Within the high flying, dynamically transforming and musically inclined Macross franchise, there have been a steady stream of games of various genres released. Of the games released since the 1980s, 3D flight shooters released in the late 2000s and throughout the 2010s have included an optional Real Flight Control setting for the Fighter mode of their Variable Fighters.
This control setting is sometimes jokingly referred to as “Ace Combat mode” by fans of Macross games. This control setting has its benefits and setbacks which will now be examined. For the sake of clarity, terms primarily used in the Macross series will be used throughout this article.
Whether you know of Variable Fighters from Macross or Robotech, these high performance mecha are most recognizable for their ability to transform into three different forms. This was made possible when humans within the Macross universe obtained and developed Over Technology after a Protoculture alien star ship crash landed on Earth. Of the many fantastical technologies developed, Variable Fighters became the primary front line war machine against the enemies of humanity in Space War I (Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, 1982) up to the most recent conflict in the Brisingr Globular Cluster (Macross Delta, 2016).
The three modes Variable Fighters can transform into are: Fighter, Battroid and GERWALK (Ground Effective Reinforcement of Winged Armament with Locomotive Knee-joint). Each mode has an ability it specializes in with certain weapons that are more effective depending on which mode they are being utilized in. Fighter Mode is the form most commonly used for long distance travel, high speed attacks and aerial combat. This form gives Variable Fighters an appearance similar to human developed fixed wing combat aircraft.
Real Flight Controls
Real Flight Controls (RFC) were first introduced by name with the release of Macross Ultimate Frontier (October 1st, 2009) on the PlayStation Portable (PSP). By activating Real Flight in the options of the game, flying in Fighter Mode becomes more of a flight simulator experience. A full Heads Up Display (HUD), controls that allow for full input of pitch, roll and yaw and the camera either showing HUD only or being positioned behind the Variable Fighter in a third person view. Though the franchise's first 3D action game - Macross: Digital Mission VF-X (February 28th, 1997) - also featured flight simulator like controls, Real Flight has become the official name for realistic flight controls in 3D Macross games starting in 2008. This remains true as RFC is available in the most recent 3D action game, Macross Delta Scramble (October 20th, 2016) on the PS Vita.
Unless RFC is switched on, Variable Fighters in Flight Mode operate with what is referred to as Normal flight controls. This is a simplified control setting which limits the ability to roll and arguably decreases potential maneuverability to a certain extent. However, it also negates the need to properly manage speed and aircraft attitude while in combat on planets or moons with atmosphere and gravity effects.
Ace Frontier Series (PSP)
Macross Triangle Frontier (February 3rd, 2011) is being used as the title for information on Real Flight type controls in Macross games on the PlayStation Portable. The reason for this is because it is the final PSP release for the franchise, but it is the most advanced version of the Ace Frontier series developed by Studio Artdink. There are three games within the series, each of which use the same game engine but expand on their content with each consecutive release.
Macross Triangle Frontier features two distinct modes: Academy mode which is essentially a dating sim style visual novel which focuses on building character stats. Campaign mode features missions from various Macross TV series, OVAs and movies, placing the player in different eras of Macross history. Through network connection the Campaign missions can be played cooperatively with other players. Battle royale and VS modes are also available.
Real Flight controls in Macross Triangle Frontier benefits from having a large amount of vertical freedom. In missions where land based combat is an option, the altitude ceiling is 4000 (measurement undefined) with maximum speeds capable going beyond 1000 (measurement undefined) depending on the stats of the Variable Fighter used. This altitude is technically doubled to a maximum altitude ceiling of 8000 in high altitude levels, but the lowest altitude attainable is 4000. While using Real Flight controls, an effective use of slashing style attacks allows for volleys of missiles and gun fire to be focused onto targets; the iconic Macross Missile Massacre. This can be done all while maintaining a reasonable distance to evade counterattack or gain distance in the event a humanoid shaped or Variable Fighter enemy attempts to move in for close range combat.
An immediate, problematic change in game play using RFC is the exaggerated effect of gravity. When reducing speed using the designated button altitude loss begins immediately. No matter the speed or attitude, the loss of altitude begins immediately. Rolling inverted also incurs rapid altitude loss. Each of these can negated for the most part by temporarily going to maximum speed or performing an evasive roll. Fortunately Macross games are fairly forgiving starting in the sense that ramming into the ground or bouncing off of large enemies does not cause damage.
The default button layout of the PSP is somewhat of a handicap, especially with a second pair of shoulder buttons being unavailable for a more flight sim friendly setting. However, by reassigning multiple buttons the awkwardness can be minimized. This will be explained in detail at the end of this article.
Macross 30 (PS3)
Though there have been a handful of Macross games on the PlayStation 3 (PS3), they are essentially re-skinned versions of missions found on the PSP. These PS3 games were bundled with the Blu-Ray movies the missions correspond with. That's not exactly a complaint, but for the sake of exploring Real Flight controls further, a different title will be selected.
Macross 30: Singing Voice Connecting the Galaxy (February 28th, 2013) was released on the PlayStation 3 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Macross franchise. It features characters, mecha and music from five of the major TV shows and OVAs alongside an original cast and original story. It is widely considered to be one of the top, if not the best Macross game in the franchise thus far. This semi-open world flight action role playing game allows players to enjoy the freedom to explore large areas. Throughout these areas are cities, bandits, aliens, dungeons, side quests, hunting quests, delivery orders, air racing, high speed pursuit missions, boss battles and more. All of the aforementioned features can be enjoyed alongside the main story, which will take players to other planets when travelling on the Geofon - an amphibious assault ship which acts as the main base.
Real Flight controls benefit from the semi-open world in terms of making travel easier and more scenic, while making air combat maneuvers easier to perform. The largest hindrance presented is a noticeably restricted altitude in comparison to altitudes that could be reached on the PSP. Though the Macross 30 HUD gives no exact numbers, the altitude restriction is visibly evident. Gravity effect has been toned down to more realistic levels with ground collisions still not causing any damage.
At the beginning of the first play through, the limited missile range and radar lock on range make RFC harder to utilize. However, by leveling up these stats and equipping specific skills to your character this can be corrected.
"Ace Combat" Mode
A video example of Real Flight controls in Macross 30.
For those that would like to make their Macross gaming experience a bit more in line with Ace Combat and other flight games, an explanation of settings and instructions are available for the games discussed in detail within this article. Download the .PDF below: