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Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~: Reflections and Reminiscence on A Journey to the Land of the Rising Sun Five Years Earlier, and Revisiting My First Visual Novel

“Japan never considers time together as time wasted. Rather, it is time invested.” –Donald Richie

On this day in 2017, I was sitting on the benches at the Vancouver International Airport awaiting a flight back home. Although exhausted, I was immensely satisfied with my excursion. Early in May, I boarded a plane bound for Narita International Airport. We’d arrived later in the evening, so after reaching our hotel, we had time for dinner at a Chinese-style restaurant at the Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport before hitting the hay. The next morning, after a full Western breakfast, we boarded our ride and headed straight to the heart of Tokyo to check out the Meiji Jinju Shrine and Tokyo Imperial Palace. After stopping briefly in Ginza for a shabu-shabu lunch, the afternoon consisted of walking the Sumida River and exploring the Kogan-ji temple. The day wrapped up with an exquisite Wagyu beef and snow crab dinner at the Hotel Heritage. Here, I had the chance to soak in their onsen: having seen the procedure countless times in anime, I felt right at home in cleaning up and enjoying the experience. On the second day of our lightning tour, we travelled deep into the mountains of Yamanashi, stopping at Heiwa Park near Gotemba to view Mount Fuji from a distance. Following yakiniku, we visited Oshino Village and Mount Fuji’s Fifth Station. From here, we drove out to Shirokabako Resort by Mount Tateshima, where we spent the night. The next day opened with a drive to Magome-juku, where we took in the quiet of the Japanese countryside and had a traditional lunch before being whisked away to the heart of Nagoya to check out Atsuta Shrine. The final stop for this third day was Gifu: we were now within a stone’s throw from Kyoto, and on our final full day, we entered Kyoto itself, stopping by the Kinkakuji in the morning. Here, I enjoyed matcha ice cream and the iconic golden-leafed walls of Kyoto’s most famous temple under drizzling skies. Following a kaiseki lunch near Yasaka Shrine, we visited Todaji Temple in Nara, known for its free-roaming deer population. The day concluded in Osaka: after taking in the sights of the Sakai shopping district, we stopped for an omurice dinner, and I swung by a local bookstore to grab a copy of Kimi no Na Wa‘s manga before turning in: the next day, I’d been slated to fly on over to Hong Kong for the trip’s second leg, so early in the morning, we made our way over to Kansai International Airport. Although a flight out usually is more a matter of procedure, a pair of surprises awaited me here at Kansai International Airport; I was able to try authentic okonomiyaki, and I came upon a copy of the Kimi no Na Wa artbook while waiting for my flight. Like the protagonist Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~, I had a very short window in which to take in the sights, sounds and tastes of Japan, and I similarly realised an inevitable truth: that it would take a lifetime to fully experience everything Japan’s got to offer: this game had come into my path some five years prior to my travels to Japan in 2017.

As the story goes, on a miserable late autumn afternoon, I was typing away in the quiet of my office space: having finished building a sodium-potassium pump on the same principles as the renal filtration model I’d designed during the previous summer, I was working on a term paper ahead of a presentation for my research course. As I reached the section on my findings, one of my friends appeared at the lab. His classes for the day had ended, and he had something amusing to show me: a YouTuber was playing through a visual novel about visiting Japan, and was doing a throw-your-voice style voiceover of the dialogue. I’d only been mildly interested at the time, and despite having picked the game up to try it out, Go! Go! Nippon! remained a bit of a curiosity for me until, four years after its initial release, the 2015 expansion was announced. The additional content and visual improvements were enough for me to pick this up, and I’d beaten one of the Makoto routes posthaste. However, a post never materialised, and it is with some irony that I reflect on how my typical tendency for procrastination meant that I would only write about the game a full five years after I’d returned home from my travels to Japan and Hong Kong. The premise in Go! Go! Nippon! is simple: a foreign traveller decides to visit Japan at the behest of two pen-pals he’d met in an online chatroom, and upon arriving, discovers they’re sisters, Makoto and Akira Misaki. Despite the initial awkwardness, said visitor gets a very personalised tour of some of Tokyo’s most famous destinations, and along the way, becomes closer to Makoto or Akira, depending on the choice of destinations visited. Despite its hokey premise, Go! Go! Nippon! has proven to be surprisingly entertaining, being part visual novel and part Lonely Planet travel guide: the game is remarkably detailed about the history and information surrounding some of Tokyo’s attractions, from Ginza and Akihabara, to Shibuya and Mount Takao. The setup provides players the ideal environment to acclimatise to what a visual novel is like, using a story that is relatable for overseas players who might be dreaming of one day setting foot on the Land of the Rising Sun. In this way, despite being cheesy on first glance, Go! Go! Nippon! ends up being a fantastic experience for both introducing players to visual novel mechanics, as well as providing a guide to Tokyo’s sights to the same level of depth as a travel book might. The visual novel consequently received a pair of expansions, which brought Go! Go! Nippon! into the world of HD and provided animated character models using Unity. In addition, additional locations were added along with a more sophisticated decision tree that brings with it, new events for players to check out. The concept has proven quite enduring: Makoto and Akira have since become Virtual YouTubers, and the developers, OVERDRIVE, have also been surprised with the success of this series and its characters. When they’d started the Virtual YouTubers programme with Makoto and Akira, they’d made a tongue-in-cheek remark about how if they ever hit ten thousand subscribers, they would begin development on Go! Go! Nippon! 2. This particular milestone has since been reached, and all eyes are now on OVERDRIVE as they begin work on a sequel to a game that I’m certain that no one expected to reach the heights that it did.

There is a degree of irony in the fact that I ended up playing through and writing about Go! Go! Nippon! five years after my travels to Japan; a trip to Japan costs around 2400 CAD for an individual, whereas Go! Go! Nippon! and its expansions together are two orders of magnitude cheaper (since I bought Go! Go! Nippon! during sales over the years, my total for all three games was 14.91 CAD). However, despite the dramatic contrasts in the manner in which one gets to experience Japan, there are also striking similarities, attesting to how well Go! Go! Nippon! is able to capture the feelings of travelling Japan. While on first glance, Japan possesses a dramatically different culture, set of values and customs compared to somewhere like Canada, setting foot in Japan also made it apparent that the similarities were greater in number than differences. Outside of Japan’s numerous temples, attractions and sights, I found that whether it was Tokyo, Gifu, Nagoya, Kyoto or Osaka, the roads and streets were filled with people getting from point A to point B. Some were salarymen headed to work, while others were students who were out and about on their daily activities, no differently than how my days ordinarily went back home. My vacation had allowed me to see Japan’s sights, both iconic and ordinary. Seeing tranquil power surrounding a shrine to the striking views of Mount Fuji, enjoy some of their finest food, including kaiseki, Hokkaido Snow Crab and Wagyu beef and iconic experiences like soaking in an onsen was lovely, but I also had a chance to order ramen in a restaurant where the staff did not speak English (or Cantonese), buy manga from a bookstore and sit down to an omurice in a department store restaurant. The scope of my experiences thus ranged from the touristy, to the everyday, and in retrospect, this is what had made this vacation especially memorable. Recalling this allows me to better understand the reason why some folks seek out authentic experiences that allow them to do what locals do now, and having now revisited Go! Go! Nippon!, it becomes clear that this is also one of the reasons behind the game’s charm: Makoto and Akira take the players to iconic locations around Tokyo, but also gives one a chance to see things from a local’s perspective, whether it be a Japanese summer festival, fireworks performance or even Comiket itself. Thus, with this being said, being able to travel to Japan for real, curiously enough, gave me a better sense of appreciation for what Go! Go! Nippon! was going for, too.

Additional Remarks, Screenshots and Commentary

  • It may surprise readers to learn that, when this blog was about three months old, I’d actually written a first impressions piece about Go! Go! Nippon!. Back then, my posts had no consistent format and style; that particular post had six screenshots, and barely covers any of my reflections surrounding Go! Go! Nippon! (the idea of a reflection would come about four months later, after I finished cell and molecular biology). This post, then, aims to offer a slightly more comprehensive set of thoughts on what is my first-ever visual novel experience on top of giving me a place to reminisce about my travels five years earlier.

  • Typically, visual novels simply entail reading the text, gaining a modicum of understanding as to what’s happening and then playing through by making decisions at critical junctures, decisions consistent with one’s own values to see what the outcome is. Depending on one’s choices, an outcome can end up better or worse, pushing players to evaluate their own decision-making in specific contexts. Go! Go! Nippon! is a little more gentle in this regard in that there are no wrong choices. One’s itinerary in Go! Go! Nippon! impacts which of Makoto or Akira players spend more time with, and this cascades into a tearful ending that, sometimes, will end with a romantic outcome.

  • On my own trip to Japan, I ended up visiting Meiji Jingu (a Shinto Shrine just a stone’s throw from Shinjuku Koen), Ginza and Sumida Park, just across the river from the Tokyo Skytree. All of these locations are fairly close to the spots that are available in Go! Go! Nippon!: in its original incarnation, Go! Go! Nippon! had been focused on Tokyo’s attractions, but the expansions allow players to check out Mount Takao and Kyoto. On my trip to Tokyo in 2017, I did not have a chance tom visit Asakusa, one of the most iconic spots in Tokyo.

  • As a natural part of Go! Go! Nippon!‘s progression, players will “accidentally” walk in on Makoto drying herself after a shower. Of Makoto and Akira, Makoto is better-endowed, and it is in the expansion games, where the character models are animated, that players really appreciate the HD updates bring to the table. The newer games are rendered in Unity, and I imagine would use the game engine’s rigging to handle animations. Attention is paid to details: when Makoto perks up or leans forward, oscillation is also present in her model. As an aside, I prefer showering in the evening, so were I to take the protagonist’s place, there’d be no chance of this happening.

  • Dialogue with Akira and Makoto is such that players gain a bit of insight into their character; Makoto feels weighted down by expectations and is graceful, studying English at the local university, while Akira is a fantastic cook, tsundere and feels like she lives in Makoto’s shadows. In between Akira and Makoto explaining the history and details behind every location to the level of detail that would be appropriate for a Lonely Planet travel guide, one gains the sense that Makoto and Akira are full-fledged characters whom, in addition to their profound knowledge of Japan, its attractions and history, also have their own unique traits.

  • One could say that Akira and Makoto’s knowledge of Japan is encyclopaedic: both bring up nuances and details that really illustrate the history of a given area, but isn’t something that one could readily just recall off the top of their head. To put things in perspective, while I’m familiar with the history and trivia of some of the most famous attractions in Calgary, I can’t just bring this stuff up in casual conversation with the same level of detail. Granted, this is a visual novel, which allows OVERDRIVE to thoroughly research locations and incorporate them into the game, allowing Go! Go! Nippon! to be both instructive and entertaining.

  • Folks looking to learn about the locations visited in Go! Go! Nippon! can easily look up their details online, and Go! Go! Nippon!‘s expansions include a link to Google Maps, allowing one to get the precise spot that players visit in the game. Here, I’ve opted to try an izakaya out; the Japanese equivalent of a pub, izakaya are quite different than a pub in that food is served over a duration of time and is shared by a party. Having Akira and Makoto around would make an izakaya easier to experience: while my rudimentary Japanese allowed me to order food in a more conventional setting, I’m certain that without a guidebook at my side, an izakaya would be trickier to order at.

  • On the second day, players “accidentally” walk in on Akira changing after Makoto asks them to check in and see if she’d awaken yet. Unlike Makoto, who’d taken things in stride and is swift to forgive, Akira’s reaction is par the course for what one might expect in reality, and in most anime. Akira’s dissatisfaction is most apparent when she swaps out sugar for salt in the player’s coffee, but seeing the player taking their lumps leads Akira to forgive them in the end. This is where my old post ends: in 2012, my patience for playing visual novels was nil. In the decade that’s elapsed, I’ve come to appreciate a much wider variety of games.

  • From here on out, I venture into a side of Go! Go! Nippon! that I’d not previously visited; my choice of destinations for my first full play-through of the 2016 expansion took me to destinations that were quite similar to those I’d visited in my 2017 trip. This particular trip had been billed as “美食” (jyutpimg mei5 sik6, literally “beautiful eats”) oriented: attractions had been secondary to visiting places with particularly fancy Japanese cuisine, and as a result, the places we chose to visit were a bit more inconspicuous, selected to be closer to the dining venues.

  • While we didn’t visit the Tokyo Skytree itself, or Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine as a part of this trip, the locations we did end up hitting were quite scenic and enjoyable in their own right. A bonus was that the crowds here were fewer, allowing us to spend less time in lines and more time exploring. In retrospect, I am glad that I picked the 美食 oriented approach: especially nowadays, it is possible to gain a good measure of what an attraction feels like using virtual reality and Google Maps. However, there is absolutely no equivalent for being able to sit down to a meal in another country and enjoy what foods a nation has to offer.

  • Unlike the original Go! Go! Nippon!, the 2016 expansion gives players a chance to visit Kyoto, as well. Kyoto was day four for me: having spent the first day in Tokyo, our second day was in Yamanashi, and the third day was spent in Gifu prefecture. On the morning of the fourth day, the Kinkakuji was the only destination I visited; this is an iconic part of Kyoto, and because we were there on a Saturday, the crowds were immense. Here at the Kinkakuji, I remember marvelling at how brilliant this gold-leafed temple was, even on an overcast day.

  • Aside from spotting some tourists decked out in maiko outfits (it was 1100 in the morning, and real maiko usually begin making their rounds at around 1700), I also had a chance to sample the iconic matcha soft-serve ice cream. Japan’s soft serve is in a category on its own: while visiting Oshino village at the foot of Mount Fuji, I ended up going for a blueberry ice cream, as well. Enjoying these smaller things accentuated my experiences, and I had been glad to have brought the equivalent of 250 CAD worth of Yen in cash for this trip. This allowed me to buy things where credit cards wouldn’t work: while Japan is an ultra-modern society, I was quite surprised to learn most places didn’t accept credit cards.

  • The Kinkakuji is such an integral part of Kyoto that every single anime with a class trip to Kyoto will inevitably feature this park, and of note is the fact that both K-On! and Kinirio Mosaic: Thank You!! visit the area as a part of their third year class trips. Besides being an iconic landmark with a storied history, I know the Kinkakuji best as Futurama‘s “Omaha, Nebraska”, and recall that one of the Kinkakuji’s most famous tales is that it was burned to a crisp by a monk-in-training during the 50s. Its lesser-known cousin is the Ginkakuji, which, contrary to its name, is not covered with silver plating.

  • Go! Go! Nippon! captures the look-and-feel of a quiet Kyoto side street perfectly; after my visit to the Kinkakuji ended, I headed on over to Torihisa, a kaiseki restaurant. Kaiseki is a multi-course meal in which numerous small dishes are served in an artistic fashion. I thoroughly enjoyed lunch; kaiseki had been high on the list of things I’ve wished to try. Torihisa is located across the street from Maruyama Park, home of Yasaka Shrine. Maruyama Park is a fantastic place for hanami,  but I’d arrived about two months too late.

  • Although the protagonist of Go! Go! Nippon! has two full days in Kyoto to explore, I was on a more rigid schedule: as soon as lunch ended, we immediately set course for Nara Park, home to their famous sika deer. The portrayals of Nara Park in anime is no joke: the deer are very friendly towards people, and I watched one deer boldly snatch a tour pamphlet from a visitor’s hand here. After Nara had wrapped up, my final destination was Osaka. During my last evening there, I had dinner at an omurice restaurant and decided to go with a curry-katsu omelet rice; this was an all-in one that allowed me to try authentic Japanese curry and tonkatsu in conjunction with what is a contemporary Japanese comfort dish.

  • Just like that, my week had come to a close. Go! Go! Nippon! makes it clear to players that there is so much to see and do in Japan that a single week will be insufficient to experience things in full. This message is accentuated by the visual novel format; one has the opportunity to go back to a save point and make different decisions, allowing for a more complete experience. The equivalent to doing this in real life would be prohibitively expensive, but I was impressed with the breadth of my experiences over the course of a week.

  • If I had to pick the most standout moment in a vacation that was one long pleasant memory, it would be on the first full night. After we spent the day exploring Tokyo, we went out over to Saitama’s Heritage resort, a secluded retreat on the western edge of Musashi Kyuryo National Government Park. This evening saw the fanciest meal of the entire trip: an exquisite Wagyu beef nabesashimi and several small, artfully presented dishes, including unagi, pickled daikon and a side of fried potato croquettes. This was a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. There is an old saying of unknown origin: the Chinese eat with their mouths (taste is king), the Japanese eat with their eyes (presentation matters) and the Koreans eat with their stomachs (a meal should be satisfying). I’m not sure where this comes from, but seeing the artful presentation of meals in Japan, I confirm this certainly holds true.

