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Famitsu has published an interview regarding Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown with brand director Kouno Kazutoki, producer Shimomoto Manabu, and VR producer Tamaoki Jun. Releasing on the PS4 and Xbox One in Japan on 17th January 2019, worldwide on 18th January 2019, and on PC (Steam) on 1st February 2019, Ace Combat 7 is the long-awaited first new numbered title in the series to be released since Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation was released for the Xbox 360 in 2007.

The interviewer begins with asking the three about how they feel right now with the release of the game approaching.

Tamaoki says that the 12 year blank since the last numbered title has for better or for worse resulted in heightened expectations, but that he feels that 7 will meet fans’ expectations. He says that 7’s VR features, which allow players to experience being a pilot, are on a different dimension from most VR titles released in the past few years, and that if there are enough requests from fans, they may be able to make more in the same vein in the future.

Shimomoto says that he is very happy at seeing how excited fans are on Twitter, and that seeing people report on having bought PSVRs, or even PS4s and Xbox Ones for the game have him realise how great the expectations for the game are. He says that he is looking forward to see what people think of it, and is particularly excited for reactions to the new gimmicks such as the ones added to the clouds. Finally, Kouno says that this was the most restless new year he ever had, and that he would never want to experience another ever again.

The interviewer next asks about the ranking system and medals in 7. Shimomoto says that the conditions for ranks remain the same as in previous games; Calculated from the score achived from defeating enemies, and clear time. Some medals, however, have been made to be hard to achieve even for long-time core series fans, and some can only be achieved in campaign mode (players can choose to replay individual stages to aim for specific medals). Shimomoto does note that the game is also made so that new players can have an easier time as well: Players can now restart from checkpoints, and the difficulty settings can be lowered. Kouno says that adding checkpoints was something the staff debated heavily, but that they ended up putting them in to keep with the times, and that they put a lot of effort into the last parts of the campaign mode and hope that as many people as possible will clear the game.

When asked about things they put effort into, Kouno says that they programmed the game to play the best parts of the music during the best parts of gameplay. Up till now this was done manually, with them guessing when the music should climax, but this was hit-or-miss depending on the player; Now the BGM loops until a cutscene starts, at which point it starts to play a different part. Shimomoto says that they did their best to make it feel natural, while also able to move all players, and that they also argued over which parts of the music should be used in cutscenes. Music this time was again composed by Kobayashi Keiki, and sound director Watanabe Ryou was in charge of dismantling the tracks and reassembling them to fit game progress.

They are next asked about the Playstation Store option on the main menu, and Shimomoto says that it is to allow players to purchase a season pass, which will immediately give them access to three new aircraft, as well as three new missions in the future. He also assures that there will not be any microtransactions added in the future, and Kouno says that they plan to keep downloadable content simple.

Multiplayer mode is discussed next. Multiplayer has two modes- Battle royale and deathmatch, and when asked if this is based on Ace Combat Infinity’s multiplayer, Tamaoki denies this and says that it is mostly derived from the previous numbered titles’ online modes. He adds that the new multiplayer mode is not just evolved from previous ones, but also evolved to fit Ace Combat 7. Shimomoto elaborates, saying that 7 has new elements like realistic clouds affecting combat, and that these new elements are of course present in multiplayer. Clouds, lightning, and currents are all present in the two multiplayer modes. Kouno says that when they added new elements like new special weapons, post-stall maneuvers and environmental effects to campaign mode, they decided that they would like players to be able to use these new features not just against the CPU, but against other players.

Kouno and Shimomoto say that multiplayer being up to 8 players is because they came to the conclusion that this is the ideal number balance-wise, and that while good players can keep track of up to 8 aircraft, it became difficult higher than that. How players with high scores in multiplayer get stars is also brought up; Shimomoto says that players can get up to three stars, and that defeating a player with more stars results in a higher score, which means stronger players are also more easily targeted (aircraft with higher specifications also yield higher scores). He says that the stars also have an effect on team deathmatch, where players with stars can become decoys. Kouno also notes that team combat also resolved the old issue of one-on-one dogfights taking far too long to conclude. Multiplayer matches players with other players at similar skill levels, and players can also practice in campaign mode, and Kouno says that he hopes that multiplayer mode will become a new “place of communication” for fans.

VR mode is the next topic for discussion. Tamaoki says that Ace Combat 7’s VR mode is a “presentation on the future” of Ace Combat; The staff considered many paths for the future of the series, and VR was one such path, and they decided to try making it once first. In VR mode, they prioritised the player being able to experience being a pilot, which is why they also made a hangar and let players look at their aircraft from outside. He also says that players too good to get hit should let a missile hit them anyway, as they put effort into making smoke in the cockpit extremely realistic.

The interviewer notes the interesting choice of including the A-10 C, and Tamaoki says that they chose to add it for the impact it gives when viewing it in VR, and also because though it has many fans, most people do not get chances to see the A-10 in person. He adds that VR mode includes air to ground attack missions which A-10 C fans will surely enjoy.

VR mode also includes a VR air show which is unlocked upon clearing the VR missions. The VR air show was originally a small bonus feature which did not even have smoke, but the animation designer in charge was a huge fan of air shows who ended up making 22 different flight patterns and smoke of multiple different colours. Tamaoki says that players who experience all the elements of the VR mode included 7 should understand what role VR will play in the future of the Ace Combat series, as well as what value it will have.

The interviewer wraps up asking each of the three for a message to players. Tamaoki says that VR mode should be played with headphones and not speakers, and says that though players can choose VR mode from the beginning, they should clear campaign mode and get used to the controls first. Shimomoto says that he is watching Twitter, and hopes to see players who will say things like “I’m going to propose to my girlfriend once this mission is over”, and Kouno concludes saying that while it was not easy to release a new numbered title after 12 years, they managed it thanks to requests from fans, and he hopes that they will be able to continue the Ace Combat brand, with the next title not taking as long.

Ace Combat 7 will be released worldwide on the PS4 and Xbox One on 18th January 2019, and on the PC (via Steam) on 1st February 2019.

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