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Video Game / Aero Fighters

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A top-down vertical scrolling Shoot 'Em Up series by Video System, known as Sonic Wings in Japan (and sometimes in the rest of the world) (not to be confused with Sonic the Hedgehog). On the surface, Aero Fighters looks to be a standard military shoot 'em up video game, but what makes this series unique and charming is its own variety of playable characters, with a few examples being a spirited American Cyborg, a Ninja, a J-pop Idol Singer, a rich girl and her tutor, an infant, a dolphin, and even some Crossover characters from other Video System games.

The series spans five games:

  • Aero Fighters 1, dedicated arcade hardware, later ported to the SNES.
  • Aero Fighters 2, Neo Geo arcade platform.
  • Aero Fighters 3, Neo Geo. World War II-era planes, instead of modern fighter jets like the others.
  • Sonic Wings Limited, Zinc arcade board. Later ported to the Sega Saturn and PlayStation as Sonic Wings Special.
  • Aero Fighters Assault, exclusive to the Nintendo 64. Strayed from the formula, being a halfway realistic 3D flight simulation (developed by Paradigm Entertainment) instead of a vertical shoot'em up.

The squared-off font used in the logo was famously misread by John Green as "Nerd Fighters", which later became the Fan Community Nickname of him and his brother Hank, known online as the VlogBrothers.

I never thought I'd be reading trope examples over a jungle:

