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Video Game / Crimson Skies

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There have been two arcade flight-based Video Games released by FASA Corporation and published by Microsoft Game Studios: Crimson Skies for the PC, an arcade version and Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge for the Xbox. Rather than trying to take a realistic approach to flight, Crimson Skies instead goes for something akin to Ace Combat, where more emphasis is placed on action and almost-fantastical scenarios over a realistic interpretation of flight. This, along with an emphasis on barnstorming, has lead GameSpotto comment "Crimson Skies is very much based on a 'movie reality' where if it's fun and looks good, it works."

In lieu to the Tabletop Games, the series takes place in a Divided States of America universe, which begins after World War I, when a "Regionalist movement" gains popularity in the Union following the outbreak of Spanish influenza pandemic, rallying behind an isolationist platform. Meanwhile, President Woodrow Wilson's authority is undercut when Prohibition failed as a constitutional amendment, leaving the matter to be decided on a state level. The union soon became polarized between "wet" and "dry" states and, checkpoints became a common sight on state borders to stop the flow of alcohol into "dry" states.

The optimism of the The Roaring '20s was upset in 1927 when an outbreak of a deadly strain of influenza in America prompted states to quarantine the outbreak, further dividing the Union. Though not as deadly as the 1918 pandemic, the mass disease had immense political fallout, bolstering regionalist "strong state" views and decreasing voter turnout in the 1928 election. Shortly after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the nation begins to split. And the rest, is history.

The games' storylines are framed around a Radio Drama esque plot that chronicles the adventures of Nathan Zachary and the Fortune Hunters pirate gang during their rise to fame and fortune. During their escapades, the gang goes head-to-head (or in this case, propeller-to-propeller) with rival pirates and mercenaries, including The Black Swan, Jonathan "Genghis" Kahn, and Ulysses Boothe. Also challenging our heroes are private security firms such as Blake Aviation Security and militia squadrons such as the Hollywood Knights.

High Road to Revenge can be played on all generations of Microsoft consoles up to and including the Xbox Series X And S, either natively or through backwards compatibility.


  • The Ace: Nathan Zachary always pulls through, is an expert pilot and strategist, and just blows away everything in his path through sheer tactics and skill.
  • Action Hero: Nathan Zachary is all about violence when it comes to accomplishing his goals.
  • Adaptation Inspiration: While the original board game and the first video game had a relatively consistent technology level, the Xbox game, High Road to Revenge, takes the Diesel Punk vibe up to eleven with Spider Mechs, giant flying fortresses capable of eating entire zeppelins and Tesla weapons. By comparison, in the board game, Nikola Tesla is said to be working on a new type of engine, but he doesn't have a working prototype yet.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: Not exactly an aircraft carrier in the traditional sense, but many Zeppelins do hold complements of airplanes.
    • Said airplanes are deployed and retrieved on a trapeze hook, a very real technique used by the US Navy for operating fighter aircraft from zeppelins in the 1930s.
  • All There in the Manual: There is a series of books and an official website that can give you much more in-depth background information about the setting.
    • Not much is told about Lucas Miles, the PC game's Big Bad, in the game itself. The story of his feud with the Fortune Hunters and apparent demise is told in the novels and in a Radio Drama that plays during the game's installation, although said installation is usually completed before the story is over. The full clip can be found on YouTube.
  • Alternate History: The whole premise, with the games being set in alternate Diesel Punk 1930s in a Divided States of America.
  • Anti-Air: Anti-aircraft guns on the ground and on zeppelins.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In the PC game, if you fail a mission four times in a row, the game will ask if you would like to skip the level. Quite handy considering the game can be very Nintendo Hard.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Die Spinne are German Fascists in the 1930s.
  • Arbitrary Mission Restriction: Sometimes, you're forced to fly a particular craft for a mission.
    • The PC version forces you to fly a stock Fury for an air race, and to fly a stock Hoplite to look for an enemy ace.
