NOTE: All images here were captured via emulation on PCSX2 using an actual copy of the game since I am lazy and didn’t want to finagle with a capture device. I’m one of those weirdos that even dumped the console BIOS from a busted PS2 I bought on the cheap.
There’s a comforting familiarity and nostalgia about video game consoles. It could, possibly, be the first semblance of independence that a kid’s going to have before he or she gets a car (to ruin the rear seat upholstery in).
After all, for many of us who grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, a dedicated gaming computer was a sort of alien concept. It’s easy to forget how expensive they were in that era. They were tools for productive first and entertainment second, at the time. The idea of the gaming PC really came into being in the 1990s, I’d even argue the mid-to-late 90s with the rise of 3D acceleration. Even then, unless your old man was a massive computer nerd? The odds are that you lived in a one computer household. You didn’t get your first computer until you got your first job and saved up the cash.
Either that, you over sold to your parents the value of having a computer for a digital arts class you were taking in high school not that I ever did anything like that, I was a model student and son.
It’s safe to assume you jostled for use of the computer. You weren’t the only one who wanted to reap the benefits of the silicon chip. What did Dad want to do on it? Taxes or something? Pffft, what a dork. So, in this situation, many a child turned to the gaming console. They are as worthless as technology could be and that meant that no one else wanted to use it except the children (note: I include manchildren in this figure, as well).
Fast forward to the year 2000. We spent the first half of the year making jokes about the Y2K panic before spending the latter half shitting bricks over the imminent release of the Playstation 2 while the grown ups bemoaned Florida’s inability to figure out how voting works. There’s no point in trying to introduce the PS2, you know what it is. It’s the most successful console of all time and it found itself in a serious perfect storm: It was the successor to the previous best selling console and took advantage of the new DVD format. It was kind of a big deal. I remember my Algebra teacher actually took a day off to wait in line to get his kid one for Christmas on launch day, October 26 in North America.
The PS2 has an amazing library of games and, in these circles, the Ace Combat series is the most appreciated. I’m not here to slag them off. I love the Ace Combats. Zero is nothing short of a masterpiece. However, there’s a flying game on PS2 that gets criminally underappreciated and it came out less than a month after the PS2 launch. It’s called Sky Odyssey.
Sky Odyssey is simply a must have for any one who loves aviation and owns a PS2. Where the Ace Combats have liberal applications of melodrama and Arthurian references, Sky Odyssey is a simple airborne adventure where the challenge is in mastery of your machine as opposed to watching those Gelb assholes actually cheat and fire backwards. When I call Sky Odyssey an adventure, I mean it. It’s not about combat, but rather finding remnants of lost civilizations, finding map pieces to lead you to an ultimate find, dropping of supplies at camps, and other such tasks.
It’s Ace Combat for bush pilots.
A quaint little village airport makes for a wonderful starting vista.
There are a few game modes to play in Sky Odyssey: Adventure, Target, Sky Canvas, and Free flight. Free flight should be self explanatory, Target is a flight accuracy challenge, Sky Canvas is sky writing, and Adventure is the good stuff. It’s the real gem of the game. It has you trekking across 4 islands as you complete various tasks.
You start out with a selection of three aircraft, with more unlockable as you satisfy certain requirements:
Swordfish custom: The old Fairey Swordfish is a stable flier and quick turner. Also, real Swordfish jocks probably wish it could go 200KIAS.
Bf-109 custom: The venerable 109 represents a nice blend of stability and speed.
Pulse Jet “Test Type”: It’s fast, but that can set you back.
Unlocks include the F4U Corsair, J7M Shinden, the jet powered Shinden-Kai, and a few others.
Each mission lets you select whatever aircraft you want to use and how to customize it. Once you start, you’re given a briefing on you objectives.
Excuse me, but what?
As you complete the mission, you’ll notice you’re being graded on it. You can influence this grade by increasing points you get via aerobatics and by flying through checkpoint rings. If you score at least a B grade, you’re awarded an upgrade part for which ever aircraft you flew. The three starter aircraft are highly customizable. I’ve built a 300+ knot Swordfish. Don’t ask why, I’m insane. The parts allow you to tweak your aircraft’s performance to best suit your tastes and needs for particular missions. If you get stuck on one, it’s a good idea to first go back and change out parts on your airplane to see if that helps.
In addition to customizing parts, you can paint up your aircraft however you like and even add custom roundels to it.
Counter rotating props are awesome, what of it?
As you trek across the islands, you’ll encounter a pretty wonderful amount of things to do. You’re tasked with dropping off supplies to snowbound explorer camps. You’ll be rescuing an out of control survey team in a hot air balloon. You’ll land on a carrier, which are used as resupply stations in this land. If there’s one thing that Sky Odyssey does right is that it nails the sense of adventure perfectly. It’s a love letter to the golden age of flight, even if the aircraft in it are a little bit later on from it.
Assisting that atmosphere is the outstanding soundtrack by Kow Otani. He’d go on to also compose the score for Shadow of the Colossus and previously composed the score to the animes Outlaw Star and Gundam Wing. The guy knows how to put together a good track:
Now, this is the real pressing question: How does Sky Odyssey control? I ask, fully knowing it’s a completely loaded inquiry. Sky Odyssey holds some weird anachronisms in its control scheme, but they don’t hold the experience back one iota. The flight controls are snappy and responsive. It’s flight model definitely leans more toward realism for a console flier and the controls are absolutely up to the task. You’ll find there to be no real control shortcomings coming off of other flight games. The only weirdness is how stalls function. It can be unnerving to watch your airplane drop like a stone as you jam the stick forward to get air over the wings.
This is why you do your weight and balance if you’re unsure. In addition, you can fly dirty without any real negative effects on your performance. That said, there’s a level with pontoons and those definitely slow you down. It’s also crazy as hell, that was a fun one.
The Pulse Jet comes with a special engine boost that gives you a sudden burst of speed. It can come in handy and the 109 can also be upgraded with it.
So, it handles well, plays great, and offers a pretty unique experience amongst its contemporaries. Surely, this must be some rare game that commands an obscene price, like SkyGunner does?
Nope! I picked up my copy for $5 on Amazon. It was in near mint condition, too. Sky Odyssey is a steal, period.
IMC? Bah. Visiblity is good enough.
Sky Odyssey is a gem, there’s no way around it. It’s a game that captures the wonderment of flight on all levels: from your daydreams as a kid to your first solo. The atmosphere and presentation give you an experience that will make you feel like a 7 year old all over again. Void of faux-political machinations and heavy-handed moralities regarding armed conflict, Sky Odyssey is must have if you enjoy flight games.
If you own a PS2, you should definitely make room in your collection for this. Besides, you weren’t going to win that lottery jackpot, anyways. What’s better?: an underrated classic vs. wasted change at best and horrendously crippling debt at worst?
Get Sky Odyssey.