  • All Just a Dream: Mao Mao's ending in the first Aero Fighters, in which she seems to have accidentally gotten stuck in her fighter which is fighting on its own.
  • Ambiguous Gender:
    • Angela, full bore. For starters, the character's called Steve in Aero Fighters 2. Everywhere else (Sonic Wings 2 included), they're called Angela. All you have to do is figure out why the translators felt justified in that. Making matters more difficult is that different ending pictures depict them as male or female. And, in Sonic Wings, Angela uses male pronouns. The best example of the situation is to compare their endings with Hien and Ellen. Pay close attention to how their hair is falling in each one...
    • In Keaton's ending with Angela, the latter was shown wearing a corset undergarment with a clearly feminine figure.
  • Astral Finale: Every single game of the series, with the exception of 2 where the final stage is in an abnormally gigantic temple interior (referred to in Special as "Another World") and possible route in 3 where the branching path either leads to The Bermuda Triangle or Mars.
  • Battleship Raid: A number of bosses follow this trope, being either true battleships or massive land-based moving fortresses.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Aero Fighters 3 starts with a surprise attack from WWII-era airplanes that destroys the modern jet fighters, which is why the players are piloting WWII-era aircraft themselves.
  • Boss Game: The third game as well as Assault.
  • Boss Warning Siren:
    • In Aero Fighters 2, a loud siren with incoherent speech plays when approaching a boss.
    • Aero Fighters 3 actually incorporates this trope into the boss theme, which starts off with this Gratuitous English speech backed by a siren:
      Hey you idiot!
      Make a move or you will be finished
      Show me what you've go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-t!!
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: If it weren't for this and the zany cast of characters, most people would be dismissing this game as yet another generic vertical shooter.
  • Cool Plane: Both the ones you can control and the enemy ones, especially the bosses that are far larger than their Real Life counterparts.
  • Death from Above: Among others the smart bomb of the Harrier (AV-8) in Aero Fighters, that brings several Vulcan bombers to carpet bomb the screen.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Crashing your plane in Aero Fighters Assault will only subtract a bit of your health.
  • Demoted to Dragon: Gorgonzula is bumped from one of two final bosses to penultimate boss before Lar or Tenukie in Aero Fighters 2. Lar and Tenukie themselves end up joining him in Aero Fighters 3.
  • Difficulty by Region: For some reason, Aero Fighters 3 is locked to the hardest difficulty level when played on the European BIOS.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: Enemy bullets move faster at least in the first game once you've all power-ups.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first game is a little more serious compared to the later games, despite having moments of comedy. It also uses a vertical monitor unlike the better-known Neo Geo games, although Special and Limited would return to a vertical orientation.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Hildroid bosses Pandora (a floating golden skull with a spinal cord body), Lar (cycloptic metal sphere that can spawn weapons from anywhere on its body), Mars-Vesta (egg-shaped cycloptic stone that can shapeshift into various forms), Bagarius (cycloptic tentacled monster that fuses with a submarine), and Barbie (a pulsing pink orb).
  • Excuse Plot: A terrorist organization called Fata Morgana is trying to Take Over the World with the help of some otherworldly creatures known as the Hildroids. The protagonists are part of an international peacekeeping force called "Project Blue" trying to stop them. Project Blue and the terrorists were only mentioned in the manuals for Special and Assault, whereas the Hildroids are mentioned a grand total of once during "The Man"'s solo ending in Aero Fighters 3. The first two games? Didn't explain whoever the bad guys are at all.
  • Flat Character: William Sid Pride in the first game.
  • Flying Car: The guest character from Turbo Force is a jet-propelled sport car.
  • Flying Saucer:
    • The boss of the Hawaii stage in Aero Fighters 2 is a chakram-shaped craft labled the X-68 (or 89-X depending on how you look at it).
    • Later games have a more traditional-looking saucer called the Spinning Rose (which spins). It is a potential final boss in every game except Special.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: The alternate final bosses: Gorgonzula the Killer Space Monkey in 1, Tenukie the Bedsheet Ghost in 2, and Soh-Takeko the Mahjongg-Tile girl in 3.
  • Guide Dang It!: Unlocking the bonus levels in Assault and the True Final Boss. To get the first one, you have to gain a very high score in the first 2 levels. To get the second one, you have to clear all of the levels before reaching the fortress very fast. The third bonus level is available if you cleared the first 2 bonus stages. Getting to the True Final Boss requires completing all of the levels.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Lar's "roar" in Assault.
  • Heroic Dolphin: Spanky, a dolphin fighter jet pilot able to communicate in human languages.
  • Inconsistent Dub:
    • Many characters who get a Dub Name Change revert to their original names in later games, including the characters Steve (Angela), Cindy (Cincia), Kohful (Kowful) and the bosses Amadan (Bazeel) and Deathskull (Pandora), though it helps that until Assault with the exception of the main characters, are almost all confined in the manual or non in game materials.
    • Hien for some reason has a hyphen in his name in Aero Fighters 2.