  • To round out what was an excellent dinner, I set foot inside the onsen, and because of my timing, I had the entire baths to myself. After cleaning myself off thoroughly, I lowered my body into the waters and felt all of my aches melt away. Meals on the other days were still solid: the second night saw me at a buffet at Shirakaba Resort Ikenotaira Hotel. What stood out most to me here was the fact that they had bakke and fiddlehead tempura available. We’d travelled through Yamanashi so we could see Mount Fuji from several different vantage points on this day, and although Mount Fuji remained completely obscured by cloud throughout most of the day (as Yuru Camp△‘s Rin would describe it, “wearing a hat”), we did end up hitting the Fifth Station at Narusawa for an up-close-and-personal look at Japan’s most famous mountain. Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona start their ascent of Mount Fuji here in Yama no Susume‘s second season, so my second day essentially had me visiting Yuru Camp△ and Yama no Susume destinations.

  • On day three, we continued through the mountains of Nagano on our way into Gifu. The highlight of this day was the stop at Magome-juku, the forty-third of the stations along the Nakasendō trail. It’s a beautiful village perched on a hillside, and after venturing from the top of their main street to the bottom, we stopped for lunch at Magomekan Food Stands. Their set lunch was as beautiful to behold, as it was generous in portion sizes, and tasty to eat. Featuring rolled omlette, karaage and grilled fish, as well as a massive bowl of noodles, it was the perfect way to round out the morning’s activities.

  • Back in Go! Go! Nippon!, I’ve reached the end of my first playthrough, and thanks to the way I roll, I ended up with what is considered the best ending for the Makoto route: I chose a Makoto destination for days one and three, and did an Akira destination for day two. In this way, I unlocked the ending where players and Makoto ring a bell together. Although Makoto struggles to be forward about her feelings, in the end, she comes through and openly returns the player’s feelings. Contemporary reviewers found the whirlwind romance aspect of Go! Go! Nippon! to be completely contrived, out of the blue.

  • However, players with enough maturity will quickly realise that Makoto and Akira are representations of the joys of visiting Japan itself: in this way, Go! Go! Nippon! might be seen as a visual portrayal of falling in love with Japan over the course of a week, coming to see for oneself the nation’s pluses and minuses, and deciding for oneself if their initial impressions were on the mark or need rectification. Whether it is house-hunting, travel or romance, there are many commonalities. All involve that initial honeymoon-like phase where everything feels perfect, and how over time, imperfections manifest. What happens next then depends on the person: individuals willing to accept imperfections and embrace what they’ve fallen in love with will find happiness, while those who cannot accept the imperfections will restart the process anew.

  • In my case, nailing the Makoto route on first try was quite entertaining. However, in the spirit of playing through Go! Go! Nippon! properly, I switched over to one of my other saves so I could check out the destinations I’d not visited on my first run. Tokyo Skytree ended up being first on my list; while in Tokyo, I gazed wistfully across the Sumida river: this hadn’t been a destination we had in mind, and therefore, we skipped over checking out the tallest building in Tokyo. In retrospect, I am okay with this choice: that day had been overcast, and the view from the top wouldn’t have been quite as impressive.

  • In 2015, following my journey to Taiwan, I ended up going to Hong Kong, and here, I did check out the Sky100 observation deck, in addition to Taipei 101. On any given vacation in East Asia, Hong Kong inevitably becomes a part of the itinerary because the flights are actually more economical this way, and it gives me a chance to visit family. Whenever heading into Hong Kong, I always get the feeling that I’m going home: to me, Hong Kong simply feels like a super-massive Chinatown, where Cantonese is the lingua franca. Unlike Japan, or Taiwan, where I only know enough phrases for the basics (and in the case of Japan, enough to surprise store clerks and servers at restaurants), I’ve got level three proficiency with Cantonese and can carry out conversations.

  • While I technically are a native Cantonese speaker, I have next to no exposure in legal and professional vocabulary, so I’m unable to conduct business in Cantonese; for instance, I have no idea how to describe the process for sorting out a build error in an Xcode project in Cantonese. While my Cantonese is practically native at the conversational level (I know enough slang to keep up with things, for instance), I hesitate to say I have native proficiency on things like a resume because that would imply I can read and write, as well. If I had to guess, I have level 2 proficiency with written Chinese, and level 3 proficiency with Cantonese, having worked in a Chinese language-setting previously.

  • Here, I accompany Akira to a ramen joint after picking the “ocean” option, and she demonstrates how to properly eat ramen. While it is appropriate to make some noise in Japan, the practise is not kosher in China or Hong Kong, but when I visited the ramen place in Gifu, I followed local customs just to express my enjoyment of the noodles all the same. Sushi etiquette is a little easier to follow, and this reminiscence did leave me with a hankering for sushi. Fortunately, there’s an excellent sushi place within walking distance now, and I’m making good on my promise to try things out. Yesterday, I ordered a combo with California, Volcano and Dynamite rolls, plus salmon, tuna and shrimp nigiri with a takoyaki: this was a very tasty lunch, a welcome change of pacing just before the Victoria Day Long Weekend arrived.

  • By now, I’ve become a ways more receptive of raw fish dishes: five years earlier, I ended up dousing my sashimi into the nabe at Heritage Resort, rendering it cooked, as back then, I wasn’t too fond of raw fish (exposure to shows like Yuru Camp△ have since broadened my mind). These days, I enjoy raw fish as much as I do cooked fish: the salmon and tuna nigiri were the highlights, being excellent with a dash of soy sauce. Although it is mentioned frequently, food is only a secondary aspect of Go! Go! Nippon!: being a virtual experience, things like food cannot be adequately mimicked. While one can see Akira explaining how to properly eat a ramen, one’s imagination must kick in to fill in the rest; imagination plays a very large part of enjoying visual novels: these games are quite static, and although they provide a few cues (such as sound effects and whatever visuals are available) to convey a moment, on top of what the dialogue yields, one must let their mind’s eye do the rest.

  • One of the numerous events players can unlock in Go! Go! Nippon! is the summer festival; although absent in the original, the expansions introduce events which unlock after certain conditions (flags) are met. The summer festival is a pleasant event and would allow players to really experience an authentic Japanese celebration; the natsumatsuri is equivalent to the state fairs of North America (or for my Canadian readers, the Calgary Stampede), featuring plenty of games and eats, plus performances and fireworks. If memory serves, unlocking the summer festival requires going to specific destinations on the first and second day.

  • Visual novels have a vocabulary that is quite related to programming. “Flags” in software usually refer to Booleans that control whether or not something happens (e.g. if the “isLoggedIn” flag is true, show the home screen, otherwise ,show the login screen). In visual novels, flags keep track of a player’s state, and “events” result from certain combinations of flags being set. I normally think of events as certain actions or inputs a program listens for, but in visual novel speak, “events” are simply things to show a player. Go! Go! Nippon! allows me to demonstrate this: if I visit certain destinations on days one and two, the flag for the Comiket event are set true, allowing me to experience it. It took me several attempts to get this right.

  • On the topic of conventions and gatherings like Comiket, it’s the May Long Weekend, and that means Otafest is now in full swing. Back in February, I declined to submit an application to volunteer, feeling it to be more prudent to leave time open in the event that my move had left me busier than anticipated. In typical fashion, I’ve finished all of the essential tasks, and even got my driver’s license and banking information updated to reflect the new address, so this long weekend, I’ve actually had more time than anticipated. However, I’ve decided against attending the local anime convention; having experienced Japan so thoroughly, the appeal of visiting an anime convention as a guest has diminished for me.

  • Instead, I became more interested in taking a more active role through volunteering, which gives me a chance to give back to the local community. My plans to continue volunteering at Otafest will depend on my schedule, so I’ll have a better idea of whether or not I’ll be returning closer to next year’s application deadline. For now, my long weekend has consisted of sleeping in, tending to housework and hitting the gym, before swinging by the local mall so I could pick up some new shirts and shorts. Afterwards, we sat down to our first-ever Southern Fried Chicken at the new place. This year’s Otafest looks like it’s a scaled-back event, and there’s nothing particularly stand-out on the schedule, so I’ve no qualms with sitting this one out in favour of a relaxing long weekend.

  • Go! Go! Nippon!‘s easy-to-use UI means the user experience is solid, and in this way, I was able to go through the game several times in order to accrue screenshots for this post. Here, I accompany Akira to Mount Takao, which Hinata and Aoi hit back in Yama no Susume‘s first season. Located about an hour from the heart of Tokyo, Mount Takao is about a ninety-minute hike in total and offers stunning views of Tokyo. It was nice to see Go! Go! Nippon! include a vast range of destinations into the expansions: the original game only had six destinations and two possible routes.

  • This would have made it considerably simpler to complete, and in retrospect, Go! Go! Nippon! “grows up” with players. The first game truly is a suitable introduction to the visual novel format for first timers, and I’ve long felt that while the game’s subtitle is My First Trip to Japan, the title also can count itself as My First Experience With a Visual Novel: the premise of travelling and exploring different destinations is a much gentler and accessible introduction to the format compared to something like CLANNAD or Higurashi, where making bad decisions can irrevocably alter the outcome of one’s experiences.

  • First-time players will also be unfamiliar with the save mechanics. Visual novel veterans will tell players to save right before decision branches come up. This is a matter of efficiency: if one makes a bad choice, they can instantly revert and make another pick. Similarly, in a game where a choice causes the story to open up in a different way, one instantly has a snapshot they can go to. On my first playthrough of Go! Go! Nippon! in 2012, I saved simply when I needed to leave the game, and this made revisiting the game somewhat cumbersome. By the 2015 expansion, I was better versed in how visual novels work and more ready to explore new routes.

  • In the present day, I know enough of the ins-and-outs so that I could easily navigate the storylines of Go! Go! Nippon! and swiftly acquire screenshots for this post. I am glad to have picked up the 2016 expansion; I had debated doing so when it first came out, having already dropped coin for the 2015 expansion, but after visiting Japan in 2017, I decided to bite the bullet and complete my Go! Go! Nippon! experience when the expansion went on discount during the summer of 2018. Although I had intended to play and write about Go! Go! Nippon! back then, 2018 was a bit of a more difficult time for me: my start-up was in dire straits, and I had been in the middle of discussions to take on a Xamarin project, which meant I needed to swiftly pick up Xamarin and C#.

  • Further to this, I had been invited to Battlefield V‘s closed alpha, and Harukana Receive was airing. Between everything that was going on, Go! Go! Nippon! was benched, and for four years after that, sat untouched in my Steam Library. The five-year mark to my return home from Japan, coupled with one of my friends bringing the game’s recent successes in the Virtual YouTuber scene and OVERDRIVE’s intention of making a sequel came together to provide the encouragement I needed to finish enjoying, and writing about Go! Go! Nippon! in its latest incarnation.

  • I am glad to have done so now: the game offers an interesting parallel with my own experiences, and although I didn’t have two kawaii guides walking me through the history and etiquette of various areas, I was able to see for myself the wonders of Japan, both historical and modern. While my experience with Go! Go! Nippon! started out as a joke, I was pleasantly surprised to find that even in a game meant to instruct and gently poke fun at foreign impressions of Japan, there is a considerable amount of depth in the writing. For instance, Akira’s tsundere personality is not representative of Japan as a whole, but from a broader perspective, shows how something that initially seems difficult to understand has more to it than meets the eye. Akira feels like a close friend, a companion over time as players spend more time with her destinations.

  • I’ve long been a Makoto fan, and my decisions on my first run through Go! Go! Nippon! reflect this. However, in revisiting the game, I learnt more about Akira. In time, I came to like her character, as well. Finding newfound, pleasant surprises in the familiar is something I’ve always been fond of, and much as how revisiting Titanfall 2‘s campaign allowed me to get my paws on the EM-4 Cold War in one mission, re-playing Go! Go! Nippon! let me to see a side of the game, and a set of destinations that I’d otherwise never see.

  • The premise in Go! Go! Nippon! shows players why there is incentive to replay the game again and make different choices; this outcome would extend to different visual novels and similarly encourage players to go back and try things out again. In the case of CLANNAD, for instance, players can make choices to go down the most well-written central route, which follows Nagisa, or they can opt to check out Kyou, Kotomi and Fuu’s stories. However, whereas Go! Go! Nippon! does not have a persistent state that lingers even after one has completed multiple play-throughs, CLANNAD does: certain actions can only be achieved by revisiting the game multiple times and making smart decisions. In this way, Go! Go! Nippon! can be seen as an introduction to a genre which is one that I do not play often, but one that has its own nuances, as well.

  • As a consequence of playing the Akira route with the aim of unlocking one of the events (at the time of writing, I’ve yet to succeed), I ended up with the second outcome for Akira, which has her bringing players to Toshimaen, a theme park that is quite special to Akira. After returning to Tokyo from Kyoto, the sum of a player’s decisions allow them to visit a special destination, and there is no “bad end” here in Go! Go! Nippon! in a traditional sense. Visual novels are legendary for their bad endings: unlike the average first person shooter campaign, which only has one ending, and any “bad end” is dying in the campaign, visual novels can take depravity and the macabre to the next level.

  • All told, spending a day with Akira at the waterpark isn’t a bad outcome by any stretch: it gives players a chance to see Akira rocking a polka-dot bikini. Tango-Victor-Tango incorrectly pegs Akira as being flat, although this moment also led me to wish that there was such an equivalent moment with Makoto. I’m now curious to see what the optimal route for Akira yields, but I’ll likely get around to this later in the future. The Division 2 had just opened their ninth season, and having spent the whole of last year on break from The Division 2 after completing the Manhunt event for Faye Lau, it’s been fun to return to the game and learn that my old standby, the Hunter’s Fury gear-set with the Chatterbox and Ninjabike Kneepads, is still viable. Similarly, I’ve recently resumed playing Ghost Recon: Wildlands on account of an excellent sale, so between these two games, I expect to be somewhat busy in the gaming front for the foreseeable future.

  • For the remainder of my revisit through Go! Go! Nippon!, I have a bit of footage from the other destinations I ended up going to as a result of trying to unlock various events. Here, I’m back in Ginza: in a curious turn of fate, Ginza was the first place I visited when I played through Go! Go! Nippon! in 2012, and it was also the first stop on my trip to Japan in 2017. Ginza is known for its high end shopping experiences, and while we browsed shops, we found that prices were jaw-droppingly high. Here, Makoto welcomes players to the district and the famous Wako Store, with its distinct clock face. I most vividly recall Ginza because we had shabu-shabu here.

  • Because of the scope and scale of any trip to Japan, I would contend that there is no right or wrong way to go about things. Anime fans tend to visit Tokyo and Akihabara, while folks looking for a more historical experience will tour Kyoto. Visitors looking for the ultimate seafood experience are best served checking out Hokkaido, while Japan’s southern section, near Hiroshima or Kumamoto, would provide a quieter experience. For me, one potential return trip would entail taking a closer look at Kyoto’s highlights; it’s a destination that K-On! and the Kiniro Mosaic movie both swing by the old capital as a part of the third year’s class trip.

  • However, this would be secondary to my long-standing wish to travel Takehara in Hiroshima. Well off the beaten track, Takehara is home of Tamayura, and even a full decade after I’ve finished watching the anime, the town’s iconic warehouse district has more or less remain unchanged. If I were to visit, I imagine that I’d be able to see the sights that Fū and her friends saw in their everyday lives. On such a trip, I’d likely choose lodgings anywhere outside of the Warehouse district: hotels right in the old town are considerably pricier. I imagine that a week in Takehara would be more than enough to explore all of the spots in Tamayura.

  • Back in Go! Go! Nippon!, for my shot at getting Makoto’s second ending, I ended up playing through a completely different set of locations, in turn allowing me to unlock a host of achievements to go with my adventures. The 2016 expansion is the only way to actually unlock achievements, but as of the 2015 expansion, Go! Go! Nippon! added Steam Trading Cards and badges. It took me a while to collect enough cards to make a level 5 Makoto card. The only way to get an Akira badge is to get foil drops, but badges cost a dollar apiece, so the logic of doing so wouldn’t be sound.

  • The CG scenes in Go! Go! Nippon! are of a varied quality: the protagonist is rendered without eyes, and this creates a bit of a disconnect whenever he’s visible. The faceless male is a long-standing element in visual novels, meant to give players additional immersion, but here in Go! Go! Nippon!, the effect is quite uncanny and looks a little off. Conversely, stills of just Makoto and/or Akira look gorgeous, and I found myself thinking that, were Go! Go! Nippon! ever to be made into an anime about touring Tokyo, I would have no qualms in watching it.

  • That no such anime has appeared a decade after Go! Go! Nippon!‘s release indicates that such a wish will remain a pipe dream at best. Here, at Tsukiji Market, I explore Tokyo’s largest fish market. After departing Japan and landing in Hong Kong, I had the pleasure of checking out Sha Tin Market, an indoor wet market, while awaiting a dim sum lunch with relatives. I’ve always been fond of wet markets because they represent a very active place where seafood is sold; by comparison, most seafood is frozen at home, although some supermarkets do carry live seafood, as well.