    • The Xbox game has one mission where you have to bait an enemy zeppelin in an unarmed fighter, and sometimes throws you cargo collection missions, which only the Gyro can do.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Some zeppelins have broadside cannon ports. When these ports are open and shot at, they will cause entire sections of the zeppelin to explode. Which makes sense, considering that the ammo racks are probably very close by to facilitate rapid loading.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Aerial torpedoes. A single missile able to take out an entire section of a zeppelin is on the fast track to cool, but they have several problems including being so slow they can be shot apart by enemies, a minimum deployment range and lack of a guidance system that makes them hard to aim, most missions not requiring a zeppelin to be destroyed, the method of firing at open broadside cannon ports being arguably easier, and the fact that you can't have many of them with you.
    • The Beeper-seeker missiles in single player. It's basically a guided missile system in which you first have to fire the tracking "beeper" at your target then fire the guided "seeker" missile, guided by a signal from the beeper. Despite how awesome the idea of a guided missile is, ditching the non-damaging beeper in favor of a high-explosive rocket is often the better choice.
  • Badass Crew: The Fortune Hunters.
  • BFG: In a general sense, any gun above .50 caliber. However, High Road to Revenge features the Fw-206 Doppelganger, a single-engine aircraft equipped with a 75mm cannon adapted from a tank gun, touted as the largest gun ever fitted to a production aircraft. In Real Life, a number of aircraft on both sides of the war were fitted with tank guns, primarily for use in the ground-attack role. However, these were not terribly popular and all of them were large twin-engine aircraft, not a fighter-sized single-engine plane like the Doppelganger.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Played straight in the very beginning of High Road To Revenge with protagonist Nathan Zachary.
  • Betty and Veronica: In High Road to Revenge, Zachary is attracted both to Betty Charles and Maria Sanchez.
  • Big Applesauce: The final showdown between Nathan Zachary and Big Bad Lucas Miles in the PC game takes place over New York City.
  • Bigger Stick: In the PC game, completing missions gave you money which you could use to upgrade your existing plane or buy a new one custom-built to your specifications, choosing what engines and armament to bolt onto each airframe. Bigger engines offer greater top speed at the cost of increased weight, reducing maneuverability and rate of climb, while smaller ones keep you nimble but won't win any races. .30-cal machine guns have lots of ammo and a high rate of fire, which makes it easier to land a hit on a rolling, jinking target—but it takes a lot of hits to make a dent. .60- and .70-cals will handily deconstruct whatever they connect with, but are heavy as concrete and aren't exactly user-friendly. Regular old Browning .50s split the difference pretty well, but you can easily find yourself wishing for a more specialized arsenal. The end result is that you can build a plane that is capable of killing anything in the skies, provided you know how to fly it effectively.
  • Bland-Name Product: Generally averted. Boeing, Ford, and other real-life companies involved in aeronautics in the 1930s are mentioned by name in the game itself and reference material.
  • Break the Haughty: Act III in the PC game begins with Nathan Zachary overhearing a radio broadcast by Johnny Johnson claiming that the Nation of Hollywood is safe from pirate scum like Zachery. Johnson goes on to verbally pat himself on the back for a minute or so prompting Zachary, who has a history with Johnson, to turn off the radio and mutter that someone needs to take the arrogant SOB down a peg or two. The next few missions consist of you doing just that.
  • Butt-Monkey: Ace Dixon from the Computer game. You will shoot him down no less than four times, and he will scream and holler hilariously over the radio at you.
    Ace Dixon: NOOO! Not again! NOT BLOODY AGAAAAAAIN!!!"
  • Canon Foreigner: The Big Bad of High Road to Revenge, Dr. Nicolas Van Essen, as well as his organization, Die Spinne, are never mentioned in the board game or the novels.
  • Could Have Been Messy: Unless they crash or were shot down close to the ground, pilots will always bail out to safety and deploy their parachute once they're going down.
  • Cool Airship: The Pandora, mobile home base of the Fortune Hunters.
