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Video Game / Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception

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"Listen up everybody! Don't fall behind the Southern Cross!"

Skies of Deception is the first game in the Ace Combat series on the Playstation Portable and the ninth game in the series overall. Released in 2006. It focuses on the southern section of the Osean Continent where you play as a pilot in the air force of the Federal Republic of Aurelia. In 2020, they are invaded by their northern neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Leasath, on the pretext of retaliation for their involvement in a civil war. In just ten days their superweapon, the Gleipnir aerial fortress, wipes out almost the entire Aurelian air force. Gryphus One is the only survivor of his squadron and must lead the counterattack into Leasath territory.

It, along with the next PSP Ace Combat game, was the second (and third, respectively) game in the series that was developed by a different developer (Access Games, although Project Aces assist in the development).

The game brought a few new gimmicks into the series. The first was its campaign structure, where missions were chosen freely from a list of around 5 and could be done in any order, or not at all in some cases. The second was equippable parts that would boost certain characteristics of the chosen plane, often at a price. Albert Genette, the reporter from The Unsung War, returns to narrate the story of Gryphus Squadron.

Tropes found in the game

  • Ace Pilot: Again, you, the Southern Cross, responsible for single-handedly turning the tide and winning the war.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: It's possible to avoid that one level described below from triggering in a playthrough and still achieve the golden ending by attacking the Hamlet Unit at the Kalana Steppes before they reach Santa Elva. Even though you somehow manage to trigger the mission, you can still skip it but have reduced special weapons (until you take back Griswall), and get a less satisfying but still optimistic ending.
  • Arms Dealer: Diego Navarro, the military leader of Leasath.
  • Back from the Brink: As usual. The game begins with Leasath taking over 90% of Aurelia in ten days. After fending off a group of bombers attacking your last base AGAIN, you single-handedly turn the tide of the war.
  • Black-and-White Morality: After four story oriented Ace Combat games, this is the one that introduces this back, with the Leasathians are mostly Obviously Evil. In the end, averted, as the final blow is dealt coincidentally with the populace, through the narrator, know about Diego Navarro's true intentions, and revolt against him.
  • Boss-Altering Consequence: Which missions you complete, and in which order, decides which of two versions of the game's two boss fights (against the Gleipnir aerial fortress in mission 7 and against Alect Squadron in mission 15) you get as well as the modifiers on those missions (such as limited fuel or enhanced enemy weapons).
    • If you save the Davis Unit (mission 05A Rolling Thunder) then you must complete mission 06B (Ice Bound), which means in turn that you have to face the Gleipnir with its Shock Wave Ballistic Missile (SWBM) launchers intact. If, however, you destroy the Gleipnir's SWBM launchers (mission 06A Midnight Sun) then you must face a much-harder challenge in mission 05B (Pinned down), but the Gleipnir boss fight is easier.
    • If you take mission 13A, Alect Squadron, you can (but don't have to) complete mission 14B, Offline. If you take mission 14A (Fire Storm), you can instead (but again, don't have to) complete mission 13B (Armada). Going for 13A means Alect Squadron's AI in the final battle is worse, but their Fenrirs are equipped with the High-Powered Microwave (HPM) special weapon; completing mission 14B makes the HPM's accuracy worse. If, on the other hand, you go for mission 14A, Alect Squadron's AI is better, but their Fenrirs have no HPM. In this case, completing mission 13B eliminates the naval reinforcements that block your allies' way into Archelon Fortress.
  • Boss Remix: "Alect Squadron".
  • Bragging Rights Reward: The Fenrir.
  • Cherry Blossoms: The Zipang F-14D as a Downloadable Content.
  • Civil War: Partially what led to the events of the game.
  • Commissar Cap: Leasath commanding officer Diego Gaspar Navarro is seen wearing one.
  • Continuity Cameo: The game is narrated by Albert Genette, the same photojournalist who narrated Ace Combat 5. And his reporting skills have only gotten better in the five years since, what with uncovering a government conspiracy.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Leasathian F-5Es on the front cover are not only of a different paint scheme from those in-game, but that paint scheme is not available for the F-5E at all.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: The official website eventually provided a full list of the canon storyline of X: 01 -> 02 -> 03A -> (04A) -> 05A -> 06B -> (04B -> 03B) -> 07B -> 08A -> 10A -> 09B -> (11B) -> 12C -> 14A -> 13B -> 15B
  • Deep South: A lot of people on both sides have exaggerated accents similar to those found in the southern United States. A bit a Fridge Brilliance can be pulled from this, though; Leasath and Aurelia are located on the southern part of the Osean continent, which is the Strangereal version of the United States.
