In the world of Flying Dolphins...
by Tibe (2013)
In 'Broken Sword', a brave Parisien janitor said about dolphins "let's catch them, and eat them!"... At Video System, they imagine them flying fighter jets. And babies too. Finally, babies flying airplanes, you understood. And hey, why not a mother with her little daughter. We could also go with a little Ninja, Robocop, a gay (probably French) sniffing a rose, a Japanese Pop singer and Colonel Zavata with his parrot. A remarkable roster, which could have the Red Baron turn in his grave. But whatever, this is the casting of Aero Fighters 2 -aka Sonic Wings 2- the second Shoot 'em Up of Video System's series. The publisher made few games on Neo Geo, since it has published four titles total on the system between 1994 and 1997: Aero Fighters 2 & 3, Power Spikes II and finally Pop'n'Bounce. Oh nothing really worth it, let's face it, as the two shooters are remaining by far what these programmers did best on SNK's machine.
After a first arcade version in 1992 using 'Tate' format, Video System performs a Super NES port using 'Yoko' size the following year. The editor will keep this standard in Aero Fighters 2 (and Aero Fighters 3) for the Neo Geo in 1994 and 1995. We are dealing with a Shoot them Up in line with Ghost Pilots, released three years earlier. You guessed it, eight different vessels are available, unfortunately coming with their respective pilots. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses as a high speed, a powerful concentrated shot or a 3-Way in the purest tradition. It will take to clear ten stages twice to end the game (à la Last Resort) and be warned, if the first three levels are a mere formality, the other seven won't feel like a walk in the park. Enemy fire are fast and sometimes not very visible, so much so that it's sometimes quite difficult to dodge some massive attacks. Once is not custom, we are dealing with a big fat one-credit challenge Shoot them Up on Neo Geo... Start training now if you wish to complete this one day!
The gameplay is ok, and let's say that players shall find happiness among the eight planes available. Vessels move well but sometimes seem slow compared to enemy fires, especially in the advanced levels when everything goes faster. This is not without remind Ghost Pilots, although we are dealing here with a more dynamic game, looking more like the 'Manic Shooter' appeared in the same period (eg Batsugun). Ships have powerful shots and a small hitbox, whereas enemy attacks are massive and numerous, fucking a mess on the screen at times: this is the characteristic of Manics. Moreover, Aero Fighters 2 slows down very little, which is an excellent thing. The animation of the game is very good, with a nice decomposition, a nice speed with intense and dynamic action. Regarding the graphics, it oscillates between mediocre and dull, with a few passages a little nicer than others... but nothing really worthy of a Neo Geo. In addition, the enemy sprites are repetitive, with a few different choppers and planes re-appearing regularly. Also note that the player's aircrafts are nothing special too. Only Bosses are beautiful and impressive, which is a good thing for a Shoot them Up.
The soundtrack of Aero Fighters 2 is almost as dull as the graphics (and that makes sense, believe me), with an absolute absence of vocals, which is something rarely seen before on Neo Geo. The sound effects are subtle or insignificant, while the various melodies are already forgotten once heard. All in all, this is not 'disgusting' so far, but it seems here that Video System did everything not to get noticed. By looking a little closer, the game looks pretty much like the first Aero Fighters: the editor didn't really worked hard for this sequel. Far from competing with the system's heavyweights like Pulstar, Last Resort or Viewpoint, Aero Fighters 2 simply offer the bare minimum for an attractive arcade Shoot them Up. We have here an average, ultra-simplistic realization without any pretentions, for a game packing a decent life and a gameplay rather significant.
|Dull colors, messy backgrounds, repetitive enemies... This is not fabulous!|
|Everything is well decomposed and fast, without reaching peaks anyway.|
|No vocals at all, almost decent effects fitting well the action, with totally commonplace musics...|
|Ten stages to clear twice, eight planes and the cooperative play: not bad!|
|The difficulty increases when coming to higher levels, planes are a little slow and under-equiped for some. The game looks a little like a manic which is not bad, but here again, Video System doesn't reach the peaks.|
A rather decent vertical Shoot them Up, still far from competing with Neo Geo's tenors.
VALUE FOR MONEY (2013)
The price of the Aero Fighters games have been rising constantly these last years. Now selling for more than 150 euros each, we can't talk anymore about competitive games in terms of value for money. Better go for a Ghost Pilots or Alpha Mission II.