The Let's Play Archive

Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War

by nine-gear crow

Part 1: Mission 1 - Operation Crossbow, April 2nd, 1995

"Glacial Skies"

Ace Combat Zero Promo Trailer
Mission 1: Operation Crossbow – April 2nd, 1995

The frame story and main story of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War kick off as “Solo Wing Pixy” recounts the beginning of Ustio’s counter attack on the Belkan forces that have invaded the nation and his time with the mysterious pilot known only as “Cipher”.

Overview: A flight of Belkan bombers threatens to destroy Valais Air Base, the last remaining unoccupied military facility in the nation of Ustio and must be shot down or turned back before they can reach their target.

Be forewarned, because this is a crash course to the world of Ace Combat, this post may run a little long. Subsequent posts will not be this long. I promise.

Ustio 6th Air Division, 66th Air Force Unit
AWACS Operator: “Eagle Eye”
Squadron Composition: F-15C Eagle (x2 - canon* Cipher's plane is player-determined)

A pair of mercenary pilots hired by the Ustio Air Force. Larry Foulke, and a pilot known only by the callsign of Cipher were assigned to the 6th Air Division of the 66th Air Force Unit of the Ustio Air Force. Stationed at Valais Air Force Base in the Tyrann Mountains, the Galm Team inadvertently became the tip of the spear for Ustio’s counter attack on Belka after the remainder of the nation’s military forces fell to Belka in the opening days of the war. OBC’s Brett Thompson has dedicated his documentary series “Warriors and the Belkan War” (our framing device for this game) to chronicling the Belkan War through the actions of the Galm Team and Cipher, as told by Pixy.

It’s no coincidence that the Galm Team’s unit numbers spell out “666”, given that Cipher will go on to be known as either “Demon” or “Demon Lord” as the game progresses. The allusion is doubly significant because Galm (a mistranslation of Garm or Garmr) itself is a literal hellhound. Or rather a Hel hound. In Norse mythology, Garmr (much like Cerberus from Greek mythology) guards the gates of the realm of Hel, which is lorded over by the goddess Hel herself, which is the place where the unvirtuous dead of Norse society are sent to suffer for all eternity in its frigid wastes. Garmr’s howl will signal the beginning of Ragnarök and he will be unleashed to wreak havoc on the gods of Asgard during the final battle. If any of this sounds slightly familiar, it’s because Christianity later appropriated the name and concept of Hel to conceptualize its own place of eternal damnation for the unrepentant, conflating it with the Jewish afterlife of Sheol, the Greek underworld of Hades, and a literal flaming garbage pit outside of Jerusalem known as Gehenna where the Hebrews cremated their dead.

As a side note, one of my favorite biblical themed one-lines comes from the show Kings. When Ian McShane’s character King Silas is asked by one of his aides where she should tell his motorcade drivers they’re going, he quips in his most Ian McShane of ways, “Gehenna! We’re going to Hell!” Which is of course where the audience is introduced to Brian Cox’s character (Brian Cox of course played Scolar Visari in Killzone and Killzone 2).

See. It’s like poetry, it rhymes.

Real Name: Unknown
Callsign(s): Cipher, Galm 1, Demon Lord
Age: Late 20’s to early 30’s
Sex: Male
Nationality: Ustio (unverified)
Signature Plane: Player choice (F-15C in all promotional material)
Voice Actor: None
On-Camera Actor: None

Our player character and the subject of the documentary “Warriors and the Belkan War” by OBC’s Brett Thompson. Little information about the pilot known as Cipher survived the chaos of the Belkan War, not even his real name. What little other information there is about him has been classified by the Osean, Ustio, Sapin, and Belkan governments. Upon the revelation of the extent of his involvement in the war, Thompson searched for him in the hopes of having him headline his documentary on the Belkan War, but was never able to find him. Instead, he focused on examining his character through the eyes and experiences of those who flew with (and against) him over the course of the war, such as his wingman Pixy.