  • Disc-One Nuke: The XFA-27 may fit this. Also, the F-5E (able to be unlocked immediately after the XFA-27) is equipped with QAAMs. It's balanced by only carrying six, but still, that's effectively six free air kills.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The "deception" in in the subtitle refers both to the optical camouflage of the Gleipnir and Fenrir, and the false grounds on which Diego Navarro launches the war against Aurelia. As a bonus, the final mission "End of Deception" ends both the Fenrirs and Navarro's deceit.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Averted, as usual. Some allies outright fanboy Gryphus One in their radio conversations, and at the end it's shown that souvenir shops are selling stuff with his Southern Cross emblem.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The Leasathian bombing of a defenceless city in the first mission clearly shows that they aren't quite the My Country, Right or Wrong Punch Clock Villains of other titles. On the other hand, Albert's investigations show that Leasath is thoroughly taken in by Navarro's speeches about the eeevil Auralians, and indeed after his last military defeat and destruction of his latest superfighter they're...well, they're quite angry...
  • Fake Difficulty: Whilst this may well be one of the hardest AC games in general, this is only worsened by the dropping frame rates, awkward PSP controls compared to those of consoles, and some enemy ships having invisible hitboxes!
  • The Farmer and the Viper: It's ultimately revealed that Aurelia's exploitation of Leasath, which was cited by Diego as Leasath's cause for attacking it, was nothing but a lie: Aurelia sent humanitarian aid to the country instead, but the warmonger intercepted most of it and used it to buy weapons.
  • For the Evulz:
    • The first Leasath Air Force bomber squadrons you encounter begins to bomb a civilian city. When their operator stops them, it is for wasting ordnance.
    • Leasath also takes pride in using gas attacks on civilians.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Cariburn.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Leasath Civil War. Despite not taking place during the story, it's the reason behind the current war, as Leasath blames Aurelia for exploiting it. Of course, this is entirely untrue, with Diego Navarro hiding the fact that Aurelia ACTUALLY PROVIDED AID to Leasath, and using all the food and money for arms sales instead.
  • Hero-Tracking Failure: The Meson Cannon can't keep up with Gryphus One if he flies fast enough.
  • Hero of Another Story: Albert Genette's the one who manages to take down Diego Navarro by revealing the truth behind the war.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: The Time Limit mission provides us with one as the player can't accelerate very hard at first, lest you detonate the sensitive ordnance you are carrying to disperse the poison gas that was spread on the city. The enemies in the mission, not aware of your limitations, ridicule your mediocre flying at first, wondering what made you so great in the first place. Their attitude quickly changes once you finish your task and jettison the ordnance, allowing you full maneuverability again.
  • Informed Equipment: Adding parts to planes doesn't change their appearance one bit.
  • "Instant Death" Radius: The Gleipnir's Shock Cannon. The mission "In Pursuit" also has an IDR with "high-performance SAMs" protecting a group of jammers from you.
  • Interface Screw: A SWBM detonating or a firing of the Shock Cannon results in the screen shaking.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Albert once again, being responsible for revealing Diego Navarro's true plans for the war.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The Digital Optical Stealth on the Gleipnir and Fenrir.
  • Invisibility Flicker: The Gleipnir needs to decloak to fire its Shock Cannon. Averted with stealth fighters that can remain off-radar even when firing missiles and decloak only pretty much arbitrarily.
  • Karma Houdini: Justified because this is entirely up to your performance. In one ending (Where you fail the last mission), Diego Navarro, the Leasath leader, escapes justice and his Batman Gambit still partially works out. In the other, he's torn apart by an angry mob.
  • Kick the Dog: You have Leasath bombing a defenceless city For the Evulz and the Hamlet unit's biochemical attack on Santa Elva, which may be a Moral Event Horizon-crossing.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: The game loves making use of this for its Remixed Levels.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Ninox 2 , who flies ahead of formation and gets wasted by the Meson Cannon for his trouble.
  • Level Grinding: It makes you unlock a set of colour schemes by kill farming too.
  • Lighter and Softer: Yes, the game shows the effects of war, but it has relatively mild tone compared to the console games.
  • Meaningful Name: "Gleipinir" is the name of a magical chain that restrains Fenrir. Backstory reveals it was meant to record combat data for Diego Navarro's REAL superweapon, a super fighter named, you guessed it, Fenrir.
  • Mission Control: Crux, a by the book operator for you. He's also a good enough friend to know exactly why you don't grant poor Albert an interview.
  • Mook Maker: You have carriers doing this.