  • Looking back, the Hong Kong side of my travels were also superbly enjoyable: I know Hong Kong like the back of my own hand, despite only having visited a handful of times, and this is largely in part owing to the fact that 1) there are English signs everywhere and 2) I speak Cantonese well enough, allowing me to ask for directions without any trouble. The MTR is also intuitive, allowing one to visit any part of Hong Kong with ease. My time in Hong Kong was characterised by spending plenty of time with family, window shopping at various malls, and experiencing Hong Kong’s culinary landscape.

  • In Go! Go! Nippon!, since Makoto isn’t much of a cook, players won’t pick up anything from the fish market here, and instead, she’ll bring players to the Tsukiji Hongan-ji, a Buddhist temple that originally opened in 1617 but burned to the ground forty years later. It was moved to a new site, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1923. The modern temple was completed in 1934. This does appear to be a recurring theme in Japan’s landmarks, which have been destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions. While the buildings we see now might not be in their original form, seeing them rebuilt is a testament to the tenacity of the Japanese people.

  • Having now gone through three-quarters of Go! Go! Nippon!, it is evident that attention has been paid to the background artwork, as well. Backgrounds in this visual novel are intricate and life-like, and although some scenes are blissfully quiet, others are filled with people. This aspect is one of the most crucial elements in Go! Go! Nippon!: visual novels often feel empty and devoid of human presence, isolating players and forcing their attention towards the heroines. This was the case in Sakura Angels: although the artwork was stunning, the world felt very empty. According to my records, I began Sakura Angels in June 2015, but never finished, and the last time I opened the game was back in 2017, so the time is probably appropriate for me to go back and wrap this one up.

  • Stay! Stay! DPRK! had similarly felt quite empty, but then, it was a logical design choice because players are visiting North Korea. As such, when Go! Go! Nippon! strikes a balance between the tranquil areas of Tokyo, and the livelier ones, it gives this world a more life-like feeling: Sakura Angels exuded a sense of isolation and loneliness that is simply absent in Go! Go! Nippon: Makoto and Akira keep it lively, but cues in the game’s artwork and presentation also serves to capture the sheer energy (and volume) of crowds in Tokyo’s most iconic locations.

  • Having tea in Japan is a quintessential experience: for 850 Yen, one could stop by Nakajima-no-Ochaya for whisked matcha and wagashi. One element in Go! Go! Nippon! that initially appears inconsequential to gameplay was the inclusion of a wallet. Players are asked to enter the exchange rate (at the time of writing, 1 CAD is exactly 100 Yen), and then the game keeps a running total of how much one has spent over their travels. One could play the game as someone with infinitely deep pocketbooks, or approach things more frugally, but as far as I can tell, one’s expenses don’t affect outcomes. Having said this, the wallet mechanic helps one to ballpark how much their itinerary might cost in reality, to within a precision of ±20 percent.

  • As far as landmarks go, I know Tokyo Station best as being the home base for Rail Wars!, and in 2017, I do not believe we passed by this landmark: the original brick building was constructed in 1914, and over the years, became infamous as being the site of two high-profile assassinations. With a passenger volume of up to half a million every day, it is the busiest station in Japan and is Tokyo’s equivalent of New York City’s Grand Central Station. With the ten-year mark of Rail Wars! fast approaching, I have plans to revisit the series again.

  • On my all-Makoto run, I ended up wrapping up the day to Tokyo Station by accompanying her to a sweets shop of sorts, located in the labyrinthine interior of Tokyo Station and its many shops. Owing to the sheer volume of foot traffic at train stations in Japan, stations also double as shopping centres. This stands in stark contrast with home, where our light rail stations appear to be arbitrarily placed. Urban planning in North America is built around vehicle ownership, and while this creates sprawling cities where people have a great deal of space to themselves, it also results in inefficiency. Having now moved to somewhere within a stone’s throw of a light rail station, I am rather excited by the fact that I can now hop on a train and be anywhere in the city on short order.

  • Moments like these really serve to showcase Makoto and Akira’s personalities beyond initial impressions the original game presented: Makoto might not be a capable cook, but she absolutely enjoys her sweets. It was very endearing to see Makoto this way. This is something that was only introduced with the 2016 expansion, which really fleshes things out. I would hold that the expansions are not optional add-ons, but essential parts of the Go! Go! Nippon! experience: the expansions each give the UI significant upgrades, and the 2016 version will openly indicate which of Makoto or Akira will accompany a player to a destination.

  • This makes it much easier to determine which destinations one should visit when playing through Go! Go! Nippon!: on my first run, my thoughts were that I should bias the game slightly towards Makoto. To this end, I picked Makoto destinations for two of the three days, and then went with an Akira destination for the remaining day. If I had to guess, going with Makoto or Akira for all three days seems to create in Makoto or Akira an overwhelming sense of yearning, causing both to wish to remain with the player, whereas balancing things out gives either Makoto or Akira a chance to think things through and come to terms with expressing how they feel more openly.

  • On this route, I ended up taking Go! Go! Nippon! over to Shinjuku Gyoen, a beautiful park at the heart of Tokyo that folks know best as the setting for Makoto Shinkai’s Garden of Words. For the player and Makoto, a rainstorm soon develops, perhaps being a clever (and subtle) callback to the events of Garden of Words, soaking Makoto to the bone. During my trip to Japan, our destinations did not include Shinjuku Gyoen, and instead, the day began with a visit to Meiji Jinju Shrine, which is a twelve-minute walk away from Shinjuku Gyoen.

  • The end result of this route sees Makoto pick up a stylish new outfit, and with this, I’ve now got two of the three possible Makoto endings unlocked. I never thought that Go! Go! Nippon! would be quite as engaging as it was; my introduction to the game had been through a friend who was watching a YouTube playthrough of the game in between classes, and the game had seemed quite hokey at first glance. However, going through the game again, I’ve come around: while Go! Go! Nippon! might be a dating simulator pretending to be a Lonely Planet travel guide, it does feel sincere in its portrayal of things.

  • This is why I’m rather excited to see what Go! Go! Nippon! 2 has in store for players; since Makoto and Akira broke into the Virtual YouTuber scene, their popularity has increased, and generated enough buzz so that OVERDRIVE seriously considered a sequel. While Makoto and Akira are unvoiced in Go! Go! Nippon!, they have the traditional “anime dub” voices as Virtual YouTubers, which makes them sound like RWBY characters. High on my wishlist for Go! Go! Nippon! 2 would be to have some proper dubbing: in particular, Ayano Taketatsu is suited for playing Akira and her tsundere personality, and Ai Kayano similarly could play Makoto: Kayano’s voice has a matronly and warm character to it.

  • Besides complete voice acting, other items on my list include a wider set of destinations, extending north to Hokkaido, and south towards Hiroshima and Kumamoto, or even perhaps Okinawa. Additional things I’d like to see include high resolution character models and 4K support: Go! Go! Nippon!‘s character models look a little fuzzy compared to their CG counterparts and the background artwork, so seeing improved assets would be fantastic. Similarly, Go! Go! Nippon! only goes up to 720p, but even back in 2016, 1080p resolution was already commonplace. A 4K visual novel with 1440p and 1080p settings would bring this series into the present. Beyond these technical aspects, it’ll be exciting to see what OVERDRIVE chooses to do with their next iteration in the series.

  • Reminiscing about my vacation to Japan and Hong Kong in 2017 a full five years later was a fun exercise: since then, I’ve only travelled abroad for business (having gone to Denver to consult on and save an app, and then to Silicon Valley to attend an F8 developer conference). Aside from statuary holidays, I’ve been putting my nose to the grindstone for the past five years, and as a result, my world now is quite different than it had been then. While I had a life-changing experience in Japan, I continue to maintain that it would be most unwise of me to uproot my life and become an expatriate in Japan (as one of my former friends had done, at the expense of their career), but now, things have reached a point where I am able to begin considering a return trip: for me, one of the biggest joys of travel, outside of seeing the world outside my routine and enjoying a culture’s best, is knowing I’ve got a home and a warm bed to return to.

Although travel is doubtlessly a large aspect of Go! Go! Nippon!, the elephant in the room is the fact that this game also has elements of a traditional dating simulator, in which player decisions impact the story’s outcome in a tangible way. The setup in Go! Go! Nippon! prima facie appears implausible, and contemporary reviewers felt the romance aspect in Go! Go! Nippon! to be wedged in as a means of appealing to the demographic most likely to look at such a title. While it is the case that the romance in Go! Go! Nippon! can appear superficial at first glance, Go! Go! Nippon! cleverly utilises the dating sim mechanic to, again, speak to the joys of travel. It is the case that Makoto and Akira can be anthropomorphic representations of what travel entails: there are goods and bads, moments worth remembering, and accidents one would rather forget. When one travels to a destination for the first time, they fall in love with the initial impressions. As one’s experiences broaden, they learn more about the destinations, both the pluses and minuses, ultimately cultivating a unique and distinct collection of memories that accompany them home, and in some cases, creates a yearning to return. With this as a metaphor, it is not so implausible to suppose that one could fall in love with someone as quickly as they do a place. Watching the player depart, and how each of Makoto and Akira handle this moment, brings to mind what happens at the end of a vacation: there always is a desire to extend one’s stay, to do more. This aspect of Go! Go! Nippon! proves surprisingly enduring, and it is, curiously enough, through a dating sim setup that different facets of travel can be explored. I imagine that OVERDRIVE had initially designed this more as a piece to ensure players would gain the classic dating simulator experience when going through Go! Go! Nippon!, but the consequences of this element, intentional or not, is that it brings additional depth and enjoyment to the game. Curiosity to see what happens when one makes different decisions to see how things with Makoto and Akira turn out also pushes one to visit, and learn about, different spots. Getting to know Tokyo and its surroundings better, then, is analogous to getting to know Makoto and Akira better. On my first run of this game, making decisions as I would in reality earned me what is considered the “best end” for Makoto: I received a kokuhaku and the story allowed us to reunite. This speaks volumes about my character, but jokes notwithstanding, I would very much like to visit Japan again in the future. Until then, Steam is suggesting that I’ve still got about a quarter of the achievements to unlock in Go! Go! Nippon!, and its successor, Go! Go! Nippon! 2, looks like it’s going to be a reality now, so I’m curious to see what this entails. This time around, I will try to complete Go! Go! Nippon! 2 at least once before planning out a return trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Project Wingman: Dethroning Crimson One and Avenging the Fallen At The Endgame

“They say it was three men.”
“Bullshit. How could three men do this?”

―Radio Chatter in Kaffarov, Battlefield 3

With the Federation’s supply routes in disarray, Cascadian forces move to retake their capital city, Presidia, before the occupying Federation forces have a chance to fortify their positions. The Cascadians launch a joint operation with Sicario, swiftly destroying their air forces over the city. Meanwhile, the Eminent Domain takes on the Federation fleet stationed in Presidia’s port. Hitman team assists the Cascadian forces in sinking the Federation fleet, and, having now established both air supremacy and neutralising whatever naval forces remain, the Cascadian ground forces capitalise on the chaos to advance and capture strategic locations. The Federation forces find themselves pushed back to the Port Authority building, but before they can be surrounded, the Federation government manages to negotiate a ceasefire with Cascadia. Cascadian forces are ordered to stand down and allow Federaation soldiers to evacuate, bringing an end to the war. However, some Federation forces refuse to accept this, and collaborate with the now-rogue Crimson One to detonate Cordium warheads throughout Presidia. The entire city is levelled, and along with it, the whole of the Cascadian navy is sunk. Piloting the experimental PW-Mk.I, Crimson One engages Monarch in a mano-a-mano duel. Driven mad by the loss of his squadron and the resulting damage to his pride, Crimson One attempts to utilise the PW-Mk.I’s overwhelming arsenal in a bid to kill Monarch. Despite being outmatched technologically, Monarch manages to evade Crimson One’s weapons and deals enough damage to the PW-MK.I’s Cordium engines, causing the plane to explode and kill Crimson One. Before he dies, Crimson One warns Monarch of his own mortality. Although Cascadia ultimately wins the war and inspires other nations to secede from the Federation, much of their own nation now lies in ruin, and the survivors must grapple with the millions of casualties resulting from Crimson One’s final act of defiance. Monarch lives to fight another day, although the cost of this operation lingers long after Monarch downs Crimson One in a titanic battle of one-sided indifference. With this, Project Wingman‘s campaign comes to a close, and I was left with an unparalleled experience, one that speaks both to the capabilities of Sector D2’s excellence and the Unreal Engine.

Having now beaten Project Wingman, it becomes clear that this game is the ultimate love letter to Ace Combat, albeit with several critical changes. In three key areas, Project Wingman actually surpasses Ace Combat. The first of these is the weapons and loadouts that are possible. Aircraft are permitted up to three special weapons in some cases, greatly expending their versatility. Ace Combat limited players to only a single special weapon type per aircraft, and this in turn made aircraft highly specialised of a certain role. If a plane could only carry anti-ship missiles, it would only be valuable on missions with anti-fleet operations. Similarly, carrying a tactical laser would reduce one’s ability to shoot down larger numbers of individually weak foes. Project Wingman has no such limitation: one can carry a mixture of weapons for anti-air and anti-ground combat alike, allowing them to remain effective in any situation. For instance, were a player to fly a fighter into a mission with large numbers of ground targets, having bombs would provide an additional option beyond the standard missiles. The guns in Project Wingman are also better thought-out compared to their Ace Combat counterparts; the integral cannons are more powerful, but different planes actually come with distinctly different cannon types. Most planes come with the M61 Vulcan or an equivalent 20 mm cannon, but the Sk.25U is equipped with a 30 mm cannon. With a lower firing rate and capacity, each 30 mm round does considerably more damage. Further to this, there’s four different kinds of gun pods, each with a specific use-case, and the guns find applicability in situations where missiles are less effective, making them a true part of the game: it takes skill to make full use of the guns, and Project Wingman encourages players to make full use of their aircraft’s capabilities. Finally, Project Wingman‘s presentation of devastation is nothing short of impressive: entire maps show the cost of large scale warfare, as forests burn and buildings crumble. Of course, Ace Combat has its own strengths. The progression system is deeper, with more options for aircraft, and there is significantly more mission variety. Similarly, Ace Combat is also better polished. However, the fact that Project Wingman gets so much right speaks volumes to the competence and creativity of Sector D2’s three-man team, showing that one doesn’t need a multi-million dollar budget to put together a memorable and engaging experience.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In Project Wingman‘s final act, Monarch returns to the Cascadian capital of Presidia for one final titanic clash against the Federation’s remaining forces. For this mission, I’ve opted to fly the F/S-15 again: it’s the most advanced aircraft I could afford entering the endgame, and my goal is to ultimately pick up the PW-Mk.I, the ultimate aircraft in the game. Until then, the F/S-15 has proven to be more than adequate: the mission to re-take Presidia is a combination of both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, and efficient ammunition use is key here.

  • In a way, this mission represents the culmination of all of the experience a player has accrued in Project Wingman. By this point in time, I’ve completely adjusted to the missile mechanics in this game: while it took a little getting used to, once I acclimatised, the missiles of Project Wingman are reliable and effective. They’re most useful against foes approaching one head on, or, if one is flanking their enemies, then they work best between 1200 and 1600 metres. Any further, enemy planes will be able to dodge them or deploy countermeasures, while at closer ranges, the missiles won’t be able to track.

  • The F/S-15 is able to carry a ludicrous amount of multi-target missiles: if the first two special weapon slots are outfitted with these missiles, players will be able to lock onto up to ten targets simultaneously. This gives the F/S-15 the ability to clear out entire squadrons in seconds, although the extremely large volleys mean that if one isn’t careful, their entire store of missiles could become depleted very quickly. Here at Presidia, I was finally able to try out how a prototype aircraft handles in dogfights, and it becomes clear that the higher cost for prototype aircraft is for a reason.

  • While the F/S-15 is the most inexpensive prototype in Project Wingman, it still surpasses all of the previous aircraft: it accelerates and can maintain a top speed comparable to that of the interceptors, while at the same time, possesses handling traits befitting a fighter. Aircraft in Project Wingman are well-balanced against one another; prototype planes tend to have good all-around traits and excel in all roles. Interceptors have great acceleration and top speeds, while fighters are highly manoeuvrable. Strike aircraft carry weapons suited for anti-ship combat, and attacker aircraft have a large number of hardpoints capable of carrying a range of anti-ground weapons.

  • Multi-role aircraft perform well in both anti-air and anti-ground operations, and prototypes fit into the spectrum as being extraordinarily powerful multi-role aircraft. Strictly speaking, prototype aircrafts are not necessary for beating the campaign: the standard missiles and integral cannons in any plane are enough to get one through any mission. This was especially true in Ace Combat games, where players could complete entire missions, even on higher difficulties, without relying extensively on their special weapon stores.

