The TMC feature actually proves to be one of the game's most enjoyable elements, although I'm not sure hardened Ace Combat veterans would agree. Under the umbrella of anime, arcade influences such as this are very welcome, and give the game a far more relaxed tone than that of its big brother, Ace Combat. The game also allows players to assign manual manoeuvres to the analogue stick, with a list of eight to choose from. These include all manner of loops, turns and barrel rolls, which can all be executed at the tap of a button once assigned. With TMCs and manoeuvres mastered, the game allows for an impressive display of aerial dexterity, letting players act out the life of a pilot with style and flair.
Aerial combat games are based entirely in the air, and as such can't dazzle with their level design, but even so Innocent Aces looks mundane. From the sky, the environments on the ground look uninspired, and could really use some landmarks or architecture to bring the game world to life. The planes are impressive enough, but this is only really proved from the close up shots seen in the hangar. The anime license could have allowed for a far more interesting aesthetic; I'd have thought cel-shading would have gone down particularly well, but whilst this might have appealed to the anime fans, flight-sim fanatics might not have been so keen. Innocent Aces isn't a bad looking game by any stretch of the imagination, it just lacks charm.
The action in the sky is given weight through a well developed narrative back on the ground, with the distinct personalities of the pilots shining through well. Whilst this might be exactly what fans of the anime signed up for, others might find that the narrative is laid on a bit too thick. Cutscenes are plentiful and slow moving; a combination that requires a lot of patience. Whilst I appreciated the subtleties of the characters and the direction the plot was headed, I was never actually interested in what was happening. To rephrase that without the padding: I was bored. During gameplay itself, your squad talk amongst themselves Starwing style, shouting and screaming to give the impression that what's going on is exciting. In actuality, the action on screen is relatively tame, and the excitement feels contrived as a result.
To return to the hackneyed point I've been making throughout the review, if you don't like flying, anime, or a blend of the two, Innocent Aces won't appeal to you in the slightest. For those it does appeal to, however, the blend is a good one: rich and designed with the tastes of its audience in mind. Despite a fundamentally flawed default control scheme and somewhat bland visuals, Innocent Aces remains a solid flight-sim. A certain type of person will undoubtedly love the game, but for everybody else, the game will simply fly over their heads.