Cipher entered the Belkan War as a member of the foreign mercenary forces that Ustio contracted to supplement their devastated military. He was attached to the 6th Air Division, 66th Air Force Unit based out of Valais AFB and placed in command of the Galm squadron and assigned Larry “Pixy” Foulke as a wingman. His first sortie for Ustio was April 2nd, 1995’s Operation Crossbow to repel a flight of Belkan B-52 Stratofortress bombers and escorts from destroying Valais AFB itself and effectively ending Ustio’s ability to fight back against Belka.

For now, let’s just appreciate the mystery of Cipher. We will learn more about him over the course of the game.

And yes, if you’re picking up some cultural glosses, good on you. The term “cipher” (also spelled “cypher”) is the term for an algorithm designed to obscure information in the process of encryption. Or, conversely, to reveal information during a decryption process. A cipher is basically your “key” in the process, just as Zero’s Cipher is Brett Thompson’s key in-universe to uncovering the mysteries of the Belkan War. “Cipher” is also a literary term meaning a Tabula Rasa or blank slate character designed for a reader to project themselves into in order to enhance the immersive effect of the story, such as, say, when playing a video game starring a blank slate player character whose characterizations are revealed through your actions. Crono from Chrono Trigger, or Link from the Legend of Zelda games are ciphers, for instance, as are most barely-characterized protagonists from trashy romance novels. Bella Swan from Twilight, for example, is also accused of being a reader cipher.

The word cipher is also a stealth pun for the number zero. The Middle French “cifre”, Medieval Latin “cifra”, and Arabic “صفر” (ṣifr)—the root words of “cipher,” all mean “zero” in their respective languages. The more you know

Right now, we’re locked down to the lower-end planes of Zero’s playable catalogue, but once we get the F-15C, I will be pretty much playing as close to “canon” Cipher as I can get unless I absolutely need to whip out another plane for a particular mission *cough*Avalon*cough*.

Real Name: Larry Foulke
Callsign(s): Pixy, Galm 2, Solo Wing
Age: 28 (38, frame narrative)
Sex: Male
Nationality: [REDACTED]
Signature Plane: F-15C
Voice Actor: Yuri Lowenthal
On-Camera Actor: Sean Ryan

A foreign mercenary fighter pilot contracted by the Republic of Ustio as an on-call supplemental pilot to bolster its suffering air force in a time of great need. Like his wingman and team leader Cipher, Pixy was attached to the Galm squadron of the Ustio 6th Air Division, 66th Air Force Unit based out of Valais AFB.

Pixy is something of a weathered political idealist at heart, ground down slightly by a heavy dose of cynicism by a life in the mercenary force. Having left his homeland behind at a young age, Pixy has spent his entire adult life traveling the world fighting one conflict after the next as a mercenary before eventually landing here in Ustio. Even after the Belkan War, as seen in the framing narrative, Pixy has continued to sell his services to those who need an extra gun on their side, in this case the Independent States’ Allied Force or ISAF of Usea (this places him right in the middle of Ace Combat 04’s main conflict, by the way).

Foulke earned the nickname “Solo Wing Pixy” in 1993 during a combat mission overseas. His F-15C Eagle was struck by enemy fire and had its right wing shorn clean off. Miraculously, Foulke managed to regain control over the aircraft and pilot it safely back to base, discovering only after he had landed that he had brought the plane home on a single wing. Since that incident, he has painted the right wing of every aircraft he has flown into combat red as both a reminder and good luck charm.

Think that’s a little too bullshit and anime a story even for an Ace Combat game? Well, guess what, it actually happened. In 1983, an Israeli Air Force pilot named Zivi Nedivi managed to fly his F-15 Eagle a full 10 miles back to base and land safely after its right wing was torn off in a mid-air collision with an A-4N Skyhawk training plane. Nedivi and his navigator only discovered the missing wing once the plane was on the ground, as it had been obscured by outblowing smoke and fuel at cruising speed. Nedivi said if he’d known he’d had only one wing at the time, he would almost definitely have bailed out and let the plane crash that day. Aviation experts attribute his miraculous landing to the utterly bonkers-wide body of the F-15 itself. Even with an entire wing missing, the F-15 still had enough surface area to it to maintain lift when accelerated to a high enough speed, which was what Nedivi did to keep the plane in the air long enough to bring it home safely.

