blaze and Wardog/Razgriz Squadron had to disappear as they were framed for treason, though Nagase was tasked by Harling to go on a 7 year mission to destroy an asteroid and returns at the end of 7, and presumably Swordsman, who joined after Wardog Squadron was framed, continued to serve in the Osean Navy. Talisman presumably stayed in the Emmerian Air Force or retired.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: Your offensive options in the first two games consisted entirely of short-ranged missiles and an even-shorter-ranged Vulcan cannon. Electrosphere allowed you to swap those out for weapons with differing powers and ranges, and every game after that added special weapons such as bombs.
  • Wingman: Right from the beginning, with the exception of Ace Combat 04. They were a complete waste of money in the first couple games. Quiet wastes of money.
  • With This Herring:
    • Usually (but not always) you start off with a dinky outdated plane. May be justified considering you generally start out as an unproven rookie and your army needs to come Back from the Brink.
    • Double Subverted in Electrosphere, where you start with a sleek, snazzy 2003 Eurofighter Typhoon... in 2040, when fusion-powered super planes equipped with superpowerful lasers are under development.
  • Wolfpack Boss: All the time against enemy ace squadrons.
  • Worthy Opponent: Due to the reputation of the various player characters, the enemy's top aces all wish to fight you.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: The final missions of Ace Combat 04 and 5, twice in Zero (the Belkans deploying nuclear weapons and V2) and the start of 6. Not helped by how difficult it is to even try thwarting stage one.

Yo buddy, still alive?