  • Cool Plane: The standard issue, default designs are pretty dull, but you can customize their appearance to invoke this.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Your plane will start smoking and sputtering as it takes hits, but you're only forced to bail out when all sections of your plane are destroyed.
  • Diesel Punk: Before the term was even conceived. Art Deco prop fighters and zeppelins mix it up with guided missiles and Tesla weapons, while still having crystal radios and 30's roadsters.
  • Early Adaptation Weirdness: While it does contain some elements from the original 1998 board game (such as the Black Swan pirate gang as well as the Hollywood Knights squadron and planes like the famous Hughes P21-J MKIII Devastator (used by the famous Fortune Hunters gang), the other hand, such as squadrons like Redmann's Gang and planes like Grumman E-1C Avenger, are nowhere to be existed. The Xbox sequel High Road to Revenge however had more elements from the board game, such as the Red Skull Legion gang (that serves as one of the Fortune Hunters' rival pirate gangs).
  • Enemy Chatter: Enemy pirates, militia planes, zeppelins, ground forces and naval forces will taunt you over the radio, talk to each other, etc..
  • Femme Fatale: Justine of the Medusas and the Black Swan (who assists Zachary in later missions after having fought him early on) in the PC game. Maria Sanchez in the Xbox game.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Peacemaker and Bloodhawk fighters, along with the Hoplite autogyro, are on the lighter end of the spectrum, relying on their speed and agility in dogfights.
  • Friendly Enemy: When Johnny Johnson puts a bounty on Nathan's head after the obstacle race, the Black Swan and Loyle "Show Stopper" Crawford immediately reject the offer and come to Nathan's help. Both of them also help the Fortune Hunters at various points during the course of the story, both on and off screen. By the end of the game, Nathan and Paladin Blake have developed this kind of relationship as well.
  • Foreshadowing: In the PC game, after stealing the "Spruce Goose" plane, the Fortune Hunters arrange to sell it through a fence. While the transaction happens off screen, the player can read a message from the fence warning the plane was bought by some very shady men who paid with German gold. Guess who's doing business with the Reich? Yep, the game's Big Bad.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The PC game has a pretty nasty one where your saves can randomly be corrupted. Mercifully, this was later remedied with the release of a patch.
  • Gentleman Thief: Nathan Zachary, the Gentleman Pirate.
  • Grand Theft Prototype: One mission has the Fortune Hunters steal a prototype fighter (fitted with a Nitro Boost engine) right from Boeing Field.
  • Good Planes, Evil Planes: Downplayed. While there are some exceptions, you're likely to see Peacemakers in the hands of "good guys" and Brigands and Kestrels in the hands of pirates.
    • The German forces and the corrupt Sacred Trust forces fly Hellhounds
  • He Knows Too Much: The PC game has you protecting a Sacred Trust accountant so he can testify against his corrupt employer.
  • Hero Killer: Inverted. The Blake Aviation Security firm preps to go on a pirate hunting mission with their new zeppelin, but it gets destroyed by the player in one mission, and in yet another mission you have to rescue BAS zeppelins from another band of pirates. The rest of the anti-pirate forces in the game suffer equally embarrassing losses against the very people they were hired to take down; the Hollywood Knights are beaten on their own soil.
  • Herr Doktor: Dr. Fassenbiender in the PC game. In High Road to Revenge both Fassenbiender and Dr. Von Essen.
  • High-Altitude Battle: What else? It is an aerial combat series.
  • High-Speed Hijack: The second PC mission has you stealing a British Balmoral Bomber, in mid-air, by having Zachary jump out of his airplane, climb into the bomber, and punch out its pilot and crewmen.
  • Hired Guns: Blake Aviation Security.
  • Historical Domain Character: Including, but not at all limited to, Howard Hughes and Nikola Tesla. Zachary apparently was taught to fly by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. Though he never appears, Hitler pops up in several cutscene conversations.