  • The use of the stock missiles and gun is a trait I call the “stock weapons paradigm”: this is a concept that dates back a decade, and it states that any well-balanced game will be designed such that a player will be able to do just fine with the starting weapons a game provides them with. This came about in Team Fortress 2, when I noticed that the default weapons were really all one needed. In some games, like Agent Under Fire, weapons are clearly tiered, and the endgame weapons are definitively more powerful than the weapons found early on. In a balanced game, weapons all fit specific roles, and one should be able to do well enough with what’s available to them from the start, whether it be the start of a match, or the start of one’s journey through a progression system.

  • Planes in Project Wingman all handle slightly differently and carry different special weapons to give them an edge under certain circumstances, but overall, a competent pilot will be able to make any plane work with their default loadouts. This speaks to the excellent design in the game, and accounts for my wish to go back through the campaign a second time so that I can unlock the remainder of the aircraft available: I’m particularly keen on flying the F/E-18 again. For now, I’ll return the focus to whittling down the Federation’s remaining airships. Despite their railguns, downing airships are old hat at this point, and their presence is hardly intimidating now.

  • During this operation, I was blowing things up left, right and centre: even this late into the game, the visual effects for destruction look superb, and I found myself admiring my handiwork every time a plane or airship was shot down. At this point in time, I’ve become versed enough so that I’m not slamming into wreckage of destroyed aircraft, but there have been occasions where I will be strafing an airship with a M61 Vulcan, only to smash into it because I neglected to check the distance indicator. During combat, enemy combatants can be closer than they appear, and this really gives a sense of how scale can be misrepresented in the skies.

  • It suddenly hits me that the pressure waves in Project Wingman are much more visible (and a little more rudimentary) than their counterparts in Ace CombatAce Combat 7 has fair-looking pressure waves, but for me, it is actually Ace Combat: Assault Horizon that had the best-looking pressure waves from an explosion. There, explosions created a subtle lensing effect. I would imagine that Ace Combat 7 simply increased the emphasis on these blast waves so they’d be more visible, but the end result was that explosions look a little less realistic. In Project Wingman, there is no lensing, and no refractive effects from explosions.

  • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was my first Ace Combat experience, and while it was a fun game, looking back, it was also quite unlike anything I would later play: the game’s use of “Dogfight Mode” took a lot of the control away from players, and the fact that there were multiple perspectives meant the overall story felt more disjointed. However, Assault Horizon‘s being on PC did mean that for the first time ever, I had a chance to really experience an Ace Combat game for myself, as opposed to watching YouTube playthroughs from other players.

  • Project Wingman is often referred to as a “poor man’s” Ace Combat. Hving now gone through the game in full, Project Wingman offers a tangibly unique and enjoyable experience such that I would say that it is a worthwhile experience for any Ace Combat fan, and similarly, anyone who’s wondering if Ace Combat is right for them could gain a modicum of insight if they go through Project Wingman. Had Ace Combat 7 not released on PC, Project Wingman would’ve been the definitive answer to players looking for an Ace Combat-like experience, but I’ve found that for the most enjoyable and complete experience, one would do well to give both a whirl, since both Ace Combat and Project Wingman have their own distinct strengths.

  • There isn’t one game that is decisively better than the other. Project Wingman excels with its weapon mechanics and design, as well as its ability to portray the scale of each battle, while Ace Combat overall provides a more polished experience, deeper progression system and mission variety. The perfect arcade combat game would therefore allow players to tune their planes like in Ace Combat 7 and equip a much larger array of special weapons, showcase battles of a grand scale and vary up the mission objectives while at the same time, having full VR support as Project Wingman does.

  • With this in mind, I am curious about what the upcoming Ace Combat title is going to be like: so far, all I know is that it’s the eighth instalment in the series, and producer Kazutoki Kono has stated that it’s going to be their biggest game ever. I wonder if Project Aces’ team would’ve seen Sector D2’s Project Wingman and saw what alternatives were possible; an Ace Combat game allowing players to vary hardpoint configurations and perhaps even feature different types of guns would be a major improvement on an already successful approach, furthering the level of depth to dogfighting in Ace Combat.

  • While the guns in Ace Combat tend to be more generic, later iterations of the game feature faster-firing guns for fighters and slower, harder-hitting guns for attacker aircraft. By Ace Combat 7, American aircraft utilise the M61 Vulcan, while Russian aircraft use the GSh-30-1. The guns do handle differently, but the differences are not as pronounced as they are in Project Wingman, and overall, the guns have a similar DPS. In general, guns play a large role both Project Wingman and Ace Combat, being an essential part of one’s arsenal, but the mechanics in the former are a bit more sophisticated, giving guns slightly more specialised scenarios where they are most effective.

  • According to the history books, the difference between American and Russian aircraft guns are simple: American designs favour the 20mm calibre because it’s light enough to be mounted on an aircraft without compromising handling, has a high enough rate of fire to ensure a target is hit, and good ballistic properties. On the other hand, a 30mm round can carry more explosives, so a few hits would be devastating. Differences in methodology resulted in different weapons, and I’ve found that, at least in Project Wingman, the faster-firing guns are more effective in dogfighting, whereas the slower-firing guns are better for strafing ground targets.

  • Once the air battle over Presidia is won, the focus shifts over to the Federation’s remaining navy forces. Since I was flying the F/S-15, I simply switched over from the anti-air missiles over to the anti-ground missiles and pounded the fleet into oblivion. The multiple lock-on anti-ground missiles proved more effective against static ground targets than they do against ships: while each missile is capable of knocking out a ship’s weapon component with ease, each missile can only deal damage to its target, and ships in Project Wingman only go down from direct hits to its main structure.

  • As such, if one were to get a lock onto a ship’s weapons, they’d destroy only the weapons. This would demand that one circle around and hit the ship again in order to sink it. For this reason, anti-ship missiles are exceedingly powerful in Project Wingman, and balanced accordingly so one isn’t sinking ships left, right and center. A reasonably experienced pilot will be able to optimise their runs so that they aren’t reliant on anti-ship missiles when fighting fleets, and indeed, the basic gun and missiles is, more often than not, enough to take out fleets of enemy ships on short order.

  • Like Ace Combat, particularly skilled pilots can fly though some features on a map that would be counted as foolhardy or unwise. In the middle of a battle, one is so focused on the objective that stunts aren’t likely to be the first thing on their mind. Doing this sort of thing is usually reserved for the free flight mode, which Project Wingman does offer, and while I’ve indeed pulled off these stunts in Ace Combat 7, my priority now remains focused on finishing off Project Wingman. Flying stunts are far easier to achieve than some would suggest: after Ace Combat 7‘s launch, TV Tropes’ “Imca”, a charlatan who claims to be from Osaka, suggests that he only took damage in Ace Combat 7‘s campaign twice and “flies through the wires of suspension bridges for fun”, implying that only Japanese players had the skill to perform trick manoeuvres.

  • Said individual has a propensity for acting like a big-shot at Tango-Victor-Tango’s American politics (despite supposedly hailing from Japan) and military threads. Imca’s latest round of fabrications include claiming that he owns a Tesla. Going from a rule of thumb, which suggests that one can afford a car that is equal to or less than 35 percent of their annual income, Imca would need to be pulling in around 135000 CAD per year (assuming we’re going off of the price of the entry-level Model 3, which costs 47000 CAD). Someone who “[plays] way more video games than westerners do and have more practise” and spends their time at Tango-Victor-Tango’s forums is unlikely to be dedicated to their career and advanced it far enough to make six figures, so either Imca is exceptionally poor with money management, or is being untruthful.

  • Fabrications always fall apart upon scrutiny, and while anonymity online makes lying as easy as breathing, I make it a point to never exaggerate my experiences and exploits, whether they be related to video games or reality. This is why I don’t have any objections to admitting when, in a given game, a certain area gave me particular trouble. In Project Wingman, a few missions did present to me a bit more trouble than usual (especially the ninth mission), but overall, my experience with the campaign was quite smooth, and I never died from sustaining too much damage from enemy fire.

  • Project Wingman does not have checkpoints, so deaths are particularly unforgiving: dying sends players back to the start of a mission, and while missions are of a moderate length (usually, 15-25 minutes), losing that amount of progress can be incredibly frustrating. This forces players to really keep an eye on their hull integrity and fly in a way as to minimise damage: making full use of the flares and keeping an eye on missile indicators, as well as taking care not to fly into the path of enemy aircraft or their burning wreckage. In fact, I’ve died more to colliding with enemy air combatants than I have from missile damage or gunfire.

  • In the end, after clearing out everything in the skies, on the ocean and on the ground, the Federation begins to realise they’ve been beaten, and a ceasefire is declared. This is the outcome that players were hoping for, being a close to what was ultimately a meaningless and brutal conflict. However, the astute player will have spotted that the battle for Presidia ended without a showdown with a fanatic foe in an über-powerful aircraft. Almost right on cue, the skies fill with a bright flash of light moments later, and when the dust settles, Presidia is in complete ruin.

  • The culprit is none other than Crimson One, who’s managed to acquire the PW-Mk.I, a super-plane whose capabilities surpass anything that Monarch had previously faced. Crimson One promptly uses the PW-Mk.I’s universal burst missiles to shoot down every remaining combatant who’d survived the Cordium detonations, intent on squaring off against Monarch, whom he holds personally responsible for the world’s evils. Besides the burst missiles, the PW-Mk.I is armed with multiple railguns and a plasma launcher.

  • For this fight, Crimson One’s attack patterns are broken up into four phases. In phase one, he only utilises the burst missiles, and these can easily be evaded, even without making use of flares. In the second phase, Crimson One adds railgun fire into the mix: his aircraft comes with multiple railguns, and if these impact simultaneously, Monarch will be devastated. By phase three, Crimson one utilises the plasma orbs, as well. Owing to the PW-Mk.I’s unmatched mobility, missiles are all but useless against him, and to this end, one will rely almost exclusively on their guns.

  • An aircraft with gun pods will have an easier time of whittling down Crimson One’s health: even the less manoeuvrable aircraft, one can still keep up with Crimson One and train their guns on him. Keeping up with him at close quarters can be tricky, but in order to engage, Crimson One will fly off and make some distance, and this provides players with a window to attack. Crimson One will spend the entire fight badmouthing Monarch, and while this is hilarious in bringing to mind the sort of trash talk that Aaron Keener treats players to in The Division 2, the choice of words suggests that Crimson One is someone who’s now fighting purely for revenge, having lost everything as a consequence of the player’s actions.

  • Moments like these serve to remind players that in war, there are no victors: there is a macabre truth to what Crimson One is saying, and even if Monarch does shoot him down here, it won’t change the fact that millions of lives were lost during the Cascadian conflict. Here, I narrowly dodge a railgun round from Crimson One: unlike the railgun turrets seen earlier, Crimson One can fire multiple rounds at players with every shot. In spite of the gap in technology, however, this fight never once felt impossible. I simply broke off my engagement when he was firing and capitalised on cooldowns to get my shots in.

  • This final boss fight was about as thrilling and challenging as the fight against Mihaly in Ace Combat 7: while Crimson One might have an incredibly sophisticated aircraft that puts all of the other aircraft in the game to shame, the fact that Monarch is able to go toe-to-toe with Crimson One is yet another reminder that technology notwithstanding, it’s ultimately the pilot that makes the difference. In the end, I beat Crimson One without too much difficulty, bringing the campaign to an end. At this point, I unlocked the player version of the PW-Mk.I: it’s the most expensive aircraft in the game and will likely take some time to unlock.

  • Besides replaying the campaign to unlock all of the aircraft (primarily for completeness’ sake), Project Wingman also offers two more avenues for replayability. The first is the conquest mode, which is a procedurally generated collection of missions where players must fight off wave after wave of Federation aircraft to secure Cascadian territory. Along the way, one can purchase new aircraft and even upgrade the reinforcements that come to assist them. Death is permanent in this mode, although one’s unlocks carry over, and this gives one a chance to really test their skills in a more open, sandbox mode. I imagine that I’ll start this mode once the summer arrives; May is going to see me revisit several iconic games, like Titanfall and Go! Go! Nippon!, as I reminisce about upcoming milestones.

  • The other avenue is VR: since Project Wingman has complete VR support, I would be able to free flight or revisit older missions using my Oculus Quest headset. My previous desktop lacked the CPU and connectors for such an endeavour, but with my new build, I anticipate that I should be able to utilise the Oculus Link setup. If Project Wingman‘s VR mode proves viable, I would be in a position to consider Half-Life: Alyx – my GTX 1060 60 GB is capable of running the game, and this would allow me to continue my Half Life experiences.  Overall, Project Wingman is a very impressive experience, and I have no problem recommending this as the definitive experience for what independently developed games could be like; with the right skill set, such games can easily rival triple-A titles in quality.

  • As it is, Project Wingman is a worthwhile experience for both Ace Combat fans and folks looking to try out the arcade flight combat genre. I’ve heard that a major update is in the works for Project Wingman, which Sector D2 is suggesting will add new weapons, introduce previously unavailable aircraft and perhaps even bring in some new campaign missions. All of this is worth writing about, and while my Project Wingman campaign experience is in the books for the present, I have a feeling that I am going to be returning in the future to discuss my experiences with the game’s super-planes, VR missions and conquest mode. The time is also nigh to return to Ace Combat 7: during my playthrough a few years back, I ended up unlocking the Strike Wyvern, and I picked up the DLC which gives me access to iconic super-planes like the Falken, so I’m now curious to see how my experience changes when I’m rocking the best planes in the game.

The very fact that Project Wingman exists speaks volumes to how much a competent team can do with the tools available to them: despite lacking the resources available to a Triple-A studio, Sector D2 was able to not only put together a polished and smooth experience, but they created a game that rivals the quality of something that ordinarily takes an entire team of developers, graphic artists, voice actors, composers, sound engineers and QA testers to accomplish. In fact, Project Wingman exceeds expectations because Sector D2 was able to implement a complete VR experience within the game. To put things in perspective, Ace Combat 7 only had a partial implementation of VR, providing the experience only across three levels. What Project Wingman is able to achieve is therefore a show to large studios that standards are increasing, and that as the technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, expectations correspondingly increase: having now seen what a three man team can do with a small budget, one must wonder why larger studios, with their increased human resources and funding, cannot put together stable, content-rich and fun games when three people, working with just north of a hundred grand (Canadian dollars) were able to assemble a title that plays well, immerses players entirely and possesses features that are absent in games from much larger teams. Project Wingman represents independent development at its finest, and with Ace Combat 8 on the horizon, expectations are now especially high; both Ace Combat 7 and Project Wingman have shown that the arcade flight combat simulator genre is still alive and well. Having now seen what’s possible in these games, it is fair to expect that a successful title must tell a compelling story, immerse players in a world that’s rich in details, provide a deep progression system that makes replay and customisation worthwhile, and above all, give players the feeling that they can single-handedly change the course of a conflict, much as Project Wingman and Ace Combat‘s past ace pilots have done. In the meantime, Project Wingman‘s thematic elements remain strong for a game whose strong suit is allowing one to fly cool aircraft and blow stuff up in cool places: it speaks to the futility of war, and how regardless of one’s intentions going in, even a desire to go good and fight for what one believes in can become distorted and twisted as one witnesses horror upon horror. Although not quite as direct as how Ace Combat presents its themes, Project Wingman nonetheless is successful in presenting a coherent story. In response to the question I posed about mercenaries, I find that Project Wingman is suggesting that at the end of the day, one should not be consumed by their ideology and continue to do what’s right so long as it doesn’t cost them everything. As Monarch, one gains the sense that while Monarch is successful in this assignment, there are things that they will need to live with in the aftermath of a conflict that has cost so much.

Project Wingman: Turning Tides and The Federation’s Fall Towards the Penultimate Act

“Responsibility walks hand-in-hand with capacity and power.” –J.G. Holland

Upon returning to their base at Rowsdower, Hitman team prepares to land, but immediately find themselves under fire from Klara Rask and a flight of rogue mercenaries. Monarch is able to shoot down these mercenaries and secures the airspace. While Hitman team had intended to leave Cascadia since their assignment had been completed, another squadron persuades them to stick around. Two months after the Cascadian Calamity, Hitman team participates in a strike against Brite Fortress, one of the Federation’s remaining bases. Upon dealing a crippling blow to Brite Fortress, the Federation deploy two Super Tauruses-class land battleships in an attempt to wipe out the attacking Cascadian and Sicario forces, but both end up being destroyed. Later, while assisting in an offensive to take back the Cascadian city of Prospero, Hitman team encounters Crimson team. Monarch single-handedly shoots down all eight pilots, including their leader, Crimson One. The Federation is pushed onto the backfoot, and Cascadia takes the initiative to destroy the Federation Navy so that they can create a naval blockade around Presidia. The Federation Navy proves no match for the combined Cascadian-Sicario forces and are utterly wiped out, paving the path towards taking back Presidia and liberating it from Federation control. Here in Project Wingman‘s penultimate act, the game continues to find ways of surprising players. The missions are slightly shorter now as the game prepares for a titanic operation to liberate the Cascadian capital, and in the process, players have a chance to shoot down Crimson team for themselves, as well as square off against yet another novel kind of foe in the land battleships. However, even though the Federation lays its most powerful remaining cards on the table, this is no matter: sustaining loss after loss has meant that with every passing operation, the Federation is backed into a corner, their chances of victory becoming increasingly slim.