I said it in the video, and I meant it: the F-15 even to this day is a goddamn beast.

Real Name: Brett Thompson
Callsign(s): None
Age: Late 20’s to early 30’s (described as being "still in school" at the time of the Belkan War itself)
Sex: Male
Nationality: Osean
Signature Plane: None
Voice Actor: Matthew Mercer
On-Camera Actor: None

An investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker for the OBC network in Osea. Thompson set out to uncover the hidden truths behind the events of the Belkan War after the Osean Government released a heavily redacted “official” report ten years after the Belkan armistice. Through calling upon his contacts in the Osean military and intelligence services for the release of unofficial and (in some cases technically illegal) unredacted documents concerning the war, he discovered the existence of the pilot known as the “Demon Lord of the Roundtable”, Galm 1 aka Cipher. After all attempts to contact Cipher for an interview, or even confirm if he was still alive failed, Thompson began cross-referencing pilots on either side of the conflict to have encountered Cipher and set out to interview them in his stead. His search led him across Osea, Belka, Ustio, Sapin, and even across the ocean to Usea where he found Cipher’s own wingman, Larry “Solo Wing Pixy” Foulke, aka Galm 2. Through these former aces, Thompson seeks to reveal the deeds of Cipher and the truth behind the Belkan War to the world at long last.

As our in-game documentarian, we don’t really get to interact with Thompson very much aside from his introductory narrations. Like Max Brooks’ narrator character in World War Z, he has seemingly excised himself out of the in-universe documentary we’re essentially a part of as much as he can. On a functional level, he follows a similar pattern from past and future Ace Combat games serving jointly with Pixy as our frame-story narrator. Several other games in the franchise follow this trend of having the gameplay as one story, and the narration as another story taking place a certain time after or alongside the player character’s narrative.

Yes I know that’s a picture of Ken Burns, deal with it.

Aircraft featured in Mission 1: Operation Crossbow

F-5E Tiger II
Manufacturer: Northrop Corporation
Role: Light fighter / trainer
Manufactured: 1959–1987
Status: In Service
Primary Operators: United States, China, Iran, South Korea... and Mexico, apparently (h/t: Kal-L)
Quick Facts:

A low-cost, lightweight tactical fighter with respectable capability in all areas. Easy to fly and maintain, the “Tiger II” is employed in air forces around the globe.

Missiles: 52
UGB: 10
NPM: 8

J35J Draken
Manufacturer: Saab AB
Role: Interceptor
Manufactured: 1955–1974
Status: Retired, 2005
Primary Operators: Sweden, Finland, Austria, Denmark
Quick Facts:

An intercept aircraft capable of short take-off and landing (STOL). Its characteristic double delta wing design allows for low air resistance and high maneuverability at low speeds.

Missiles: 40
UGB: 8
RCL: 8

Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Role: Attack Bomber
Manufactured: 1975-1987
Status: Retired, 2006
Primary Operators: Japan
Quick Facts:

A variant of a training aircraft, this attack aircraft was developed as an air-to-ground and air-to-ship fighter. Its outdated design lags behind that of current fighter technology, but the compact and well refined design has earned it the trust of pilots and mechanics alike.

Missiles: 56
RCL: 10
UGB: 12
LASM: 10

Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas
Role: Air Superiority Fighter
Manufactured: 1967-2019 (projected)
Status: In Service
Primary Operators: United States, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia
Quick Facts:

Nicknamed the “Eagle,” this air superiority fighter boast top-class maneuverability and superior payload capacity, as well as outstanding mission survivability.