  • Humongous Mecha: Three instances occur as boss fights in High Road to Revenge, two against a Spider Tank and the other against a gigantic worm/centipede robot, whose body is covered with impenetrable titanium armor and whose "mouth" is the only vulnerable spot.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The PC game names its missions in the vein of "Nathan Zachary and X", where "X" is whatever you're fighting or doing for that mission, e.g. "The Lost Treasure," "The Pirate's Duel," or "The Nefarious Trap." These give the game a sort of radio-drama feel.
  • Immune to Bullets: Of all things, zepplins. This is surprisingly realistic, since many of the airships of the time were either helium-filled or using a hydrogen/helium double-cell system, and even pure-hydrogen rigid-frame zeppelins are surprisingly hard to ignite without incendiary/explosive rounds. Rockets, on the other hand . . .
  • Jack of All Stats: The Devastator in both the PC and Xbox games remains a good all-rounder aircraft throughout the game.
  • Just Between You and Me: When the Black Hats capture the Fortune Hunter and Black Swan pilots, they decide to brag about their latest secret plan to the prisoners. Zachary is incredulous that the Black Hats would even do something like that.
  • Kaizo Trap: In the PC game you can crash during the final mission after having achieved the victory conditions, and yes, you will have to replay the entire damn mission again.
  • Lethal Joke Plane: The RAF Balmoral Bomber from the PC game is slow, clumsy and generally the absolute last choice for a multiplayer dogfight (see Mighty Glacier below). However, there's a couple of ways to customize it into a shockingly lethal gun platform.
  • Lightning Gun: the bad guys in High Road to Revenge have them.
  • Lovable Rogue: Nathan Zachary and to an extent the rest of the Fortune Hunters.
  • Luck-Based Mission: One level forces you to search different locations to find Ulysses Boothe and if you check the wrong spot you have to fight off some enemy planes before resuming the search. Which of the 4 possible hiding spots he's using is random but that's not the real problem. The real problem is that you're forced to fly a Ford Hoplite Autogyro armed with .30-cal machine guns and very few rockets and you don't get any backup until you find the right hiding spot. The game wants you to use your superior handling and small size to weave through tight areas and get behind enemy planes but everyone except for Boothe has rear mounted guns that can tear you to shreds so if you don't guess right the first time you're screwed. Thankfully, you can skip the level if you lose enough times.
  • Mega-Maw Maneuver: One level of Highroad to Revenge has a giant zep designed to eat other zeps.
  • Men of Sherwood: When you have wingmen (and in some missions, pilots from non-Fortune Hunter factions), they perform quite well. Obviously It's Up to You like most games, but they have excellent staying power and will almost always take out a few planes for you.
  • Mighty Glacier:
    • The British Balmoral.
    • The Doppelganger from High Road to Revenge is one of the slowest planes out there, but it can take a beating and has a tank cannon for its secondary weapon.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: The Fortune Hunters are criminals, but their criminals acts are not necessarily as terroristic or harmful as they could be, and they actually do a handful of good things in the story, culminating in them saving New York City from the corrupt security firm Sacred Trust.
  • Nitro Boost: The PC game has you stealing a Bloodhawk equipped with one of these. Eventually you can make airplanes with one of these fitted.
  • Never Found the Body: Lucas Miles is last seen crashing in the river, while laughing maniacally. After the mission the player can read an excerpt from the police report stating that no body could be recovered.
  • Old Soldier: The British Balmoral can qualify for this, as it's told in-universe that while it is no longer a cutting-edge aircraft, it's still as reliable as ever.
  • Pirate Booty: the first few missions of the PC game centered around Nathan Zachary retrieving the lost treasure ship of Sir Francis Drakewhich is inexplicably in Hawaii.
  • Point Defenseless: Inverted. Zeppelin turrets can shred the player if they are careless.
    • Some aircraft, like the Balmoral, Kestrel, Brigand, and Hellhound, have rear turrets that can scratch up your fighter if you're not careful.
  • Red Shirt Army: Most enemy planes go down pretty quickly if you're a decent player. To the Mook Mobile!