By the time of the strike against what remains of the Federation Navy, it is clear that they have lost the war, even if they’ve not formally sued for peace just yet. Unlike the Federation players squared off against early in Project Wingman, with their vast fleets and capability of filling the skies with railgun fire and aircraft, the Federation here is beaten, broken and exhausted. The ships they have remaining lack the firepower of the vessels they once fielded, and the amount of air cover they can bring to bear is a far cry from what they previously had the power to muster. Gone is the confident and aggressive dialogue: Federation pilots and sailors alike speak with fear whenever Monarch and Hitman team appear. Some soldiers begin doubting what they are fighting for, and wonder when the war would come to an end. Historically, the aggressors in a war have come out worse for wear; Sun Tzu had stated that in war, a quick victory is preferred to a lengthy battle of attrition, as the instigator’s advantage lies in an early momentum. If the aggressor can be forced into a protracted conflict, the defenders usually gain the upper hand because mentally, they are prepared to resist, while the aggressors lose morale, having been denied a swift end to the conflict. Here in Project Wingman, the Federation completely underestimates the resilience of both Cascadians, and the force multiplier they have in Hitman team. Motives determine the outcome: Cascadians are fighting to preserve their very existence and prevent their natural resources from being utilised for conquest, while the Federation is determined to control Cascadia for their own gain: to continue harnessing the power of Cordium to dominate and subjugate. It is therefore unsurprising that people would be so opposed to such an action, and even the Federation’s own soldiers express their doubts that conquering and crushing Cascadia would be helpful towards them.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Upon returning to base amongst a burning world, a familiar voice rings in my ears. Project Wingman isn’t going to allow Monarch a peaceful landing as hostile mercenaries take to the skies in a bid to shoot down Hitman team for cash. Last I wrote about Project Wingman earlier this month, I was using screenshots from my old machine, prior to my move: I had been looking to at least get through three quarters of the game before moving day itself, and I’d been successful in that, having just survived the Cascadian Calamity event.

  • It’s been almost a month since moving day now, and I’ve finally begun settling in to the new place, enough to find a bit of extra time in evenings to take to the skies as Monarch and continue with my campaign against the Federation forces. For games like Project Wingman, the new desktop I’ve built doesn’t even break a sweat and delivers excellent framerates, much as my old machine did. However, it is with titles like Battlefield 2042 and Halo Infinite where the processor is making a difference. Although I’m still feeling the effects of the hard drive failure from a month earlier, I’ve recovered most of my music and the travel photos that I’d backed up to the cloud.

  • The most vital documents, like tax slips, were stored on a separate hard drive, so fortunately, those were not lost. At this point in time, I’ve settled in to using my new rig to about the same extent that I’ve settled in to the new place. Thus, I continued with my journey in Project Wingman, and immediately found myself in a confrontation with mercenaries. Lacking the patience to deal with them using the F/D-14, I ended up switching back over to the Accipiter and outfitted it with an all-guns loadout, allowing me to make short work of my foes.

  • In a matter of minutes, Frost and her wingmen are shot down, leaving me to wrap the mission up. Because autocannon rounds are much harder to dodge than missiles, they prove to be an incredibly valuable asset in missions where there are boss fights. Even if I were to equip the F/D-14 with my usual loadout, for this mission, I would’ve had enough ammunition in my integral cannon to shoot them down. With the rogue mercenaries down, Hitman team prepares to land, pick up their belongings and leave, but when Stardust, another squadron commander, appears, Galaxy is persuaded to stick around and listen.

  • Two months later, Hitman Team find themselves stationed at a different base. For this mission, I decided to pick up the F/S-15. This prototype aircraft is among the most powerful I’ve flown: it has a much looser steering than previous aircraft, accelerates and decelerates much more quickly, and is able to carry a good all-round loadout of anti-air and anti-ground munitions. Compared to ordinary aircraft, prototype planes are significantly more expensive, and the most powerful prototypes have fixed loadouts. The F/S-15 allows players to select their preferred weapons for three slots, and entering the next mission, I ended up going for a different weapon in every slot, giving me capability against all targets, including elites.

  • The seventeenth mission marks a turning point of sorts in Project Wingman in that this is the last point in the game where the Federation is able to deploy large numbers of foes and superweapons. The level opens with a large number of ground targets, and here, the F/S-15’s anti-ground missiles come in handy. Although I’m only able to fire four at a time, compared to the six available to me were I to take the Sk.25U, the F/S-15 more than compensates with the fact that it’s a faster, more manoeuvrable aircraft with considerable anti-air capabilities as well.

  • The wisdom of saving up for a reasonable prototype aircraft soon became apparent as I tore my way through the mission, utilising my munitions to wreck havoc on all targets in the ground and skies alike. Being able to accelerate swiftly, close the distance between an aircraft and tear it up with my guns makes dogfighting even more intense than it had been previously, and I suddenly found myself wondering if I would now have the power to square off against Crimson squadron in mission six. Against surface targets, the F/S-15’s manoeuvrability meant that I was able to evade even railgun shots.

  • The seventeenth mission thus became an immensely enjoyable romp to destroy all targets under the evening skies. From a visual perspective, Project Wingman is able to convey the scale of every mission through the amount of stuff happening on screen, whether it be electrostatic discharges resulting from geothermal activity, railgun rounds leaving ionised beams in the sky or condensation trails resulting from aircraft exhaust and missile fire. Despite the sense of being overwhelmed, Project Wingman never puts players in unfair situations: the aircraft players have access to are all capable of getting the job done.

  • The lightning effects in Project Wingman are impressive, and here, I fly close to a bolt while in pursuit of an airship. Lightning resulting from volcanic activity is the usually consequence of volcanic ash creating static electricity through triboelectric charging. Since there’s no active eruption, and therefore, no ash, one might suppose that the lightning seen here is the consequence of fractoemission, which occurs when heat breaks up rocks. Regardless of the mechanism in Project Wingman, the lightning is meant to show a world torn apart by hubris.

  • By this point in Project Wingman, airships are old hat: despite sporting an impressive amount of firepower, and becoming increasingly powerful as the game wears on, the trick to downing them remains unchanged. Having access to increasingly powerful aircraft corresponds to being able to target multiple weapons on a given airship and then eliminate them by firing on their superstructures. Destroying airships is easiest when using the anti-ship missiles, but these have a very long reload time, so it’s easiest to get comfortable with strafing an airship with multi-target missiles, ordinary missiles and even guns.

  • At the mission’s second half, the land battleships begin appearing. Despite being lumbering vehicles that are easy to hit, they bristle with weapons: attacking them from the top is tricky because they are armed with railguns, anti-air cannons and surface-to-air missiles. To avoid heavy fire, the strategy I adopted was to allow my weapons to lock on, fire, break away and then go for another run. The F/S-15’s performance and loadout meant that this was a viable method, and in this way, I was able to whittle down the land battleships’ arsenals.

  • Once their weapons are gone, land battleships become slow targets that one can pick apart at their leisure. While some reviewers had written that players would be fighting “mecha” during the course of Project Wingman, this is, strictly speaking, untrue: a mecha is usually biomorphic in nature, and the land battleships are more similar to vehicles. Listening to the dialogue that occurs during combat, the Federation calls these land battleships “old” prototypes, implying that they were constructed long ago, and it was only in their desperation that the Federation pulled these out of storage.

  • Small cues such as these speak volumes to how poorly the war is going for the Federation, and yet again, I find myself impressed with how much Project Wingman is able to do through just radio chatter. Even without cutscenes and fully-animated characters, Project Wingman presents an unexpectedly immersive and well-written story for a game whose primary aim is to fly cool aircraft around and blow stuff up. Here, I finish off the last of the land battleships with my machine gun pods to wrap the mission up.

  • With the Federation’s final base in ruins, Monarch returns to base and prepares to land under the evening’s last rays of light. Landing in Project Wingman is similar to what it was in Ace Combat: one only needs to line themselves up with the runway, reduce altitude and then bring their aircraft to just above stalling speed. Precision isn’t too high, since the aircraft will often drop out of the air and onto the runway. Easing back on the velocity until the plane stops will then bring these segments to a close. I’m especially fond of the facility Hitman team is operating out of here: a secluded base with a full-fledged runway wedged into a ravine.

  • While Prospero lies in ruins, Cascadia has determined that the location remains of strategic importance: it is to act as the staging area for mounting a full-scale counteroffensive on the battered and diminished Federation forces. Only a handful of Federation units remain in the area, so there’s actually not too much difficulty for Hitman Team during this mission’s first phase: unlike previous missions, there are a comparatively small number of ground units, and air targets are similarly fewer. Ordinary missiles will do the trick for this mission, but going from the briefing, it felt a little strange that the assignment would be so straightforward.

  • Because the Federation appears unable to muster forces quite to the same extent as they had previously, I imagined that this would be the setting for a confrontation with elite pilots. To this end, I brought the Accipiter and its gun pods to the fight: although the Accipiter is unable to equip the heavy gun pods, which fire high explosive round that can decimate enemy aircraft and ground targets alike, the medium gun pods it can equip fire 20 mm rounds, leaving it a viable choice for dogfighting. The canister gun pod represents an interesting weapon: it fires flechette rounds in a cone-like pattern and can deal as much damage as the heavy gun pods.

  • The erupting volcano in Prospero reminds me a great deal of Mount Fuji: both are stratovolcanoes, and here, the distinct conical profile of Prospero’s mountain can be seen. Having expended only a small amount of ammunition and missiles on the targets in Prospero, the wisdom of bringing the Accipiter to this mission soon became apparent: Crimson squadron arrives, and at this point in Project Wingman, it should be clear that there is no more need to pull punches: Crimson squadron has survived everything until now, even the destruction of the Federation’s other forces.

  • With their prototype aircraft, Crimson squadron is quite resilient against missiles, so having the Accipiter’s gun pods mean a much easier fight. The integral cannon other aircraft carry work just fine, but in a game where gun ammunition is finite on all difficulties, having reserve gun ammunition becomes helpful. Despite rocking the VX-23 and Sk.37 aircrafts, prototypes with high mobility, I was surprised that the Accipiter was able to keep up: once a Crimson squadron aircraft ends up behind my sites, sustained fire from the gun pods and integral cannon can quickly rip up their aircraft.

  • The key to winning dogfights against elite enemies in Project Wingman is therefore considerably different than what it was in Ace Combat: in Ace Combat 7, beating Mihaly simply entailed hitting his aircraft with missiles. However, here in Project Wingman, enemy elites make liberal use of flares or a special component known as the AOA limiter, which allows aircraft to perform high-G turns and post-stall manoeuvres. At close ranges (under a thousand metres), missiles become useless against elites like Crimson team, but guns remain effective.

  • It was with the Accipiter and its guns that I was able to wipe out the entirety of Crimson team. I wound up trying the canister gun pod out: the spread means that it’s quite wasteful at range, but on the flip-side, if all its shots connect at shorter distances, it can quickly shred enemy aircraft. Having extra ammunition to spare meant I was able to use the canister gun pods on what I imagine to be Crimson One: when elites show up in groups, their aircraft are not named, so the dialogue would suggest that no matter which order one destroys these elites in, story-related characters tend to last the longest in a fight.

  • The final mission against what’s left of the Federation fleet really drove home how far they’d fallen: all they can conjure up against Cascadian forces are a handful of light cruisers, frigates and a single aircraft carrier. Meanwhile, Cascadia brings airships armed with railguns to the fight, and with Sicario in their corner, the Federation navy stands no chance at all. For this mission, I ended up picking the Accipiter. Besides its gun pods, the Accipiter has access to a solid range of unguided anti-ground munitions. My personal favourites are the unguided triple bombs and small unguided rockets.

  • Bombing moving targets requires a bit of finesse. but when things line up, even the smaller bombs can be quite devastating. I’ve typically stuck to small bombs because one can carry more of them (at the expense of blast damage), and the triple-volley bombs cover a larger area, allowing more targets to be struck. Having looked at various aircrafts in Project Wingman, it is possible to carry a single large bomb which has a very large blast radius, but this comes at the expense of longer reload times and limited carrying capacity.

  • As it was, using the Accipiter’s rockets and small bombs proved more than sufficient to destroy what remained of the Federation fleet. On the topic of fleet destruction, I’ve been keeping abreast of current events, and given the nature of the mass media, I will remark it is exceedingly difficult to ascertain what is actually going on. This is why I tend to leave politics out of my discussions in general; without a complete picture, one cannot even form an informed opinion of what’s going on, because the media only portrays things in a way that favours whatever their narrative is.

  • For something like what happens in Project Wingman, then, it would be equivalent to the Cascadian media over-reporting on their successes over the Federation, whereas the Federation are more likely to downplay their losses. Because it is not possible to get a clear picture of what actually occurred, civilians in Cascadia and the Federation alike would have no idea how well, or poorly, the war is going at a given point. Nowadays, the problem is exacerbated by social media and so-called KOLs; when everyone is given the platform and audience they need to play make-believe and act like an expert, the amount of noise increases.

  • For folks who count on assessing multiple viewpoints to draw a conclusion, things can therefore get a little rowdy. On the other hand, people who do not have the time to sift through everything may be given the (mistaken) impression that one particular perspective, or narrative, holds true. I’ve noticed that this is becoming an especially prevalent problem at AnimeSuki; names like mangamuscle and ramlaen dominate all political “discourse”, and this talk has displaced even the anime discussion there. I fail to see the merits of such conversation, especially when there is a stubborn refusal to consider other sides of the coin. As it was, seeing the same sentiments, and same dubious sources being shared repeatedly offers nothing of merit; all it does is create an environment where critical thinking is not tolerated, and one where hatred is encouraged.

  • As it is, I have no intention of participating in such lunacy; the key to avoid being convinced of one’s own correctness is to appreciate that we are unlikely to get a complete picture of any news related to foreign affairs, and therefore, tread cautiously wherever such news is concerned – it is sufficient to keep one’s thoughts to oneself and not share/retweet news on social media. Conversely, things are considerably more black-and-white in Project Wingman: as Monarch, players can see plainly what the Federation’s been doing, and what both Hitman team and Cascadia have done. Here, I open fire with the unguided rockets on a Federation cruiser and cause it to explode spectacularly with a single volley.

  • One of the challenges I had entering the nineteenth mission’s second act was the appearance of the Federation navy’s second fleet. Having expended quite a bit of my ammunition already, I wondered if I had enough left in the tank to take on the marked targets. Missions like these demand that players purchase aircraft beyond the trainer planes one starts out with on the sheer virtue that all of the other planes in Project Wingman can equip more weapons, and therefore, possess the endurance to actually finish these missions.

  • The second Federation fleet includes an aircraft carrier that will deploy a number of F/D-14s into the skies, plus a handful of larger battleships armed with railguns. This represents one final hurrah for their forces: although the railguns are an impressive-looking weapon, they are easily dodged, and the plasma trails they leave immediately telegraph their position. In the end, I had just enough unguided rockets and bombs left to handle the fleet. The writing’s on the wall at this point, and the fact that this mission takes place during a sunset accentuates the fact that the Federation’s twilight has arrived.

  • This mission therefore has a bit of a finality to it: fighting the weakened Federation shows that the Cascadian conflict is almost at a close; at this point in time, only two more missions remain on the plate, and with the Cascadians now on the doorstep of their capital, I imagine that the final missions will entail taking back Presidia and bringing an end to what was ultimately a meaningless conflict, albeit one that allows players to fly cool aircraft outfitted with an array of cool weapons into battles over exceedingly cool locations.

  • It goes without saying that I’ve had an immensely enjoyable time with Project Wingman: the journey to complete this title has spanned a comparatively short two months, but even now, it is clear that I’m going to get a great deal of replay value out of this title as I work towards unlocking all of the aircraft in the campaign, and begin trying the conquest mode out, which is an endless mode that pits players against Federation forces in procedurally generated missions. Conquest mode is something that looks like it will give Project Wingman nigh-endless replay value, and together with the fact that this game has full VR support, I’m genuinely impressed with how many surprises this game possesses.

