The high-tech, hard-hitting SAF-22 'Slayer' air dominance fighter... actually strolls over city crosswalks quite nicely. Its ability to snap turn into the tight alley between the CV24 corner store and the maid cafe is fitting for a Generation 5+ fighter. Japanese Otaku City R/C Flight shows that Project ICKX knows how to have some simple fun.
Thanks to its low price point, various Steam sales and the game being ported to the Nintendo Switch on July 18th, 2018, Vertical Strike: Endless Challenge has steadily joined the game libraries of aviation PC gamers. Information about Playism Publisher is easy to find through the Steam gaming service, but information about the developer is harder to come by. To sum them up briefly: at it's core, Project ICKX is a Japanese indie development team that specializes in flight games. Its original team members have been releasing titles since March 2010, with their first worldwide hit being Vertical Strike: Endless Challenge. Over the years the original team has collaborated with other indie developers to create an array of flight games. In a sense they are also a small publisher as well. Some of the games they've developed or been a part of feature full voice acting, original world building, futuristic air fleet battles and even a slapstick flight comedy game. We'll dive into more detail about Project ICKX and their games in a separate article. For now, our focus returns to Japanese Otaku City R/C Flight.
This free to download game allows players to fly a remote control airplane scale SAF-22 Slayer; one of the two aircraft available in Vertical Strike: Endless Challenge. The setting this time not being a battlefield, but "Japanese Otaku City". The city is an asset for the Unity game development platform. It was created by ZENRIN, a leader in worldwide map creation. Their data is used to create car navigation software, residential maps, and similar products in countries around the world. "Japanese Otaku City" is based on Akihabara, Japan - a famous area around Akihabara station in Tokyo's Chiyoda ward that is considered an otaku cultural center. It's the first city asset released by ZENRIN for free public and commercial use with proper accreditation. Altogether they offer over 70 different 3D models of cities in Europe, Japan, and North America for use by game developers.
After being welcomed to the city by JOC Approach and taking off from a highway, you are free to roam the skies, streets, train tracks, and river. A large part of the city around Akihabara station makes up most of the play area. While the map is created using real 3D map data, one cannot expect to see all of the advertisements and promotions of the electronics stores, manga shops, and maid cafes that reside there. You won't be making a mid-mission landing at Mandarake or AKB48 Theatre but keen-eyed observers (read: otaku) can pick out certain buildings and landmarks that represent those businesses. The few bits of signage available are mostly generic with simple names like "French Fries" and "Amusement". Others feature Query Lovecraft, aka 'Query-chan'. She is a digital mascot created by a Japanese game company, Pocket Queries inc. Truthfully, Query-chan fits in perfectly here. That's Akihabara for you.
With no need to dodge anti-aircraft weaponry or enemy fighters patrolling the sky, the experience allows for enjoyment of the free flight in an unusual setting. Leisurely exploring the city can quickly turn into daredevil flying after taking time to adjust to the size of the R/C SAF-22. You'll find yourself eyeing up gaps in billboards and tight alleyways thinking "I wonder if I can fly through there?" The game is forgiving when colliding with objects, but running into things at high speed will cause the aircraft to explode. This results in the game starting over from the highway. Do keep that in mind. It's no real penalty, but if you weren't paying attention to the map, you'll lose track of your latest self-imposed challenge location.
The aircraft control scheme and handling are the same as Vertical Strike. All options in the mid-game pause menu are also the same. The aircraft is not equipped with any weapons or flares, as they are unneeded. Instead, focusing on speed control and utilizing limiter off, high maneuverability turning is helpful when attempting to thread the needle between a tree and a handrail.
The ability to land anywhere can make for some fun pictures. Randomly landing on buildings can then lead to driving the aircraft around streets and bridges at high speeds, in what may-or-may-not be an attempt to become the first aircraft to win the D1 Grand Prix. That or deliver tofu speedily. For those that want to know, the sweet spot for the best turn radius on the ground is just below 500km/h (260knots). Rely on yaw and short bursts of acceleration and air brake to drive all around the city.
Seeing the SAF-22 in this setting makes for a chuckle-worthy contrast to its usual state, taking on hordes of enemies by itself.
Download Japanese Otaku City R/C Flight for free on PC or Mac from the Project ICKX website. Also, check out some of the other 3D city models created by ZENRIN and the official website of Query-chan. Query Lovecraft is also available as a Unity asset. The company frequently advertises her as a character that would love to be a part of more games.
Makes you wonder if we'll ever get a Query Lovecraft themed SAF-22.
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