  • Revenge Via Proxy: Subverted in the PC game. In the last mission, Lucas Miles intends to kill Hollywood star Lana Cooper as revenge against Zachary. It fails, because his victim proves to be more than able to defend herself.
  • Rule of Cool: This is practically the soul of the series and the only reason we have things like zeppelins designed to eat other zeppelins, Humongous Mecha Spider Tanks, planes armed with lightning guns and last but not least a weather control device.
  • Run for the Border: In the PC game, the Fortune Hunters manage to expose Sacred Trust's corrupt dealings. Some of the members decide to load up zeppelins with whatever they can grab and run for international waters, while the Fortune Hunters try to foil their escape.
  • Schizo Tech: Especially in the Xbox game (see Adaptation Inspiration above): you get remote-controlled rocket launchers, magnetic rockets and a Tesla coil-like weapons.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: High Explosive rockets. They produce a pretty purple-colored explosion that can take out just about anything in 1 or 2 hits.
  • Shock and Awe: Die Spinne's Piranha fighter, armed with a pair of lightning cannons. It's always satisfying to watch your opponent's shorted-out plane spin helplessly into a cliff.
  • Shout-Out: The last mission in High Road To Revenge involves Nathan Zachary flying into a large superweapon commandeered by Von Essen, initially damaging it externally, before then taking out its main power core inside and flying away from the resulting fireball.
  • Sky Pirate: Might as well be the Trope Codifier. The Fortune Hunters and Black Hats are only two of the many air pirate gangs roaming The Divided States of America.
  • Spider Tank: Die Spinne makes use of giant, six legged machines with massive flamethrowers.
  • Storming the Castle: Zachary and the Fortune Hunters blitz the Black Hat's mountain base to rescue the Black Swan. They end up leveling the place, pinching a stock of Aerial Torpedoes, and Zachary nicks a Black Hat Warhawk to boot.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: Your progress in the PC game is tracked by use of a scrapbook/ledger, which documents your kills and earned money. It also picks up newspaper clippings, telegrams, and other mementos of your feats of derring-do, giving context to your actions. If you scroll the scrapbook all the way to the beginning, you can even find a page describing events that happened before the game. These include a newspaper clipping describing Nathan Zachary lighting a cigar with his last dollar during the Stock Market Crash and the Code of the Fortune Hunters.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: The German antagonist, Dr. Von Essen, of High Road to Revenge invokes this trope with a metal flame-throwing worm-shaped vehicle and spider tanks that are powered by "Tesla energy cells".
  • Subsystem Damage: Zeppelins in the PC game can have their turrets shot out to reduce their defenses, or their engines destroyed to reduce their speed. Most zeppelin attack missions involve you crippling the target zep's engines.
  • Villain Protagonist: Nathan Zachary may be the swashbuckling daredevil the everyday boy aspires to be, but that still doesn't change the fact that he leads a band of criminals in violent crimes. He does lighten up a bit, though.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Big Bad air pirate Lucas Miles hides his operations behind a well-known private security firm: Sacred Trust Incorporated.
  • Weather-Control Machine: One of Die Spinne's superweapons. It's mounted on one really, really big zeppelin battleship.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the novels and PC game, the Fortune Hunters gang has the following members: Nathan Zachary, Jack Mulligan, Big John, Buck, Tex, Sparks, and Betty as the newest recruit, as well as Dr. Wilhelm Fassenbiender and his daughter Ilse who join the crew during the course of the video game. In the Xbox version, however, only Zachary, Big John, Betty and Dr. Fassenbiender appear, and the others are never even mentioned although unidentified crew members can be spotted inside the Pandora.
  • Wretched Hive:
    • Arixo, a desert nation-state formed from the remnants of Arizona and New Mexico. Its vast desolate and lawless expanses makes it a natural haven for bandit activity.
    • The pirate kingdom of Free Colorado.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Somewhat appropriate considering the time period of the setting, but they're used far more than they were in real life.