Having now brought the war back to Presidia’s doorstep, it does appear that all that’s left to bring the Cascadian Conflict to a close is one final, decisive defeat of the remaining Federation forces that still occupy Presidia. In the time since Project Wingman has begun, I’ve had a fantastic time with mastering the basics, and in this time, I’ve also accumulated enough funds to purchase the F/S-15, a prototype F-15 with an obscene number of hard points, excellent manoeuvrability and solid performance in both anti-air and anti-ground operations. With the F/S-15, I was able to flatten the Federation’s land battleships, although for other missions, I stuck with the Accipiter, which has proven to be an immensely fun aircraft to use owing to its ability to equip gun pods and a solid array of anti-ground weapons. In most games, late-game weapons and equipment tend to overshadow what’s available early in the game, and this progression is meant to give players more capabilities as they become increasingly learned with mechanics. However, the end result of this is that early-game options are rendered obsolete. In Ace Combat, early aircraft have a much more limited payload and reduced manoeuvrability compared to planes unlocked later on, so it becomes more difficult to use them in later missions. Conversely, here in Project Wingman, all aircraft have similar basic weapon capabilities, and while their handling traits differ, they differ in a way so that the endgame planes take considerably more skill to use effectively. The F/S-15, for instance, feels much more loose than does the F/D-14 or T/F-4 (one feels as though they could lose control and slam into the ground), and a careless pilot could empty out its multiple lock-on missiles in a heartbeat. However, pilots accustomed to the flight mechanics can take advantage of this to easily get behind other planes, and careful ammunition management allows one to effectively use the F/S-15’s weapons without running out. The planes in Project Wingman grow with the player, and in exchange for asking players to first acclimatise to the game’s mechanics, Project Wingman entrusts greater power to pilots with more experience. The basic planes work very well throughout the game, and as one improves, they are conferred access to the tools that make the process smoother.

Project Wingman: New Aircraft and The Edge of An Apocalypse At The ¾ Mark

“If you use weapons of war to bring about peace, you’re going to have more war and destruction.” –Coretta Scott King

When Cascadian and Federation forces clash over the Bering Strait, both sides are determined to seize victory and continuously send in reinforcements, resulting in a massive aerial battle. The tides turn for Cascadia when Sicario appear: with Hitman Team in the fight, Cascadian forces manage to repel the Federation aircraft, and even forces Crimson team to withdraw. As the Federation become increasingly desparate, they begin to turn towards volatile Cordium super-weapons, prompting Sicario to begin investigating Icarus Armouries at Harkema Industrial Park. Here, Hitman team faces off against a new prototype aircraft operated by Klara Rask, although Monarch manages to shoot her down. With the revelation that the Federation has amassed their task forces in Sawaiiki, Cascadia prepares to mount an offensive against this fleet in Wai-Mami Port. The entire fleet is destroyed, resulting in a strategic victory for Cascadian forces. The Federation thus begins a withdrawal of their forces, but when the Cascadians begin a pursuit, the Federation creates a forest fire as a distraction. Despite this, together with Hitman team, Cascadian forces deal the Federation yet another blow. With the Federation now on the backfoot, Cascadia prepares to re-take the city of Prospero, and while their efforts are successful, out of desperation, the Federation deploys cruise missiles tipped with Cordium warheads, utterly annihilating Prospero and creating a chain reaction with nearby Cordium deposits, setting off geothermal storms and violent earthquakes. Other nations condemn this attack, and amidst the chaos, Hitman team survives the devastation and are ordered back to base. With the Cascadian Conflict reaching its most intense points, it becomes apparent that Hitman Team’s contributions are, in the vein of Ace Combat squadrons, single-handedly turning the tide of the war at its most critical junctures and transforming a difficult situation into one where there may yet be possibility of victory. This feeling lingers right up until the Federation employ Cordium weapons, unleashing hitherto unseen destruction.

It is in the sense of scale that Project Wingman truly differentiates itself from Ace Combat. Battles seemingly span entire maps, with missile locks and contrails filling one’s screen. Taking one’s attention off the air to focus on a ground target may be just as risky as breaking off a lock on a ground target to deal with an airborne foe as both airships and ground emplacements lock onto Monarch. When the Federation retreats, they set an entire map on fire to cover their tracks: as fires burn out of control below, the skies are filled with smoke, accentuating the amount of destruction the Federation is willing to cause. Similarly, when the tide of battle turns against them, use of Cordium-tipped cruise missiles transforms a city into a smoldering ruin. In showing just how large everything in Project Wingman is, the game absolutely succeeds in conveying just how devastating warfare is. This aspect totally and completely immerses players into the chaos of flying, creating the impression that it is only a combination of skill and luck that one’s able to stay airborne long enough to complete their assignment. In this area, Project Wingman surpasses Ace Combat, whose engagements are, by comparison, smaller in scope. Creating what is jokingly referred to as a “target rich” environment impacts player immersion, but it also accentuates the idea that mercenaries like Monarch and Hitman Team are more foolhardy and daring than conventional forces: it takes a specific mindset in order to take to the skies and fight overwhelming odds with naught more than a plane and a heart full of determination. In making the most of its environment, and the things that can be portrayed, Project Wingman shows how less is more, and how efficient use of the assets available can tell a gripping story without expenditure on expensive character models and cutscenes.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The eleventh mission sends Monarch straight into the middle of a fierce air battle: in this mission, there are no ground targets at all to speak of, so I ended up going purely with the multiple lock-on missiles to maximise the amount of firepower I could bring to bear against large numbers of conventional foes. There’s simply so much going on that engaging everything is impossible, but being able to lock onto multiple targets at once with fire-and-forget ordnance does make things a little easier. The goal of this mission’s first phase is to thin out enemy numbers.

  • To really accentuate the size of the battle, aircraft contrails and missile exhaust from allied and enemy forces alike can be seen crisscrossing the skies. This particular aspect of Project Wingman is particularly impressive, and since the vapour trails are rendered using particle systems, they are relatively inexpensive from a computational perspective. As such, without putting a great deal of strain on the GPU, Project Wingman can still render impressive-looking battle sequences players will find themselves in the middle of.

  • Another thing that impressed me was the fact that the early-game aircraft remain highly viable even during in later missions. By this point in time, I’ve flown the F/D-14 almost exclusively owing to its solid acceleration and handling traits. While it’s less effective in an anti-ground role, its speed and mobility makes it a reasonable choice dealing with air and ground targets alike: I’ve found the F/D-14 to be a good all-around plane that leaves me ready to handle whatever a mission sends in my direction, and this means, instead of spending credits on upgrading my aircraft constantly, I can get through most missions with this plane.

  • The term “furball” is used to describe dogfights of high intensity, arising when multiple engagements arise in a relatively small airspace, creating a great deal of chaos. The etymology of “furball” stems from the cartoon portrayal of great, dusty balls of violence when characters fight, leading fur to fly, and from what I’ve read, the term became popular after the Persian Gulf War’s air combat situations in January 1991. Ace Combat has a number of these situations, and as memory serves, Skies Unknown particularly excelled in creating these scenarios: besides missions where the Arsenal Bird and its drones were present, the final battle at the Lighthouse space elevator also stands out.

  • In the eleventh mission’s second phase, Crimson team appears. Like the elite squadrons of Ace Combat, seeing the same squadrons return in Project Wingman creates a feeling of rivalry and animosity amongst players, that there exists a force of equivalent skill which one must deal with eventually. Unlike their appearance during the sixth mission, Crimson team’s aircraft can actually be engaged now, and armed with the F/D-14, I found myself dealing appreciable damage to their fighters. Against elite squadrons, guns actually work better than missiles: concentrated fire will quickly bring down even the tougher planes, whereas missiles will tend to lose their targets, resulting in prolonged fights.

  • I’ve found that missiles can still be useful in boss fights; by locking onto, and firing on an elite enemy, this forces them to go defensive, and subsequently, one can manoeuvre into a better position for making use of their guns. In this way, even Crimson team can be managed. With this being said, depending extensively on missiles isn’t ideal, since Crimson team can still dodge missiles more effectively than do ordinary foes. The mission ends when five of the eight Crimson team aircraft are shot down.

  • I decided to pick up the Accipiter, a multirole aircraft capable of hovering: it’s modelled after the AV-8V Harrier, the only successful V/STOL aircraft ever deployed. The first generation Harriers were developed in the 1960s, and a second generation Harrier was rolled out in the 1980s. Although not seeing any extensive combat operations in reality, Project Wingman‘s Harrier, the Accipiter, is a surprisingly effective aircraft in dogfights, being able to track enemy aircraft very well. With six hard points, the Accipiter is no slouch in firepower, either: one can carry an impressive load of anti-ground ordinance into battle with them.

  • The Accipiter’s biggest draw, however, is the fact that all of its hardpoints can be configured to mount machine gun pods and canister pods. Because boss fights pit Monarch against highly manoeuvrable foes, foes that can effortlessly evade missiles, one’s cannons become indispensable against elite enemies. Knowing that I was going to take on a Federation-held research facility gave me the sense that I might square off against prototype aircraft here, so I determined that this was the time to pick up the Accipiter and become comfortable with its handling traits.

  • Despite kitting myself out for a boss fight, I ended up equipping rocket pods in my last slot, seeing as there was going to be a nontrivial amount of ground targets to strike at in this mission. During this mission, the Federation deploys railguns, and amidst the night setting, the plasma trails each shot leave behind really stand out. There’s an unusual beauty behind these shots, which particularly stand out because it’s so dark, and at this point in Project Wingman, one cannot help but wonder if Monarch will be able to get into the cockpit of an aircraft carrying a railgun of its own.

  • To help players out, the minimap will display the trajectory of railguns before they fire, allowing one to evade before sustaining any damage. Because I am a novice to Project Wingman, I’ve been playing on the lowest difficulty so I could get used to things, and with everything turned down, I am finding a very laid-back experience overall. Like Ace Combat, I will be returning in the future to revisit the campaign on normal difficulty and work towards unlocking all of the aircraft possible. For now, however, I have found that the F/D-14 has been sufficient for most of the levels, and in cases where more specialised aircraft are required, the Accipiter and Sk.25U seem like they’d be more than enough for these roles.

  • In Ace Combat games, I make it a point to unlock the F-15E Strike Eagle as soon as I can: it’s a reasonable all-around aircraft that can handle the vigours of most missions, and then in conjunction with a good anti-ground aircraft, I’m more or less set for the endgame. Project Wingman, on the other hand, has seen me be moderately successful with an earlier unlock, and it suddenly hits me that a skilled pilot should, in theory, be able to hold their own with even the early-game aircraft, provided they understand their aircraft’s traits.

  • This is something one of my best friends is always fond of in a given Gundam series: watching mass production machines is typically a disheartening affair, since they’re slaughtered whole-sale by named individuals, but every so often, a skilled pilot can do some real damage with a mass production machine. In Gundam SEED Destiny, a flight of Murasames destroy the Chaos Gundam over Berlin, and in Gundam Unicorn, a lone Stark Jegan pilot gives Marida Cruz and her Kshatriya trouble. At the end of the day, what matters is operator skill: as Char Aznable had famously stated, a superior machine has limits when going up against a superior pilot.

  • The thirteenth mission proved to be remarkably enjoyable for the fact that it was a ground attack mission: the operation entails launching a full-scale offensive against the Federation port, where a large portion of their airship fleet is currently moored. Because of the sheer number of ground targets in this mission, and the fact that the major air targets are the lumbering Federation airships, I decided the time had come to pick up the Sk.25U, which is modelled on the Russian Su-25 Grach (better known over here as the Frogfoot). The Frogfoot is the Russian counterpart to the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt; in reality, the Su-25 has a smaller profile, has better manoeuvrability and a greater top speed, while the A-10’s larger size gives it a more impressive payload.

  • Overall, the A-10 Thunderbolt is superior in terms of offensive firepower, but the Su-25 is no slouch, either. Although perhaps not the tank-buster that the A-10 is, the Su-25 is a respectable aircraft in its own right, and so, while Project Wingman lacks its equivalent of the A-10, the Su-25 equivalent, the Sk.25U remains a fair anti-ground aircraft. Its integral 30 mm cannon is devastating against ground targets, and it can carry an impressive array of bombs, anti-ground missiles and unguided rockets, as well as heavy gun pods and anti-ship missiles.

  • The tradeoff for all this firepower is manoeuvrability: the Sk.25U has the flight characteristics of a construction brick, and it is ill-suited for dogfighting. However, against airships, the Sk.25U’s anti-ship missiles are absolutely lethal. It was in this mission that I discovered for myself how powerful the anti-ship missiles are: a single missile can take out an airship with a single shot if targeting the hull, and despite its slow reload time, the missiles are an absolute asset to have. Together with the anti-ship missiles, I ended up carrying the anti-ground missiles and an additional heavy gun pod, having found that the 30 mm rounds could make short work of almost anything.

  • This mission marked the first time I’d actually used the multiple lock-on anti-ground missiles in Project Wingman: previously in Ace Combat games, I preferred unguided rockets or unguided bombs, since aircraft were quite restricted in how much special ordinance they could carry. However, Project Wingman is incredibly generous with its payloads, and I spent a large portion of the mission locking onto four targets, pulling the trigger and watching as four explosions simultaneously occurred. For the idle airships on the ground, I found that hammering them with the Sk.25U’s 30 mm gun was enough to destroy them.

  • I’ve not played enough Ace Combat to tell the difference, but in Project Wingman, the difference between a 20 mm M61 Vulcan and the 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-2 dual-barrel auto-cannon is immediately noticeable: the fire rate is much lower, but the damage behind every shot can be felt. I would very much have liked to pilot an A-10 Thunderbolt equivalent here in Project Wingman; the A-10’s GAU-8/A Avenger is one of the most powerful guns ever to be mounted on an aircraft (to the point where it’s fair to say that they wrapped an aircraft around the Avenger), and I would’ve loved to have sent a blistering hail of 30×173mm rounds at my foes on the ground in this game.

  • As it was, the loadout I picked for this mission proved more than adequate, and I had a superb time destroying foes: the choice to carry anti-ship missiles meant that the remaining airships in the skies can easily be knocked out, and by the time the mission ended, I found myself with a superb payout from the sheer number of ground targets destroyed. For the time being, my plan looks to be to unlock the top aircraft first, and then work my way backwards into the earlier aircraft until I have a complete collection. Having said this, spending so much time with the earlier aircraft means gaining a solid understanding of how things generally work in Project Wingman, and this wouldn’t be possible were I to depend on a super-plane’s abilities exclusively.

  • The fourteenth mission is a return to the F/D-14 and WSO President’s dulcet tones providing periodic updates for me as I carry out my mission: from a mechanical perspective, this mission simply entails engaging and destroying all Federation forces. However, the mission itself stands out because of the forest fires that are burning uncontrollably on the ground below. It was really here that I began wishing to try Project Wingman‘s virtual reality component out; unlike Skies Unknown, the entirety of Project Wingman has VR support.

  • Since I’ve got an Oculus Quest (compliments of F8 2019), all I’d need to do is install Oculus Link and Oculus PC. My new desktop is ready to roll for Oculus Link, so I’m actually quite curious to know how well things will handle. The bottle at present is going to be my GPU, but my other components should be good to go. My previous computer lacked the USB-C ports needed for this, so I’ve only ever used the Oculus Quest as a standalone headset, but Oculus Link represents an exciting chance to greatly extend what I can do with my headset. Up until now, I’ve primarily played SUPERHOT VR and used the Wander app for helping with anime location hunts with the headset, so being able to potentially play Half-Life: Alyx and Project Wingman in VR would give my headset new life.

  • Even if the process proves to be less-than-optimal, the Oculus Quest has represented a fantastic platform to play with: in particular, being able to explore the world in Wander, and camp with Rin and Nadeshiko in Yuru Camp Virtual has allowed me to “travel” without leaving the comfort of home. While I’m still settling in after the move, my mind is already wandering towards thoughts of travelling in the future. Besides a road trip into the mountains, I admit that it would be quite nice to visit Japan again (I’ve caught myself daydreaming about visiting Takehara, or perhaps enjoying the luxuries of a ryokan. In lieu of travelling, I’ve been watching travel and adventure shows instead.

  • Of late, I’ve come across a travel content creator, awkventurer, who does a solid job of highlighting some of the more out-of-the-way Japanese attractions. In a manner similar to Rick Steves’ Europe, awkventurer shows her experiences in Japan’s more local, less touristy places. From her profile, she’s a Canadian expatriate who fell in love with the country and now showcases places that are worth checking out. I typically don’t watch travel vloggers or similar, but awkventurer is an exception to this rule: her videos both are a sort of Rick Steves’ Europe experience, and remind me of a time from a decade earlier, when things were simpler: she reminds me of an old friend I knew who had moved Japan in order to do something similar, although since my failed kokuhaku with said friend, we’d not been in touch.

