Turbulence in the Combat Zone
Iron Combat: War in the Air is different from any other Shooter on the 3DS eShop. There are others like it, Liberation Maiden and Star Fox 64 3D's All Range Mode spring to mind, but neither of these games offer the same experience. Iron Combat offers the ambitious feature of being able to change between a humanoid fighter and a jet at a moments notice. Both modes offer two entirely different styles of gameplay, but if you want to succeed, you will need to master both.
Your first mission will not only be to take down a group of enemy vehicles such as Hover Tanks and Jets, but to master the controls. Without a tutorial level, and being thrust straight into combat, things become quickly overwhelming. It doesn't help either that the difficulty level throughout the entire game is challenging and unforgivably hard. However, with time, and referring to the instruction manual, the controls for each form start to make sense. They don't quite feel like second nature, but you become comfortable with them.
Your humanoid form offers a machine gun, missiles, and a close quarters blade attack. Not surprisingly, this is more nimble than the jet form, but isn't as fast. It is easier to control and also has slightly weaker weapons than your jet counterpart. The humanoid form also has auto aiming, and a lock on system, however the latter could use some work. You can be aiming straight at an enemy in front of you, and pressing L to change the lock from one enemy to another, but you still are aiming at the same target you started with.
While Jet form is faster and offers a more powerful dual machine gun, stronger missiles and a chargeable laser, you will be hard pressed to use them for extended periods of time. Featuring surprisingly realistic controls, the jet is difficult to move the way you want it to, and dogfights chasing enemy jets are more of a chore than a thrill. We ended up using the Jet mode to quickly move from one group of enemies to the next, but when we came close enough, immediately changed back into our Humanoid form.
Adding on to the combat problems in the game, dodging enemy attacks also becomes dull and repetitive. You will have to get used to constantly strafing an enemy by mashing the dash button to any of eight directions to shake off the missiles that are sent at you every few seconds. As if this weren't annoying enough, your warning systems are constantly blaring the entire time missiles are active until they are shot down or explode.The combat interface isn't much better either. The light blue hue to it allows it to blend into the sky and makes it hard to see in brighter levels. We often found ourselves not realizing we were dangerously low on health until our health bar was blinking red.
Also an annoyance is how the story is told during missions. Those familiar with Kid Icarus: Uprising will remember the constant dialogue in during battles. Iron Maiden features dialogue as well, but is only in Japanese and is subtitled. With as much action going on in this game, it adds an unnecessary level of complicated by diverting attention away from the fight and to the text on screen instead.
Just making it through a level can be difficult not only due to having to dodge an enemy attack every few seconds, but because there are no checkpoints. It makes the bosses that show up every few levels that more annoying. If you lose, you have to restart the entire level. Its worth noting that huge battleship bosses often will cause the game to lag due to the amount of items and attacks on screen at once.
There are in total twenty missions to play, and how well you did determines how much money you have to spend on customizing your mech. Ranks are based on how much health is remaining at the end of every level and how fast you completed the level. It is also worth noting that you will often have to replay levels to grind for the necessary cash to upgrade. These upgrades aren't mandatory however and you should only get the ones that benefit your playstyle. The upgrades are similar to traditional RPG items, such as Attack +10, Defense -10, Speed -5, Health +10, etc.
The graphics look nice, but don't do anything to stand out from the crowd. The enemy design and the environments are bland. As previously mentioned, audio can be a nightmare at times, with a warning siren and japanese dialogue constantly in the background. However, Iron Combat features a catchy soundtrack, albeit there could have been more than the handful offered.
Iron Combat: War in the Air is a 3D shooter with unforgiving difficulty. Those who aren't willing to learn the controls will be lost, but those who take the time to master the game will have a blast. The campaign is on the short side, while a score attack mode is available, there isn't much left to do once the credits role. If you enjoy tough as nails shooters, Japanese games, or mechs, then this game may be right up your alley. If not, then Iron Combat probably isn't for you.
Review Copy provided by: Teyon