Euroshmups; Episode 2. The Clone Wars
You don't need a degree in history from an ivy league school to know a few things about Germany. Since it's formation in the late 1800s, Germany has had a sporadic yet notorious reputation for being evil. We could try and come up with a top ten list of their sins, but I think we can all guess the first. Now most of you have probably heard of this... but way back in the 1930s they invented a thing called Nazis. After inventing this Nazi thing, they quickly decided to try it. I won't get into the finer details, but these were real bad dudes.
The second worst thing Germany ever did happened a little bit after that time the rest of the world said "enough with this Nazi business guys" and shoved so many missile shaped dicks into Berlin's ass they split the damn thing in half. So what was the second worst thing? Well after inventing the worlds worst villain, they proceeded to ban their use in movies and videogames. While the rest of the world enjoyed killing Nazis so much that they revel in the opportunity to do it again in works of fiction, Germany takes offence. In fact it would appear as though Nazis have become a protected class in Germany, and they can't have any violence against them because it would be a hate crime, apparently. Maybe that wasn't the actual intent, so let's hope you are reading this Chancellor Merkel, but it sure appears that way to the rest of the planet... the thing you tried to destroy... at least twice.
Now, this little diatribe does have a purpose. In order to talk about Aces of the Luftwaffe - Squadron this must be our starting point as, being as this is a game set in a fantasy post WW2 scenario, those two tidbits about Germany will be handy to know about when discussing the story. So lets start there.
Also important to know, I'm pretty sure Luftwaffe is German for Nazi airplane.
Aces of the Luftwaffe has a hilarious story. Not the kind of hilarious story where you chuckle at the witty dialog. More like hilarious in retrospect. What do I mean? Well, the premise is simple really, after that time the good guys (plus the soviets) righteously firebombed the shit out Germany in 1945, it turns out WHOOPSIE... the Luftwaffe escaped and started attacking America. You control a team of 4 diverse American super pilots who need to stop them. Not a bad premise, really it's all the game needed, but what if I told you they never shut up? They prattle on and on before and after every mission. None of it equals even the most Z grade cartoon show dialog. I would describe it as infuriating.
So, why is it hilarious in retrospect you ask? Well Aces of the Luftwaffe was developed in, surprise, Germany. So of course these are definitely not Nazis attacking America, a point which your team of American heroes, in heavy German accents, will constantly remind you. "I hate Krauts!" "I'll kill all of those damn Germans" etc. It's only hilarious until you realize how sad it is. To all the Germans out there, listen... we don't hate you. I mean sure if you try playing around with mustard gas again we might have to rename your country to "the crater formerly known as Germany" but until then, everything is cool. No need to beat yourselves up, its been over 80 years, time to let it go. When you finally do you can join the rest us in killing Nazis finally.
Until that day allow me to share the wise words of my grandfather who, by the way, you guys placed in a forced labour camp, "No matter what, never trust an Austrian". That's right, shift the blame.
Here. Right here. This is the real problem. Its easy to see how a simple premise like an overhead shoot'em up got fucked up so badly when you picture the original concept meetings. The team leader suggests making a shmup for some fast money then looks to his team of bratwurst eating minions for ideas on how to "innovate" so it will appeal to modern audiences. The team leader strokes his scraggly beard as he listens to their suggestions and then furiously writes the rough game design document all over his medium sized whiteboard. In the rush to include every innovative idea they had they crushed all the fun. Lets go over this in detail.
The playfield scrolls vertically but is presented in full widescreen, which theoretically should give the player more room to move. Theoretically. The player controls one ship and is flanked on the left right and rear by his wingmen. Here is where the first problems become apparent. Obviously this being a euroshmup the hitbox of your ship is gigantic and you have a lifebar to compensate, what makes matters much worse is your wingmen also have a hitbox and a lifebar. On top of that because one wingman is always at your rear, it cuts you off from moving to the bottom of the screen. Powerups appear randomly during the stage, but the real way to get more powerful is to level up and upgrade your ship. Some of these upgrades are the expected kind of thing like increasing your fire rate or damage, fine, the rest of them are randomly triggered attacks that have area of effect or stat boosts mid stage. Again you don't control this stuff. Just fly around and hope your wingmen decide to cause a tornado or something before they get killed, because dodging with only one ship is a hassle, doing it with four is just the worst thing you could imagine. Let's not forget about the stealth missions, again, these would be bad even if you controlled only one ship. Trying not to be detected while dragging along those other three ships is torture.
The worst feature is phobias. Each of the four pilots has either a fear or a personality disorder causing them to misbehave during the mission. One of them is even afraid of heights. Do the developers know what a pilot actually does? What they endure while going through the training to become a pilot? None of this stuff is fun for the player.... the customer might I remind you.
Finally, the loading time between stages is atrocious. What needs to be loaded? It couldn't be the gorgeous graphics, or supersonic sounds could it? Lets find out.
Aces of the Luftwaffe has no soundtrack. I assume they used royalty free music from the 1940s, because there is no way they paid for what's here. This is like a bad film score. Unmemorable and unexciting, I suppose we wouldn't want to get too pumped up shooting down Nazi airplanes right? Did I mention the horrible voice acting? Basically turn the volume down, you aren't missing anything.
Credit where credit is due, nice painting on the title screen. Everything else is real ugly. The character designs are just goofy and awful. The stage backgrounds are boring. They were going for a cartoon kind of aesthetic, but really didn't have the artistic talent to make it come to life. Aces of the Luftwaffe might give you eyeball cancer.
HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER
NEBELGESHWADER DLC REVIEW
Before we finish up with some final thoughts, let me summarize the DLC and my experience with it.
Aces of the Luftwaffe has a DLC, which released shortly after I finished and deleted the game from my hard drive. It features a whole new campaign just as long and terrible as the main game. It also costs the same price as the main game $15 Canadian dollars. Honestly they would have been better off making it a sequel instead of a DLC with only 205 achievement points. In this campaign you play as the totally-not-Nazis invading America.
Having already regretted my original $15 purchase of the game, I refused to buy it at normal price. Unfortunately the DLC never goes on sale, but the bundle of the game plus the DLC does several times. So I see a copy on disc at Gamestop for $20 and it includes the DLC. Finally I cave one day when I need bus change, thinking... why not? Why not just add a disc to my collection? Sure, it seems very unfriendly to customers who purchased the game when it was new to never make the DLC a reasonable price, but fine, why not?
Long story short, my disc drive stopped working. That's right. This was the last game my Xbox One X ever ran from the disc drive. It was less than a year old. Murdered in cold blood by those damn dirty Krauts after 12 hours of inhumane torture. Now it is a digital only system.
If you made it this far and are still wondering, is Aces of the Luftwaffe worth your $635 Canadian dollars? It may surprise you to hear but... No.
This may be the worst game I've played in the genre in over 30 years, and easily the worst game on Xbox that I can think of. Is it the 3rd worst thing Germany has ever done? Probably not. I'd imagine it's in the top ten though.
Coming soon, another terrible Euroshmup… and will Germany ever redeem itself?