  • While browsing for awkventurer’s Japan content one evening, I came across a Reddit thread in which she was asking for PC-building advice. The criteria had been for a desktop that could do Adobe Creative Suite work, with 1080p60 gaming and Twitch streaming on the side. Several of the builds from Redditor advice, from my point of view, was vastly overpriced for what awkventurer was looking to do with it: most expensive was the setup that user Millillion came up with, which came out to a total of 3215 CAD. The internet is a powerful asset (I was able to do a few DIYs around the new place after moving in thanks to the availability of tutorials online), but there is no substitute for expertise, and I certainly wouldn’t count myself competent in home maintenance yet.

  • I will, with a hint of smugness, remark that my new desktop is about 30 percent faster but cost only two-fifths of the Reddit-recommended builds (before the addition of a Lovelace GPU), and it is clear that, while Millillion may have seventy thousand points of Reddit karma, this is someone who overestimates their knowledge and ends up over-building machines, leaving people who take their advice with greatly under-utilised hardware. My best friend remarked that such occurrences aren’t uncommon, where people gain the most from hardware only when they take the time to learn the limits of both their capabilities, and their hardware. This is why games like Project Wingman start players off with the weakest aircraft, and why in Gundam, pilots start out with Gundams equipped with only basic weapons: a beam rifle, beam sabre and shield is all one needs.

  • Giving players the best equipment from the start would take away from the learning journey one would embark on, and similarly, giving an inexperienced Gundam pilot an obscenely overpowered machine makes little sense from a narrative perspective: the pilot would come to rely entirely on their machine’s power and fail to mature as a result (someone who can’t tell when to switch off the beam rifle for a beam sabre will not likely perform well with funnels). Of course, for people such as my best friend and myself, we also take pride in pushing our hardware to its absolute limits and see what’s possible using inferior or weaker gear. The analogue of this in Project Wingman is flying the T/F-4 into the endgame missions, and while I’m positive a good pilot could very well go toe-to-toe with Crimson One in a T/F-4, the problem the trainer aircraft face is their payload capacity.

  • In missions with a larger number of foes, the trainer aircraft and their inability to carry a larger number of special weapons means that ammunition will run out. Purchased aircraft, like the F/D-14, are better prepared for things, and here, I begin the operation to take back the Cascadian city, Prospero. While Cascadian ground forces seize the airport, Hitman team defends the skies above. This mission is set on a smoggy evening, and the goal in the mission’s first half is simply to whittle down the Federation forces on the ground, and in the skies.

  • By this point in time, airships are merely just large targets, and players will have become quite familiar with destroying their armaments first before attacking the hull. Hitman team’s presence allows the battle to greatly favour the Cascadian forces, and this mission is where the Federation demonstrate the extent of their desperation: once all of the Federation forces are destroyed, cruise missiles begin appearing en masse. However, these are no ordinary cruise missiles, and while players can attempt to destroy them, their numbers are overwhelming.

  • Moreover, these cruise missiles are tipped with Cordium warheads: upon impact, they detonate with a blinding flash of light and rend the ground, creating a chain reaction in the Cordium deposits below. Such moments do much to instill in players the sense of desperation against insurmountable odds, and again, I found myself impressed at how much Project Wingman was able to convey in its story through communications dialogue and in-game mechanics. While there are some who hold that a socially-relevant themes and emotional connection is essential to a good story, I disagree: even clever use of game mechanics can be enough to specifically show players certain ideas without breaking immersion.

  • As the Cordium-tipped missiles impact with the ground and create a chain reaction in the deposits buried below, the entire landscape begins melting as the heat of reaction makes its way to the surface. Finally, the ground ruptures, creating what becomes known as the Cascadian Calamity Event, a second geothermal disaster that creates tectonic upheaval. In this way, Project Wingman shows the consequences of attempting to harness powers that our science and technology have a minimal understanding of, as well as how even the most determined individuals cannot always prevent disaster, no matter their intentions or resolve.

  • In the hellish skies following the Cascadian Calamity Event, the skies are filled with ash, and clouds rain lightning onto the ground below. The entire operation is called off, and while Cascadian forces have sustained crippling losses, Hitman team and their AWACS, Galaxy, manage to survive the inferno. Without a clear idea of how extensive the damage is, Galaxy orders Hitman team back to base so they can regroup and assess the situation. At this point, I am entering Project Wingman‘s endgame, and while it’s been an incredible journey thus far, I have a feeling that what lies ahead will be quite rivetting indeed: Crimson team, for one, still remains at large, and I anticipate a titanic fight against them in what is sure to be a test of my skills.

Having now passed through the three-quarters mark to Project Wingman, it is clear that with Sicario’s contributions have proven instrumental in slowing the Federation invasion. As Ace Combat had done before, Project Wingman‘s outcomes show how the right individuals in the right place, at the right time, can create a knock-on effect on the events unfolding around them. In this case, by striking at key Federation sites while they are vulnerable, Cascadia and Sicario are depriving the Federation of their ability to fight. Other operations demonstrate to the Federation that Cascadia is not willing to give up so easily, and that any gains on the Federation’s part will only result with unacceptably high costs. In this way, Project Wingman hints at the fact that a numerical advantage alone does not guarantee victory, and similarly, a war’s instigator has, historically, been more likely to be vanquished when they underestimate the defender’s willingness to fight down to the last person and stand their ground, pushing the attackers to increasingly desperate measures. Use of Cordium weapons has shown that, while the Federation’s ability to fight is decreasing constantly, they are willing to resort to extreme means of achieving their aims. Sun Tzu’s Art of War suggests that one should always leave their foes with a way out: if they see no way out, they will have nothing to lose and fight to the death. With all of these elements present in Project Wingman, I am very excited to see how the game’s final quarter unfolds: Crimson Team still remains a threat, and the Cordium weapons pose a nontrivial threat to the world of Project Wingman, so I am anticipating that Sciario’s goals will align fully with Cascadia’s; in classic Ace Combat fashion, the objective now becomes clear, to prevent the Federation from utilising these weapons at scale and potentially triggering a second Calamity.

Invalidating the Mother of Japanese Tanks, Daigensui: Examining What Battlefield Portal Requires To Model What Happens When Ideology Meets Reality

“平時就牙刷刷, 依家出埋清都攪唔掂條𡃁仔, 抵佢死!” –九叔, 半斤八兩

With a muzzle velocity of 1575 m/s, a single 120 mm M829 APFSDS round slices through the air and slams into its mark, a Tiger I tank, from a distance of two kilometres. In a single shot, Sumeragi is unceremoniously removed from the fight as the M829’s stopping power kicks the Tiger I back like a child’s toy, flipping it onto its side. Had this APFSDS round been live, it would have torn through the Tiger I’s 120 mm frontal armour as though it were cardboard, turned the Tiger’s interior into a hell on earth as the penetrator vapourised metal and created molten shards that instantly perforated the crew. However, this is a friendly Panzerfahren match; on impact from a shell, a microprocessor in the Tiger I’s armour quickly determines that this round far exceeds anything the Tiger I can handle, and instead, Sumeragi’s Tiger I is simply rendered impotent, immobile. A white flag pops up to signify that this tank has been taken out of the fight. Six seconds later, the report of a distant Rheinmetall Rh-120 gun can be heard. Sumeragi had been leading the Panzerkiel formation in keeping with the Nishizumi Style, and the remaining eight Mädchen und Panzer Tiger Is reform their line, intent on maintaining formation as they travel through an open field until they reach their foe, a lone M1A2 Abrams designated “Icarus”. However, a second shot from Icarus punches into Leo Xiao’s Tiger I. The platoon’s commander, Tak, orders smoke to be launched as the surviving Tiger Is retreat into a forest and disperse to escape the enemy fire. Two kilometres away, Icarus’ commander calmly orders for the FLIR camera’s polarity to be changed from White-Hot to Black-Hot. The Tiger Is, hidden away behind a cloud of white smoke, suddenly become visible, as clear as day. Icarus’ gunner takes aim and fires again, disabling Hooves’ tank. With the Tiger I formation now behind cover, Icarus begins moving: while the Abrams enjoys seventy years of advancement over the Tiger I, including NGAP composite armour that gives the equivalent of an estimated protection of 900 mm Rolled Homogenous Armour equivalent (RHAe) against armour piercing rounds and 1320 mm of RHAe against HEAT rounds from the front, all it would take is one lucky shot to the Abram’s engine block to bring about a mobility kill. Sitting still is the one surefire way that a lone M1A2 could lose to six Tiger Is, but this is provided that the Abrams is daft enough to allow for this: with its Honeywell AGT1500 gas turbine engine, an M1A2 is capable of a maximum off-road speed of 40 km/h, giving it enough mobility to run rings around the slower Tiger I, which plods along at a paltry 25 km/h on a good day whilst off-roading. Minutes later, Icarus’ commander spots two of the remaining six Mädchen und Panzer Tiger Is that have exited the forest, in a not-so-subtle attempt to launch a pincer attack. The Tiger Is fire, but their 88 mm shells travel wide of their mark. Icarus responds in kind: its stabliser allows the gun to track moving targets and hit them reliably even when the Abrams is on the move, and in this way, RRW is taken out of the fight. Ascaloth’s Tiger I attempts to back up and flee, but its heavy tracks get stuck in the mud. Ascaloth too is immobilised from a single round to its front. The four Mädchen und Panzer tanks left belong to willx, Myssa Rei, Kimidori and Tak, and predictably, they’ve attempted to flank Icarus: Myssa Rei and Willx come from the rear, while Kimidori and Tak are approaching from the side. Icarus’ driver hits the gas and accelerates into a turn so the Abrams can face its foes: the four Tiger Is that are now coming in head-on. With a lurch, the Rh-120 sends its sixth M892 shell down range. Capable of penetrating an estimated 540 mm RHAe at two kilometers, this round hits Kimidori squarely on the turret, and its immobilised flag pops up: the Tiger’s armour is simply inconsequential. During the exchange of fire, a stray 88 mm round from Myssa Rei’s Tiger I glances off the Abram’s front turret, scratching the paint and marking the first time Mädchen und Panzer had hit anything during this match. Moments later, Icarus’ gunner lands yet another kill with grim accuracy. This time, platoon commander Tak is taken out; only Myssa Rei and willx remain. The gunner trains Icarus’ turret on willx’s Tiger I, pulls the trigger, and after the smoke clears, willx is downed. Seeing this, Myssa Rei orders her driver to stop, and closes her eyes while allowing the inevitable to happen: one Tiger tank is no match for an M1A2. Within the space of ten minutes, all nine Tiger Is are immobilised, and the only sign that the M1A2 had gone through combat is several superficial scratches on the turret’s front armour. The match is over; Icarus’ commander climbs out of the cupola and surveys the carnage, reflecting on how seven decades’ worth of technological advancements meant today, this was no victory – this is bullying.

Such a scenario has lingered in my mind for the past nine years, ever since Girls und Panzer had finished airing: I’d finished writing about a post on Battlefield 3‘s seventh mission, Thunder Run, and AnimeSuki’s Wild Goose had stopped by to read about my impressions of Thunder Run, one of Battlefield 3‘s most impressive missions. After I destroyed a group of T-72s and commented on how this would be the result were I to solo Mädchen und Panzer “on skill alone”, Wild Goose remarked that using an M1A2 to beat on World War Two era tanks would be cruel and unnecessary to the point where the mere suggestion would earn me a Vlad Tepes award. My original assertion had been that if given an era-appropriate tank, such as the Sherman Firefly or Centurion MBT, my patience and strategies would have allowed me to overcome Mädchen und Panzer, an AnimeSuki World of Tanks clan that had prided itself on using the Nishizumi Style. The me of nine years earlier was plainly less learned with clarity, and I had mistakenly given the impression that I wanted to solo Mädchen und Panzer with a modern MBT. However, the thought of trivially mopping floor with Mädchen und Panzer (and proving the weaknesses of the Nishizumi Style as I’d known it then) remained. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to become more familiar with simulated armoured warfare through an option superior to World of Tanks, and this is how I come to greatly enjoy how the Battlefield franchise handled armoured warfare. Nine years after completing Thunder Run for the first time, Battlefield Portal has arrived, and while both Battlefield 2042 and Battlefield Portal have seen considerable difficulties following launch, the latter has come the closest to allowing me to experience something that had, until now, only been possible as a thought experiment. Battlefield Portal allows for custom matches to be created, where different factions and eras can go against one another, and the revelation that the Wehrmacht could be made to fight the modern US Army had been intriguing. So far, Battlefield Portal allows one to effortlessly pit the two factions against one another in a match of conquest, and with a bit of tweaking to vehicle rules, tanks can be made to reflect the vast disparities in their performance, in turn allowing me to definitively answer the question of whether or not a number of Tiger Is could, in conjunction with the Nishizumi Style, defeat a single M1A2. The outcome shouldn’t surprise anyone: it’s “not a chance in hell”. Battlefield Portal plainly offers the base for satisfying a nearly-decade old question, but with the flexibility and versatility DICE had advertised, the question inevitably becomes, is it possible to re-create Panzerfahren with Battlefield Portal in order to create a more thrilling, fail and tactical experience? Unfortunately, the answer for now remains a resounding no – game modes and the logic editor remain quite limited in functionality. Similarly, the small number of factions and maps means that iconic Girls und Panzer Panzerfahren matches cannot be easily remade. However, the elements are all here for Panzerfahren modes to be created: Battlefield 3 had introduced the idea of Air Superiority, in which players would spawn into jets and fly around the map to capture points. In this mode, players could only spawn into jets, and could not bail under any circumstances. With this in mind, opening Battlefield Portal‘s mode editor to accommodate this behaviour for tanks, and generally increasing the number of tanks one could spawn onto a map at any given time would be the first steps. Subsequently, to facilitate the two Panzerfahren modes (elimination/annihilation, and VIP/Flag Tank), the rules editor would need to be extended. Elimination matches are the simpler of the two to create, requiring that one set the match up such that downed players cannot respawn in, and then, when a team has no more players, the match ends. VIP matches would require randomly assigning a single player the role of “flag tank”, and on this player’s defeat, the match ends. Cosmetics, such as a visible flag or unique tank camouflage, can be utilised to denote a flag tank. To provide win/loss logic, one would need to set things up such that score is counted only if the flag tank is killed. It becomes clear that a more versatile logic editor and larger option set would easily accommodate for Panzerfahren matches to be conducted purely from within Battlefield Portal, which in turn would highlight just how powerful Battlefield Portal and the Frostbite Engine are.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The idea behind pitting a single M1A2 against World War Two tanks came about when Wild Goose first mentioned that, when confronted with a Panzer VIII Maus, the M1A2 would be his preferred weapon of choice – in Girls und Panzer‘s penultimate episode, Black Forest brought a Maus to the fight, and its armour was so heavy that not even the Tiger I’s KwK 36 had a chance of punching through its front. Moreover, the Maus rocked a Pak 44, which could defeat any armour any World War Two era tank had (even the T28 Super Heavy tank the Americans had built). However, the Maus’ biggest shortcoming was its slow speed: thanks to its sheer bulk, it was only capable of reaching a top speed of 20 km/h. This is something Miho exploits during Girls und Panzer‘s final match, but in its first appearance, it was a terrifying foe. For the average Abrams crew, however, a Maus would be a joke at all ranges: modern ammunition can burn through 540 mm RHAe at two kilometres, and between a computer-assisted fire control system, plus gun stablisation technology, an M1A2 would simply out-drive a Maus and disable it before the Maus even had time to blink.

  • Furthermore, even if the Maus could hit the M1A2, the composite armour would allow the tank to survive and keep fighting. In short, the Maus stands no chance at all against the M1A2. This hypothetical match-up remains unlikely, and in reality, had the Maus been deployed, the Allies would’ve likely targetted it with artillery strikes or bombs rather than waste any tanks on it, using combined arms approaches instead of attempting to take the tank head-on. Combined arms is a doctrine in which multiple disciplines are used to strike an enemy in a way as to be complementary, such that if an enemy were to defend against one measure, they would be rendered vulnerable to another. For instance, if an enemy were to defend against attack by tanks and places an emphasis on armour, they would leave themselves open to attack from the air. Today, air support is a vital part of warfare: ground forces designate targets for air and artillery assets. Had Panzerfahren included combined arms, the entire sport would disintegrate, since all one would need to win was to send out spotter helicopters like the Kiowa, and then Hellfire missiles can be launched from a distance. In this way, an entire column of tanks could be rendered ineffectual in a matter of minutes.

  • However, since Panzerfahren only allows for tanks, Wild Goose had wondered what it would be like, and I myself began wondering if a single M1A2 or modern equivalent would be able to solo Black Forest. After doing some reading, I found the answer to be a decisive yes, to no surprise. Battlefield Portal allowed me to, after a minor bit of modification to the game rules, re-create this experience. By default, all tanks are balanced against one another so that it takes three solid hits to take one another out, but this actually creates a jarring situation where it takes the M1A2 three or more shots to take a Tiger I out, whereas the Tiger, which would have no way of harming an M1A2 besides hitting it in the back, could also take an M1A2 out with three good shots.

