Review: Iron Combat: War in the Air

Does Iron Combat soar high or crash and burn?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 03/20/2015 01:00 2 Comments     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Good character design for Lance; Combat can be fun in spurts; Decent upgrade system
Poison Mushroom for...
Flawed controls; Poor localization; Lackluster graphics

Iron Combat: War in the Air is the sort of game that I wanted to like a lot more than I actually did. The premise is interesting enough: a series of economical and social calamities struck something called the World Union, the old government of the game’s world. Revolutions followed, and new countries arose to replace the old, but despite efforts for peace, wars continued to break out even in this new world order. At the start of the game, the central conflict is between two countries: Luftstrom and Nordlicht. Luftstrom, desperate to win, turns to a prototype weapon it has been developing called the new-gen unit 1 in the hopes of defeating Nordlicht.

That explanation of the narrative is a lot neater than the game itself actually presents. There are translation issues present throughout Iron Combat that make the story slightly hard to follow, though to be fair, it’s pretty obtuse regardless. For example, the main character (the new-gen unit 1) is nicknamed Eins, but when Luftstrom is unable to produce any further units of her, the nickname is scrapped and she’s referred to instead as Lance. Or new-gen unit. Yeah, that sort of thing tends to lead to head-scratching from players, this reviewer included. Still, I can forgive a handful of localization troubles if the gameplay makes up for it, but in that regard Iron Combat also falls short.

At its core, Iron Combat is a third person shooter reminiscent of titles like Zone of the Enders or Liberation Maiden. Players can engage in two different modes of play: Story Mode and Free Mode. Story Mode is where the narrative unfolds, as players proceed stage by stage through the game’s campaign. Free Mode is essentially score attack, letting players tackle unlocked stages at their leisure. Prior to missions in Story Mode, players can head to the Shop to buy parts that will then let them modify Lance in the Upgrade menu. There are a ton of different parts available, resulting in a myriad of ways to adjust and optimize Lance for the player’s own taste. The parts can be pricey, though, meaning it takes some healthy playtime to get the money necessary to start customizing. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing, but as I noted above, gameplay isn’t Iron Combat‘s strongest trait.

There are two basic methods of combat: Fighting Mode and Flying Mode. Fighting Mode is basically the “base” mode of attack. Action takes place in the sky, and Lance flies around using her machine guns and missiles to auto-target and blast enemies out of the sky. What makes Lance special is her ability to transform into a fighter jet (Flying Mode), which increases her speed, mobility, and firepower, but aiming switches to manual. Sounds good, right? And it can be, in spurts. Lance is nimble, and her weaponry is potent, but the whole thing gets dragged down by sluggish pacing and fidgety controls.

Enemies approach at a snail’s pace, seemingly lackadaisically heading Lance’s way in no real rush to battle. Luckily, switching to Flight Mode allows Lance to rocket toward the bad guys instead, but good luck getting to them without a dizzy head. Fighting Mode’s movement controls are very basic: up/down for forward and backward, and left/right for, well, left and right. Flight Mode, however, allows for 360-degree movement, but is far too unwieldy. I’ve successfully played countless video games, so to say that I struggled with getting Lance from point A to B in a straight line is a testament to Iron Combat‘s control issues. Further hindering the game are some tiny enemies. Opponents are nothing more than specks until they’re practically on top of Lance. Auto-targeting in Fighting Mode helps compensate for this, but then comes the issue of having to wait for baddies to get within range to even start shooting. Firing in Flight Mode isn’t much better, as it’s hard to aim and Lance’s speed means often zipping past a foe before bringing them down.

Beyond the poor translation, Iron Combat‘s presentation is also sub par. Environments are sparse and flatly rendered, with a dull color palette besides. I did enjoy Lance’s overall design, and it’s pretty cool to see her turn into a full-fledged fighter jet. Unfortunately, Lance can’t carry the entire game with her solid visual design alone. Iron Combat isn’t terrible by any stretch, and the narrative has its moments, but unless someone is really looking for a third-person flight shooter, I can’t fully recommend it. There are better options in the eShop, but if someone is looking for something new, Iron Combat might do in a pinch.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

2 Responses to “Review: Iron Combat: War in the Air

  • 111 points
    roykoopa64 says...

    Just a quick comment about Nintendojo’s reviews in general: it would be nice if the article indicated what system the game is for.

    I see there is a ‘Game Profile’ box on the right side of the review, but every review I’ve seen lately simply says ‘More coming soon.’

    And the words in the review itself doesn’t mention it (until ‘eShop’ in the last paragraph).

    Sorry, not trying to be nitpicky on this 3DS eShop game. The review itself is informative :) ! It’s too bad this game doesn’t sound as promising as Liberation Maiden, which I really enjoyed.

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