    • Spanky reverted to his Japanese name (Whity) in Aero Fighters Special, but was changed back to Spanky in Aero Fighters Assault.
    • The villainous organization the heroes fight against is called Fata Morgana in Aero Fighters Special and Phutta Morgana in Aero Fighters Assault.
    • The "special" Final Boss in Aero Fighters is called "Gorgonzula" in the manual but "Mohetu Saru Bomb" (Super Monkey Bomb) in-game (though indirectly, on the screen of a movie theatre in one of the endings). Incidentally, the Japanese versions aren't consistent with his name either, alternating between "Super Monkey Bomb" and simply "Monkey".
    • Some copies of the third and fourth games retain the Sonic Wings title in the English version.
    • Given the very limited English release Special had, many of the above are likely the result of a rushed translation.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Besides some planes that appear as bosses like the Vulcan and the B-2 in Aero Fighters and Aero Fighters 2 respectively being way larger than real-world equivalents, the Paris stage boss in the latter is a pair of militarized Concorde airliners.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The smart bomb of the F-14 in Aero Fighters consists in a salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Harrier (AV-8) in Aero Fighters and the A-10 in Aero Fighters 2. Both are less maneuverable than other planes, but have both high firepower and powerful smart bombs.
  • Mood Dissonance: On one hand, the gameplay looks like a run-of-the-mill vertical shooter of the 90's. On the other hand, you have eccentric pilots of all stripes such as ninjas, dolphins, and babies exchanging silly one-liners between stages.
  • Multiple Endings: All pilots have them, regardless of whether you're flying solo or with someone else, and whether or not you successfully defeat the final boss. In the rest of the series except for Assault, there's even endings for each possible pair of characters.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Chaika and Pooshika, the Russian twins in the third game of the series. Chaika is the blue one.
    • Mao Mao and Hien can also fit, with Mao Mao being young and enthusiastic while Hien is much more stoic and reserved.
    • Also Keaton and Keith, the former being more straight and serious than the latter.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: Spanky is a dolphin who pilots a frickin' YF-23 fighter jet and other experimental aircraft. He fries over jungles.
  • Sapient Ship: Rabio, a secret character in the SNES Aero Fighters alongside Lepus, as well as Aero Fighters 3 and Special (where he's "piloted" by Kotomi). Of course, this would be completely lost on anyone who didn't play his home series, since he has no lines in any Aero Fighters appearance.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: Beat the game as "The Man" solo and he is revealed to be Captain Waffle from Spinal Breakers. Beat the game in co-op and he's revealed to be... just some guy.
  • Shared Universe: Aero Fighters acts a "Hub" franchise for a number of other Video System games, including Rabio Lepus, Lethal Crash Race, Tao Taido, Karate Blazers, Spinal Breakers, Turbo Force and even Super Volleyball (TB A-10 looks exactly like the robot referee of the Hyper mode in this game).
  • Shout-Out:
    • The first boss of Aero Fighters 2 is heavily based on the gigantic spider tank from Raiden II, down to the way it explodes.
    • The Superboss of Aero Fighters 3's final stage is preceded with a black ball that displays the following text:
    • The boss of the Russian stage in Aero Fighters is the MIG-31 from Firefox, or rather the two prototypes had not Gant stolen one. The ending credits when playing as Hien and Mao Mao mention it as one of the "actors".
  • Silly Simian: The joke final boss in the first game was a monkey, which has since appeared in other games combined or attacking with the last stage's mid boss.
  • Skippable Boss:
    • Aero Fighters: The capsule that releases one of two Final Bosses can be destroyed before it does so, and the game's ending will change to reflect this.
    • Aero Fighters 2: The final stage of the Mexico boss has randomized health, sometimes it'll only last a few seconds before exploding, sometimes it'll skip straight from the penultimate stage to the explosion.
    • Aero Fighters Assault: The Final Boss has three stages, but they operate on a timer rather than health.
  • Smart Bomb: In 3, known as a special attack which varies based on the plane, the most common being a screen clear, invincibility, and a strong short-range attack. Of these, Chaika and Pooshika's IL-2 Stormovick has russian dolls hunt around the screen and provide limited invincibility while in effect, and Alex's Whirlwind has a short delay in invincibility before clearing bullets or doing the full screen attack.
  • Time Stands Still: Mao Mao's smart bomb.
  • Tokyo Tower: In 3, it's been either transformed into an assault mecha or replaced by a mecha impostor. On the second loop, said Tokyo Tower mecha falls backwards into a lake.
  • Totally Radical: Hawk in Assault uses stereotypical surfer slang. "Bummer", "Gnarly", and "Bogus" just to name a few. Just listen to his voice samples for yourself.
  • True Final Boss: In Assault, Pandora and the level itself. See Guide Dang It! above.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: Assault is a Star Fox-ish flight sim as opposed to a top-down shoot-em-up.
  • The Walls Have Eyes: Lar is a giant, disembodied, floating eye.
  • Weaponized Landmark: Running out of time on Mission 1 of Aero Fighters Assault will not result in a game over. Instead, the Tokyo Towers will turn into a pair of laser cannons that will instantly destroy the boss and let you go to the next mission. A Tokyo Tower was previously an enemy in Aero Fighters 3.

Hey, you idiot! Make a move, or you will be finished! Show me what you've gooooooooootttttttttttttttt!!

Alternative Title(s): Sonic Wings