Bandai Namco finally revealed more information about Ace Combat 7’s upcoming story DLC, which fans of the series have been waiting for.
In order to know more about the DLC and the future of the Ace Combat franchise, Twinfinite talked with brand director Kazutoki Kono and producer Manabu Shimomoto at Bandai Namco’s headquarters in Shinagawa, Tokyo.
The developers provided details about a variety of topics including the DLC, the future of the series, the possibility of remaking older Ace Combat games, and more.
Giuseppe: Are the new DLC missions part of the main campaign or they’re completely separate?
Kazutoki Kono: They’re separate from the campaign and you access them through the “SP Mission” option. That being said, some data transfers over from the campaign.
Manabu Shimomoto: They’re within a specific timeframe of the main campaign.
Giuseppe: I am guessing that now the sales numbers for the main game are in. Can we confidently say that the future of the Ace Combat franchise is secured?
Kazutoki Kono: I think we need a bit more time to say that confidently. Yet, Ace Combat 7 did become a major groundbreaking title and it’s a milestone for us.
It took us twelve years to release a game after Ace Combat 6, and now we feel ready to think about what to do for this important franchise.
Giuseppe: So we’re not going to have to wait another twelve years to get Ace Combat 8, right?
Kazutoki Kono: Maybe ten? (Laughs)
Giuseppe: Oh my god, I’ll be fifty by then!
Kazutoki Kono: Right now we’re having a heated discussion with producer Shimomoto: how we’re going to make all these different types of gameplay available?
Just for Ace Combat 7, we had to develop the offline version, the online version, and the VR version. The needs of the players are becoming more diversified.
Giuseppe: Are there going to be new aircraft in the DLC or just new missions?
Manabu Shimomoto: DLC 1-3 had new aircraft, but there won’t be any for DLC 4-6.
Giuseppe: What about new weapons?
Kazutoki Kono: No, it’ll be just about missions.
Giuseppe: In the past Project Aces has worked on external IP. I really loved Sky Crawlers. Looking at the future, do you expect to work only on Ace Combat, or there might be room for something else as well?
Manabu Shimomoto: Project Aces is not a big team. As Brand Director Kono mentioned, the fans’ needs are becoming more and more diversified, so our first priority is to meet their expectations.
Before we do so, we shouldn’t venture into anything else.
Kazutoki Kono: We believe that our first mission is to evolve Ace Combat 7 into Ace Combat 8, and we need to take things one step higher.
Right now we’re having a discussion about what other important elements we need to include in Ace Combat 8.
I don’t think we’ll be working on another different IP like Sky Crawlers, but I do think it’s important to think what other measures are needed in order to capture the feel of propeller planes for example. That’s what Shimomo-san tells me (Laughs).
Manabu Shimomoto: You make it sound like it’s all my responsibility (laughs).
Giuseppe: So is it already decided that after the last three DLC, work on Ace Combat 7 will be concluded and you’ll be moving on to 8?
Kazutoki Kono: This season will end with DLC 6. Nothing has been decided on how to continue after that.
Next year marks the 25th anniversary of the Ace Combat series. Our first priority is to do something memorable that can please our core fans for the anniversary.
It’s up to Shimomoto-san and Komatsu-san to make this anniversary successful and pleasing for our fans.
Manabu Shimomoto: Leave it to me!
Giuseppe: You’re not retiring, are you?
Kazutoki Kono: Oh no, I’ll be here to tell them what to do (laughs).
Giuseppe: Do you already have plans in place for the anniversary?
Kazutoki Kono: We are already planning, yes.
Giuseppe: Of course, you can’t give me any detail…
Kazutoki Kono: I think you’ll be very surprised.
Manabu Shimomoto: Really? Now you’re just saying whatever you want (laughs).
Kazutoki Kono: There are different degrees of “surprise.” One is “extremely surprised” and the other is “so so surprised.” Please stay tuned.
Giuseppe: Is the story of each new DLC self-contained, or players need to play all three to enjoy it?
Kazutoki Kono: We designed them so that players feel a sense of achievement after finishing each, but the story is linked through all three.
Giuseppe: You said that every DLC mission has its own specific feature, like ESM and ECM for the first. Do they all have a similar scope and influence on the gameplay?
Kazutoki Kono: They will take different forms, but they will all deeply impact the game. Each includes new rules, and we’re expanding the player’s freedom. We’re purposely improving the ability of the player to freely maneuver.
Giuseppe: The main game has a lot of cutscenes. How is the storytelling going to be in the DLC missions? Will there be cutscenes or the story will be told mostly in-game through radio chatter?
Kazutoki Kono: Of course the radio chatter is still there, but there will be cutscenes and many of them are portrayed from the perspective of the characters and aren’t necessarily characters acting a scene like in the main campaign.
There will be characters acting in the briefings as well, and I think that’s quite interesting. You may see characters having a fight during briefings.
Giuseppe: Now that work on Ace Combat 7 is nearly complete, how do you feel?
Kazutoki Kono: I don’t feel a sense of completion at all. I am already thinking about what to do next year.
I’m sorry about not being able to disclose all the things we’re working on right now, but I think I have more work on my plate than ever before.
Giuseppe: Are you going to be able to rest?
Kazutoki Kono: I’m taking my weekends (laughs). This is a nice company to work for.
Manabu Shimomoto: We have received so much great feedback from our users with Ace Combat 7, so we have to do more. We want to do more. I wish I could clone myself in order to get everything done. At the moment we’re prioritizing all the projects that we’d like to do.
Kazutoki Kono: Just yesterday we have established a roadmap all the way to 2025.
Giuseppe: So that’s when Ace Combat 8 is coming out (laughs)!
Kazutoki Kono: Can’t say. Nobody knows that. On the roadmap, we marked the challenges we have to tackle. It’s filled with circles representing challenges from 2019 to 2025.
Giuseppe: I hear many asking if you could please sell the PS4 version of Ace Combat 5 separately. I know it was a pre-order bonus, but it has been quite some time and I’m sure there is a lot of demand for it.
Kazutoki Kono: Unfortunately we’re not able to sell that. It can only be a pre-order bonus.
We often spend time talking about what we should do with those legendary titles like Ace Combat 04, 5, and Zero. We know what our users want.
Whenever I propose something that I think would bring value for the veteran fans, he [Shimomoto-san] always says no.
Manabu Shimomoto: That’s just because he comes up with unrealistic things (laughs)! It’s would be very difficult to achieve everything he’d want us to realize.
Kazutoki Kono: My job is to really make into reality what our players want us to do. We’re always trying to figure out a way to do so. I really hate the word “contract!” (laughs)
Giuseppe: For the record, I vote for a remake.
Kazutoki Kono: We often talk about remakes too.
Manabu Shimomoto: Yes, but who is going to actually make them? Do I need to split myself in three? (laughs)
Giuseppe: There are third-party developers who are very proficient in doing that kind of thing…
Manabu Shimomoto: Do you know any good developer that could do that?
Giuseppe: Vicarious Visions did a great job with Crash Bandicoot, but there are many studios around that could likely do a good job.
Kazutoki Kono: That’s a big success isn’t it? I’d really like to do a remake while I’m still alive…
The game iscurrently available for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. The upcoming story DLCs are going to be released for the same platforms on Sept. 25, Oct. 23, and Nov. 27.