Yesterday (May 19, 2019) Ace Combat fans from all over Japan (and overseas, if you count Yours Truly) gathered in the lovely suburban town of Tachikawa, Tokyo, to celebrate the franchise and its most recent release, Ace Combat 7.
The Ace Combat Fan Meeting was hosted by Bandai Namco in a cinema theater under the shadow of the iconic Tama Monorail, which is a pretty unique sight in Japan with its chunky, near-cyberpunk-ish looks.
Roughly 300 fans lined up orderly to take their place in the dimly lit room, where members of the development team were waiting for about 80 minutes of celebration.
All the seats were taken. Besides a bunch of members of the press, most of the tickets had been assigned in advance via lottery.
About 50 seats on a first-come-first-serve basis had been grabbed by lucky fans that had lined up for their tickets hours before.
The crowd was certainly enthusiastic to meet the developers in attendance, including Brand Director Kazutoki Kono, Producer Manabu Shimomoto, Writer Sunao Katabuchi, Sound Director Ryo Watanabe, and Sound Supervisor Tetsukazu Nakanishi.
The audio aspect of the franchise was to take the lion’s share of the show, with music played in coordination with iconic scenes. Memories were shared, and quite a few tears were shed.
After that, the development team fielded a few questions from the eager fans, who didn’t shy away from engaging in playful back and forth. It certainly didn’t feel like one of those formal industry events we often get to attend. It was a fan meeting in the truest sense of the world, and celebrating the franchise together was the order of the day.
The developers also granted the fans with a chance to check out raw gameplay of the upcoming DLC aircraft ADF-11F Raven, which will be released on May 22.
While I’m personally partial to the more realistic fighters in the franchise, I have to admit that it looks awesome and flies like a dream, and I can’t wait to play it myself.
One of the most entertaining moments was a quiz prompting fans to listen to the (deafening but oh, so sweet) sound of the jet engines of some of the warbirds from Ace Combat 7, and guess what fighter they were listening to.
It was actually very challenging, as you may very well imagine, but whether it was experience or luck, three among the audience managed to get the right answers, and brought home Thrustmaster flight sticks as a reward.
Another surprise was in store in the form of a video. Kono-san asked the audience not to film, photograph, or share anything of its content, and I will respect that request as well. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until Bandai Namco decides to publish it.
That being said –at least to my knowledge– it wasn’t leaked, which is really impressive considering that there were at least 300 smartphones in the room. It’s just another testament to the maturity and respect which can be experienced among the Ace Combat community.
After the video, the team also announced Ace Combat/S: The Symphony, the first ever music event dedicated to the franchise. It will be hosted at the TIAT Sky Hall in Haneda Airport on July 27. There will be two shows, at 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM local time.
Tickets will be priced at 9,000 yen (approximatively $82) and advance reservation via lottery will start tomorrow, May 21.
At 4:20 PM, the show finally came to an end, and the fans orderly left their seats and the room. Yet, not everything was said and done.
Many gathered in front of the theater to socialize and chat about their favorite franchise, and a few minutes later they were joined by Kono-san and Shimomoto-san.
As developers and fans gathered once more for further improvised celebration, autograph signing, and well-deserved congratulations, one of the attendees brought forth his secret weapon.
We got to see an impressive Honda CBR250RR decorated with Ace Combat imagery and emblems, which gathered a lot of attention among the fans. Kono-san himself was happy to pose with it and sign it right on the Razgriz emblem from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War.
This was once more evidence of the nature of the event. The team came to entertain the fans, and the fans also brought their own entertainment.
As the entry in the series that enjoyed the best launch, Ace Combat 7 certainly deserves being celebrated. Its developers labored for years, saving it from cancellation and turning it in one of the best games I have played this year.
It’s heartwarming to see developers and fans come together like this. Despite being 10,000 miles away from my house. I certainly felt at home.