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Skies of Fury DX

Platform(s): Android, Nintendo Switch, iOS
Genre: Action
Publisher: Seed Interactive
Developer: Illumination Games
Release Date: April 12, 2018


Switch Review - 'Skies of Fury DX'

by Cody Medellin on June 21, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

In the action-packed skies over the Battle of Arras, experience Bloody April of 1917 from the perspective of both British and German pilots fighting for their lives.

Flight games for the Switch encompass quite a few disciplines. If you want jet fighting, there's Sky Rogue. If you want something more peaceful, you have Island Flight Simulator. If you want something weird, there's Ace of Seafood. Now the system has an arcade combat game with Skies of Fury DX, an enhanced port of the mobile title known as Ace Academy: Skies of Fury. The words "mobile port" are enough to signal disappointment for some console players, but luckily, this is a very good exception to that line of thinking.

The game is split into three modes, with the Campaign taking center stage. You fly through 100 stages as either British or German forces during the year 1917, through a series of biplane battles commonly referred to as Bloody Sunday. Your missions consist of three types: standard dogfighting, escort missions, and time trials (going through rings and take down targets before heading for the exit). Despite that high number, the missions are short, and while it won't take  long to beat the game, you'll want to pace yourself because the lack of mission variety can become a drag if you're playing for long stretches of time. If you want to spice things up, you could activate challenges like turning off aim assist or increasing the damage taken from enemy fire.

While that sounds like a terrible blueprint for a game, there are several mechanics that make the whole thing worthwhile. The first is that Skies of Fury DX is less of a simulation and more of an arcade shooter. That means that you won't have to worry about stalls or blacking out, putting all of your concentration instead on firing at the enemy and avoiding bullets. You have infinite ammo, but you need to reload, so you can't simply go in and blindly hold down the fire button without consequence. You may not have missiles or bombs, but you have the ability to gain a burst of firing speed once you use your special ability. Although your plane has a health meter, it can only regenerate in quarters.

If you're coming from the mobile title, you'll notice that the controls are much tighter here. The arcade stylings mean that the dual analog sticks are good enough for flight, with the ZL and ZR buttons handling special move activation and firing, respectively. Tricks like loops are done with the directional buttons, and trying to find your next target is done by hitting L and R simultaneously. There are no motion controls at play, which is great since that setup on the phone was quite clunky.

The move from mobile to console also means a revamp to the progression system. Every kill gives you XP, and every mission gives you a ton more XP to level up. Levelling gives you more planes with different stats, but it also gives you more points to put into things, like bigger ammo caches and more health. Although you can't use those newfound abilities in any other mode, it still comes in handy once you reach the more difficult final stages. One holdover from the mobile version is the presence of loot boxes, but instead of paying cash for those, you simply acquire them via levelling. Truthfully, the loot boxes feel unnecessary since you only get new plane skins and crosshairs through them, but admittedly, some of the skins look nice.

With all of that combined, the core gameplay mechanics feel quite good. You never wrestle with the controls, and it's easy to find enemies despite not having any radar. The game allows for some tactics via using clouds to cover your presence, and the AI on both ends is more than competent. It fulfills the task of throwing you into a dogfight for short bursts of action, and with so few titles on the system that can do that, it's a welcome addition. The only gripe is that you need to complete both the German and British portions of each chapter before you can move on. It would've been nice if you could simply choose one track and play that from start to finish instead of being forced to do both at the same time.

Survival mode can be played cooperatively with up to four players. All of you have three lives to get as far as you can, but your scores are only recorded locally instead of on online leaderboards. Since you can't use your buffed-up abilities in this mode, you'll power up via kills; more kills grant new buffs as long as you remain alive. Considering that you don't gain any XP that can be carried over to the campaign, you might not play this mode very often, but it's a nice addition nonetheless.

The other game mode that will get some serious play time is versus, since the arcade setup and four-player capabilities mean that you'll get flashbacks of competitive Starfox 64 play. The setup certainly handles that well, but one interesting thing is the addition of wingmen for either side. They aren't even dangerous in groups, but destroying them means you get buffs just like in survival mode. It's a good idea to go after those wingmen first, so you have a better shot at taking out your main opponents in an easier fashion. It's a fun mode that makes you wish there was also an online option.

When you consider the game's origins, the presentation ends up being surprisingly perfect for the big screen. The title may be plagued with jaggies, but the cel-shaded look and bright comic book colors make it look great, especially since it always moves at 60 fps. Load times are good, and the soundtrack is rousing, like an old adventure movie. Keep in mind that the audio plays louder than most other games on the Switch, so prepare to lower your overall volume before your ears get blasted.

Skies of Fury DX is a very simple but very enjoyable arcade shooter. The campaign is long, but the missions are short enough that they can be enjoyed in bursts, while the progression system gives you enough reason to keep coming back. Controls and presentation are good, and despite the issues in some areas, the core is enough to provide an overall fun experience. Skies of Fury DX is a pleasant surprise that's well worth checking out.

Score: 8.0/10

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