  • Once things were fully configured, I would describe the match ups as “boring”. Even assuming a fully competent foe that utilised everything in their environment and arsenal to its fullest, the disparity between a modern tank and a World War Two tank means in effect, the latter has no solutions against the former save overwhelming numbers. In Battlefield Portal, after everything is set up, every engagement with a Tiger I or Panzer IV entailed lining up the sights, pulling the trigger and watching as the tank exploded. There was absolutely no skill involved in this, and the conclusion here is simple: had I actually been given a chance to take on AnimeSuki’s Mädchen und Panzer in a “M1A2 vs Nishizumi Style” showdown, the results would have been indisputable.

  • As a bit of background, Mädchen und Panzer is a World of Tanks clan for AnimeSuki’s players. Founded in late November of 2012, the group was intended to allow AnimeSuki members to live out their Girls und Panzer fantasies – clan members created a tightly knit clique and spoke of their exploits fondly at the height of their activity, swapped advice and compared their experiences to what was seen in Girls und Panzer. Although Mädchen und Panzer generally maintained a low profile, things changed when Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi temporarily joined their tanks and used his premium perks to help them to a few wins here and there. These premium perks supposedly came as remuneration for Sumeragi helping Wargaming.net to research Japanese tanks. For the Record, a World of Tanks fan blog, translated an interview Sumeragi had with the Korean World of Tanks community regarding his contributions to the game’s Japanese tank line. This post painted Sumeragi as “the mother of Japanese tanks” because Sumeragi considers tanks as his “daughters”, a strange term of endearment, and here, Sumeragi alleged that he had access to original Imperial Japanese Army documents through family contacts, and was exposed to military hardware from a young age for similar reasons. While I am skeptical that Sumeragi has connections of this level, it is plausible that Sumeragi could have simply been a shade more skillful than the average person at finding information pertaining to World War Two Japanese tanks.

  • This interview also gives insight into how Sumeragi reached the conclusion that he did pertaining the Nishizumi Style: when the interview had asked Sumeragi what he thought the main appeal of World War Two era tanks were. Although Sumeragi did not elaborate further, his respect for the older weapons of war appears to come from the fact that without technology to guide and manage things, everything people did boiled down to their own skill:

If we look at the tanks of [World of Tanks], they are from an era before computers started fighting wars. These tanks are what humans, men, would control and fight with. A man controling [sic] directly the large metal, a man directly aiming and firing the gun, a man directly looking for the enemy…in a way the tanks of [World of Tanks] from an era where the last romances of war still lingered. It’s similar to how [Girls und Panzer]’s Hana felt the thrill of firing the gun. The vibrations passing onto your hand, the vibrations of a live engine…it’s a feeling only people who worked with such machines can feel. That is what I think of as the appeal of a tank.

  • Aiming and firing the main gun accurately came down to knowing the marks on the sights and using one’s experience to estimate distance to determine how much one should compensate for gravity. Smoke and poor sight lines forced commanders to position themselves smartly. Thus, from a certain point of view, tankers of old did have to cultivate a large number of skills in order to be effective in their roles. However, this, in no way, shows that modern tank crews are inferior to World War Two crews in any way: modern crews simply train for different modes of combat and under different conditions than crews from the Second World War.

  • It should be evident that, given how wide the gap is between modern tanks and World War Two tanks, Mädchen und Panzer would not have likely accepted the match against a single M1A2, no matter how strongly members agreed with what Sumeragi had said about traditional values and the romance of fighting with older ways. The march of technology would’ve resulted in what netizens colloquially call a “roflstomp”. Whereas I have no moral qualms about reducing Sumeragi’s “daughters” into scrap metal with a single well-placed 120 mm round, I cannot imagine that I would have accepted this match, either. This wouldn’t be on ethical grounds, but simply because, if Battlefield Portal is anything to go by, it would’ve been so one-sided that there’d be no fun in things.

  • In a hypothetical match with Mädchen und Panzer using Panzerfahren-sanctioned tanks (which would make things more interesting), I would likely go with a Sherman Firefly if engaging any clan member in a one-on-one: the 17-pounder would give me enough firepower to deal with heavy tanks, while the fact that the M4 is a medium tank would afford me with additional mobility, which I’d use to evade shots rather than attempt to absorb damage. Conversely, if soloing Mädchen und Panzer, the Centurion would be my pick: the 1945 Centurion also has a 17-pounder, while at the same time, possessing armour traits rivalling that of a heavy tank despite maintaining the handling traits of a medium tank, making it suited for me to appear, hit my foes and move to a better spot before retaliation can be dealt. One other factor affecting my confidence is Mädchen und Panzer’s average win rate, which is around 51.23 percent. Of its members, RRW has the best performance at 54.08 percent, while Sumeragi holds a win rate of 52.02 percent, and willx’s win rate is 51.10 percent.

  • On virtue of skill alone, my odds against Mädchen und Panzer should be quite good; to put things in perspective, my win rate is 61.3 percent in Battlefield V, so I am reasonably confident that when push comes to shove, I could hold my own against Sumeragi and the remainder of Mädchen und Panzer to an extent as to set them straight. This comes about because I adapt to the situation and do what I can for my team, whether it be playing the objective or supporting teammates, rather than worry about playing in a specific way. The numbers alone indicate that contrary to talking a big game, Sumeragi could be proven wrong where skill is concerned – this is what lends itself to the post title and page quote. The latter is a line taken from Sam Hui’s 1976 comedy, The Private Eyes: when one of the minor crooks get stomped by Lee Kwok-kit, Uncle Nine remarks that the guy normally swaggers around, but gets beat by some random kid here even though he’s got a knife, and that this serves him right for being so arrogant half the time. Although Sumeragi’s poor World of Tanks performance is amusing, my dislike of Sumeragi stems from the fact that, despite being wrong more often than not, he still had a large number of people supporting him.

  • Longtime readers may be familiar with my long-standing grievances surrounding this individual: Sumeragi would put on an act as the mature onee-sama, doling out advice to people and acted as the kawaii “reliable older sister” figure with those in his good graces. However, whenever Sumeragi was challenged, even in face of overwhelming evidence, he would become a foul-mouthed, vehement and unyielding individual who would defend untenable positions vociferously. Whereas some praised Sumeragi for these attitudes as being “sharp-tongued, quick-witted, and knowledgeable, and impatient with the ignorant”, my dealings with Sumeragi found an individual who was not only unknowledgeable, but outright unqualified to discuss matters ranging from what the essence of martial art is, to romantic relationships. Frustrated with Sumeragi’s refusal to respond to my counterarguments regarding topics like Girls und Panzer, I dug a little further and learnt that Sumeragi was actually someone from Vancouver, British Columbia, going by the name Kang Seung Jae.

  • Kang Seung Jae had claimed to be a very intelligent, overachieving individual who graduated from both Tokyo and Yonsei Universities, worked at a Fortune 500 company his parents owned, possessed a net worth exceeding ten million dollars and was distantly related to the Japanese royal family. The reality was very different: I’ve long known that Kang was an ordinary citizen, albeit one with a history of self-aggrandisement and holding contrarian perspectives of history that would lead to his getting banned from virtually all online communities of note. It was ultimately by fabricating a new identity in Sumeragi, that Kang was able to continue propagating such perspectives – Kang found that his Sumeragi identity allowed him to accrue credibility. However, even then, as Sumeragi, Kang crossed numerous lines, eventually becoming banned from both AnimeSuki and most recently, from Sufficient Velocity. The technique that Kang Seung Jae used are the precursor to the sorts of behaviours that dominate social media today, especially where politics is concerned, and is informally referred to as the nekama phenomenon (i.e. males assuming a female persona online).

  • This approach has gained popularity in recent years, with many people utilising this as a means of garnering approval (especially regarding political opinions) in social media. Psychologists agree that a desire for approval and validation is precisely why the nekama phenomenon exists, although for me, learning about this actually ends up invalidating everything Sumeragi/Kang Seung Jae stood for, lending this post its title. While most of AnimeSuki’s user-base have gone inactive, a few of the remaining users did end up learning the truth – one user indicated that any apparent reverence and respect the AnimeSuki community had for Kang was strictly role-play, which is telling, being akin to a total disavowal of any association the community may have previously had with this individual: Kang himself was kicked from Mädchen und Panzer shortly after Girls und Panzer ended. While I am unlikely to see how Kang’s most ardent supporters, like willx and Leo Xiao, respond to this news, it gives me some closure that at the very least, the sorts of perspectives that Kang held were not accepted at AnimeSuki.

  • The fact that Kang was kicked from Mädchen und Panzer means that the beatdown I describe here remains hypothetical for the present, and with this, I will not make further mention of the name Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi here in the future, as I believe that I’ve now said everything that needs to be said of the matter. While the technology has long accommodated for Panzerfahren-style matches since the Battlefield V days, and Battlefield Portal, with a bit of elbow grease and care, could also prove to be a good Panzerfahren venue, even if I were to play on their terms, I doubt that Mädchen und Panzer’s members would switch over to Battlefield owing to the price tag and system requirements. In the nine years since I’ve entertained thoughts of soloing Mädchen und Panzer, both with period-appropriate hardware and something like the M1A2, Battlefield‘s system requirements have increased to the point where, if one were still running a PC from 2010 that had been geared for World of Tanks, they’d almost certainly need an all-new new system to keep up.

  • On the topic of newer hardware, circumstances have led me to move up my plans to put a machine together, and earlier today, I ended up going in and placing the order for my parts. While my current machine is just holding together, I’ve caught wind that hardware prices could spike in the near future owing to current events: SSD prices are expected to jump 10 percent in April, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company announced a similar increase in price owing to rising manufacturing costs. In conjunction with the fact that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia puts neon gas and palladium exports in jeopardy, building a computer could become even more challenging. As such, while the local retailers still have microprocessors and SSDs on discount, the time seemed prudent to expedite things and pull the trigger sooner, rather than later. I’ve been saving for a new build since this time year, and while the ongoing GPU shortage meant I was unable to pick up a current-generation video card, the remainder of my build is solid.

  • With a new computer, I should be able to handle things like Battlefield 2042 and DOOM Eternal without worrying about the CPU approaching its TJunction under load. Conversely, no matter how powerful my hardware becomes, I adamantly refuse to set foot in World of Tanks. The reason why I never got into World of Tanks was precisely because the game was very beginner-unfriendly: there are no respawns, so if one is destroyed in battle, that’s it for the match. Moreover, destroyed tanks require a certain amount of in-game currency to repair, but if I’m being destroyed in battle often enough, I wouldn’t be accruing the funds to repair my tanks, leaving the game quite unplayable unless I were to go the Premium Account route (which is what Mädchen und Panzer ended up doing). I’ve always found that the best games out there punish players for making a bad decision and then encourage them to learn from said mistakes by giving them opportunity to try again.

  • This is precisely why Battlefield has always been something that appealed to me: if I made a mistake and died, I would be allowed to respawn and try a different approach. Dying costs my team tickets and impacts my KDR, but I have as many attempts as I need to get things right, so over time, I’m able to improve my movement and strategies to help my team out. Conversely, if I were allowed to just drop money on a Premium Account and get perks that offset my lack of skill, I’d never improve in the game. My reasons for staying away from World of Tanks are, in short, about as strongly-held as Mädchen und Panzer’s refusal to play on fairer terms (i.e. within Battlefield, where there is no Premium ammunition), and for this reason, my facing off against Mädchen und Panzer remains quite unlikely even though the technology now exists to do so.

  • While many will disagree, I have found that Battlefield 2042 and Battlefield Portal, despite dropping the ball in key areas, remains a superior game to World of Tanks because the game’s paid content is purely cosmetic. All of the skill-based components in Battlefield are available to players, and those who buy cosmetics are not conferred a performance advantage over others. Similarly, while playing Battlefield allows for one to unlock customisations for their weapons and vehicles, and some customisations favour certain play-styles more than others, the stock configurations that weapons and vehicles come with are quite viable.

  • This ensures that experienced players can customise their vehicles and weapons to fit a specific play-style, but even in the beginning, the stock setup is sufficient for even a moderately skilled player to hold their own while learning how things work. Moreover, Battlefield Portal overcomes this barrier outright: all weapons, vehicles, attachments and customisations are available to players right out of the gates. Altogether, I’ve found that the foundation for Battlefield Portal is solid, and as such, what’s really needed is additional content. However, for the present, it is difficult to ascertain where Battlefield 2042 and Battlefield Portal will end up.

  • This is a shame, given that Battlefield Portal had, when it was first announced, sounded like it was exactly what the series needed: it was intended to give players the ability to tailor Battlefield experiences to their liking, and the potential for this was immense. In fact, had Battlefield 2042 just released with Portal, but at least eighty percent of the maps, weapons and vehicles to each of Battlefield 3Bad Company 2 and 1942, it would’ve proven massively successful for bringing back everything that players had come to love about the series. While I’ve been able to partially recreate the scenario in which I solo Mädchen und Panzer in a single M1A2 using Battlefield Portal, the mode creates the tantalising potential of allowing me to recreate Panzerfahren matches. I’m not confident that such a possibility will ever be realised, but as it turns out, a few more additions to the logic editor, and the addition of new content is all that it would take.

  • Playing proper Panzerfahren in Battlefield Portal would be considerably more fun that curb-stomping World War Two tanks with modern hardware, and despite the doubt surrounding Battlefield 2042, it is of some consolation to me that, nine years after Girls und Panzer finished airing, we’re the closest we’ve ever been to both recreating iconic Girls und Panzer experiences and messing around with outlandish scenarios like seeing if Mädchen und Panzer could indeed live up to their claims that Sumeragi’s interpretation of the Nishizumi Style is a match for decades of technological advancement. I’ve long held that operator skill trumps hardware performance, but I accept the reality that, when two competent operators are separated by hardware differences, the superior machine will win out. I’ve been running my current desktop for nine years, and while this machine has performed very admirably during its run, its twilight is also here. This desktop saw me through graduate studies and everything else for the past nine years, so I will be sad to see it go, but at the same time, I also recognise the need for an improved desktop that will continuing assisting me over the next several years.

Assuming that the logic editor and options provide freedom of modification to this level, DICE would then need to greatly extend the factions available and vehicle customisation choices in Battlefield Portal. At minimum, the Soviet Union and United Kingdom would need to be added, along with their corresponding tanks (T-70, T-34, IS-2 and KV-2 for the Soviets, Crusaders, Matildas, Churchills and Valentine Archer for the British), and additional tanks for both German and American factions are required, as well. Bringing such as the 38(t), StuG III and Panther to the German faction, and the M3 Lee, plus the M26 Pershing and M18 Hellcat, would provide enough variety for players to kit out their tanks in an authentic manner. Since Battlefield V already had assets for Japanese armour, it would be nice to bring tanks like the Type 89, Type 97 and Type 3, into the game, too. Once the appropriate factions and their corresponding tanks are present, a deeper customisation system would need to be added for each tank. Currently, tanks offer limited modifications to their primary and secondary weapons, as well as two slots for equipment. Allowing players to switch out the Panzer IV’s KwK 37 L/24 for a KwK 40 L/48 would increase firepower and accuracy at the expense of blast radius, or adding a turret skirt would increase damage resistance at the expense of top speed, could offer meaningful ways of altering the way one’s tank handles. To provide aesthetic customisations, limited cosmetics should be available, altering one’s tank cameos, hull logos or accessories like flags. Battlefield V had actually done a fantastic job of armoured warfare, introducing limited turret traversal rates, and simulated deflections through its ricochet mechanic: if players hit an enemy tank from a shallow angle, the shell would simply bounce off armour and head in a different direction, dealing minimal damage to the first target hit. With its variety of vehicles and a relatively involved upgrade tree, plus deeper tank mechanics, armoured warfare in Battlefield V was the best it’d felt in any Battlefield game. The variety of what was seen in Battlefield V, in conjunction with an expanded version of what Battlefield Portal allows, show that it is very much possible to, with a little creativity, re-create Panzerfahren in the Frostbite Engine and do something that Bandai Namco Entertainment continues to lack the courage to do: Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match has been out since 2018, and to this day, only is available for PlayStation 4. DICE has the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that the Frostbite Engine can step in and fill this void by providing players the power to create their own Panzerfahren matches. At present, the fundamentals are all in place – a little bit of elbow grease and creativity could very well allow DICE to do something that Bandai Namco Entertainment refuses to, and a Panzerfahren mode in Battlefield Portal would confer one the ability to experience Girls und Panzer in a novel way. In the meantime, having spent a few matches trivially blowing Tiger Is and Panzer IVs away with the M1A2 in Battlefield Portal, the word that best describes this experience isn’t so much cruel, as it is unnecessary, from my end – as formidable as the Tiger I is, and as revered as certain interpretations of the Nishizumi Style is, there comes a point where reputation alone cannot carry a battle; one must learn to adapt and embrace change as Miho has, or risk being rendered irrelevant by the times.