  • Multiple Endings: For the first time since Ace Combat 3. Both endings have Aurelia retaking their country, destroying Fenrir and exposing the truth about Diego Gaspar Navarro. However, in one ending, Navarro manages to escape with a bag full of cash and disappears scot-free, while in the other, he is attacked by an angry mob of Leasathian citizens and is implied to have been trampled to death by them.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Averted in some cases; some Leasath soldiers aren't Just Following Orders but genuinely buy into Navarro's desire to see the destruction and downfall of Aurelia. Of course, he is a good speaker.
  • My Nayme Is: We have the Cariburn with a R, whereas King Arthur's first sword is Caliburn with a L.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The voice-acting in the trailer is much different than that in the game.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The game offers you various ways of breaking it by choosing or ignoring missions, and the final one is a Sadistic Choice that you can't avoid.
  • No Endor Holocaust: The Gleipnir's crashing into the Santa Elva river doesn't injure anyone, which Eugene remarks on.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Failing Standoff in the Skies II gives you a lovely cutscene of the Gleipnir slaughtering a civilian city with its Shock Cannon whilst Crux laments all the innocent people that have been murdered.
  • Obviously Evil: Leasath. Unlike previous enemy nations in the franchise, Leasath is portrayed horribly, taking pride and pleasure in causing suffering to the people of Aurelia. Mostly because they were duped into thinking they were exploited by the Aurelians. Subverted in the end, coincident with the Gryphus squadron's victory, the Leasathian people revolt against Diego Navarro after his true intentions are revealed.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Subverted as a high enough defence allows you to get away with 90+ , maybe 80+ % damage taken... not that many planes are both that survivable and still good dogfighters.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The full official name of the tyrannical nation of Leasath is the "Democratic Republic of Leasath." The ending debriefing text for Ace Combat Xi: Skies of Incursion calls it the "People's Republic of Leasath."
  • Pixel Hunt: Ther's two missions (depending on your mission choices) with radar jamming, forcing you to eyeball tiny targets.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: At least one Leasath shipman would rather be fishing than pursuing war with Aurelia.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Gryphus One's Southern Cross emblem comes with some cutesy cartoon bird.
  • Red Baron: You get two names. Nemesis by Leasath, and the Southern Cross, by basically everyone else.
  • Remixed Level: Lots of these.
  • The Republic: Aurelia's full name, the Federal Republic of Aurelia.
  • Sadistic Choice: In general. You decide when and where to go, which sometimes leads to pretty hard choices, as you're losing something no matter what.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: A comedic variation. Albert has spent nearly a year in the sweltering Southern Hemisphere, covering a war and even revealing the conspiracy behind it... but he never got to interview Gryphus One.
  • Shout-Out: Starting plane being the F-4E? Check. First mission protecting your base from bombers? Check. Anime-like cutscene stills? Check. The Raptor being the flagship fighter of the game? Check. Yeah, totally not familiar.
  • Stealthy Colossus: Gleipnir. It's bigger than an entire city, but thanks to stealth tech is hard to track and take down.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Gryphus one does have an important role in single-handedly turning the tide of the war, but it's ultimately Albert who manages to stop Diego Navarro by finding the truth behind it and revealing it to the people of Leasath.
  • Taking You with Me: As the lethally damaged Gleipnir is crashing, its pilot voices his desire to take as many Santa Elva civilians as he can even as his ground control pleads with him to aim for the river to minimize collateral damage.
  • That One Level: Should you decide to play one of the hardest missions in the series, Mission 7C "Time Limit", here's what's in store: it's just like AC5's Reprisal where you neutralize poison gas, except the neutralizing agent is unstable and cannot withstand G-forces, so you cannot make any sharp turns or accelerate too much else the agent will explode along with your plane. Furthermore, the gases do not release all at once, they appear as you neutralize each zone, so unless you memorize the order in which they trigger, first time players will overshoot their target and will have to carefully maneuver for another pass. You also cannot take too long because once a gas in a zone activates, you only have minutes to neutralize it before it spreads and kills too many civilians (failing the mission). And to further worsen things, two enemy F-14Ds pursue you attempting to shoot you down, all the while mocking your slow flying. And let's not mention the special E-767 target at 9,000 feet, which must be shot down before you neutralize all gases (otherwise it will leave). Keep in mind, you are doing this all on a PSP which has one analog stick.
  • Visible Invisibility: The Gleipnir and Fenrir use Predator-style shimmer for their Digital Optic Stealth.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The leader of the aggressive nation Leasath, Diego Gaspar Navarro, attacks the country of Aurelia in order to demonstrate the Fenrir, an amazing jet he was planning to sell.
  • You Are Gryphus One: Just like Mobius One, you don't even have a callsign.