The Ace Combat universe is large and now that Ace Combat 7 has been released, where should one start to get a feel for the story? Fortunately, if you are not one to really care about getting lost, you could start with any of the games cause they are only loosely tied together. However, if you want to play the entire series, here are my recommendations for where to begin. I am going to preface this by saying I’m going to talk about Ace Combat Zero, Ace Combat 4, Ace Combat 5, Ace Combat 6, and Ace Combat 7.
The best way to really get into this series is starting with Ace Combat 4. This is essentially the start of everything. This game will introduce you to the alternate world of ours called Strangereal. There are countries that you can easily identify with our own countries here. Ace Combat 4 has pretty decent graphics for the PlayStation 2 and the controls here will be the same as all the other Ace Combat games. The story is told through the eyes of a child who’s country gets invaded. You play as a voiceless pilot who goes by the call sign “Mobius 1”. This is essentially the default game for the series.
Once you have beaten Ace Combat 4, you should dive into Ace Combat Zero. Now, Ace Combat Zero was actually released after Ace Combat 5 but it was released as a prequel. The graphics are improved from Ace Combat 4. Control-wise and gameplay-wise, it is the same as Ace Combat 5. You have a wingman this time and you can instruct him to either give you cover, help attack, or do whatever the hell he wants. To be honest, the AI on him is quite useless so I always had him fly around doing whatever he wanted. The cutscenes in this game were done with live actors who then were animated into a CGI background and the story is told as an interview
Now you get to what I call the pinnacle of the Ace Combat series, Ace Combat 5. This game essentially became the core of the entire series. Ace Combat 5 was so popular that Namco Bandai decided to make a spinoff/prequel out of it. Here, the story really takes off and the soundtrack is the best in the entire series in my humble opinion. The characters you either will fall in love with or you will hate them. Of course, there are some cheesy moments but the cutscenes here are beautiful even for PlayStation 2. In this game, you have an entire squad under your command. However, just like in Ace Combat Zero, the AIs are quite useless.
To finish off the series, I would suggest Ace Combat 7. This game alludes to the previous games far more than any others in the series. The graphics are amazing and the music is second only to Ace Combat 5. The story is fairly good but it does jump around too much for my liking. They did somewhat change how you can earn new planes in this game but it is not something that annoyed me at all. Ace Combat 7 would be a good way to end the series.
Now, some of your more astute readers would be wondering why I didn’t mention Ace Combat 6 at all in the recommendation. Well, that is because Ace Combat 6, while a lot of fun to play, is kind of a filler game. It is a wonderful game with a decent story and great graphics but it does not really fit with the rest of the series as much. Sure they made some allusions to the previous games but really, you can take it or leave it. If you have any qualms about me not giving Ace Combat 6 a truly fair chance to be part of the main story, I will just say, “Go dance with the angels!” That will make more sense if you play the game.
And that is that! You can now become the Ace in the sky and feared by all your enemies!