Missiles: 70
XMAM: 16
UGBL: 10
QAAM: 14

Manufacturer: Boeing
Role: Strategic Bomber
Manufactured: 1952-1962
Status: In Service
Primary Operators: United States, NASA
Quick Facts:

Full Name: The Republic of Ustio
Capital: Directus (mislabeled “Dilectus” in Ace Combat 5)
Continent: North Osea, Belkan Subcontinent
Head of State: Prime Minister (conjecture)
Government: Democratic Republic
Real World Analog: Switzerland, Poland, France

The Republic of Ustio is the protagonist nation of Ace Combat Zero. Each Ace Combat game has a protagonist nation or faction representing a nation or group of nations on behalf of which the player operates. Cipher and Pixy will be fighting for Ustio here in Zero.

Ustio is one of the youngest independent states on Earth, Ustio was originally part of Belka’s southern frontier until the 1988 Belkan Federal Law Review. Following on the heels of the permitted secession of the territory that later became the nations of Gebet and Recta, the south-eastern provinces of Belka also declared their independence from the Principality in a bid to recover from Belka’s economic nose-dive on their own.

On May 12th, 1988, the southern provinces announced their declaration of independence and the Republic of Ustio was formed, naming the former southern Belkan metropolis of Directus as its new capital. Belka reluctantly but peacefully acknowledged it’s new southern neighbor while it continued to founder economically, and Ustio was permitted entry into the Assembly of Nations. In December of 1991, Ustio’s borders were finalized as Belka sheared off the last of its failing territories to Osea, Sapin, Gebet, Recta, the FATO sates, and Ustio itself. Ustio, however, lost half its former eastern territory to the nations of Recta and Ratio.

Overall, Ustio would have been a footnote in world history if not for the Belkan War. It has no particularly strong military, economic, political, or cultural importance to the world or even the Belkan subcontinent, it instead was made famous by outside factors, notably by being the sword that Belka ultimately fell and died upon of its own choosing. Located in the center of the Belkan subcontinent of North Osea, Ustio is a land of many high snowy mountains and little flat land. Though relations with Belka have been cool since its secession, Ustio quickly allied itself with its southern and western neighbors, the Kingdom of Sapin and the Osean Federation, respectively. And it is these two nations that have come to Ustio’s aid since the outbreak of the Belkan War.

In March of 1995, Ustio was one of the first nations to fall to Belka’s attempt to reclaim its lost territory by force. By early April 1995, nearly 90% of Ustio had been successfully occupied by Belka, which then used its military facilities as a springboard to launch into Osean and Sapish territory. Ace Combat Zero begins with Ustio on the brink. On April 1st, 1995, Osea, Sapin, Ustio, and Recta (with aid from both foreign mercenary forces and the Union of Yuktobanian Republics in the far west) launched a counter offensive to liberate Ustio from Belkan occupation and force them out of all other illegally occupied territory by any means necessary.

We begin the game one day after this announcement, on April 2nd, 1995.

Full Name: The Principality of Belka
Capital: Dinsmark
Continent North Osea, Belkan Subcontient
Head of State: Chancellor (conjecture) Waldemarr Rald
Government: Fascist
Real World Analog: Germany, Arthurian Brittan

Belka is one of the oldest and most culturally robust nations on the planet, boasting a heritage that dates back to the Middle Ages, probably even further than that. Ask any Belkan and they will boast to you to no end about long and storied history and culture, exemplified by the legendary Belkan knights. Though the power and influence of the Belkan aristocracy has waned since medieval times, many pilots in the equally legendary Belkan Air Force claim descendence from historical knight families and model themselves off of the Belkan knights of old.

Geographically speaking, the one-time Belkan Empire covered almost half of the subcontinental area that holds its name, covering, at its height, territories currently held Osea, Sapin, Ustio, Recta, Ratio, Gebet, and the FATO states. From the 18th to late 20th centuries, Belka was considered a world superpower to rival the likes of Osea and Yuktobonia, at the very least. And despite its massive loses financially and territorially, the bulk of its military power remained intact throughout the collapse, or was at least rebuilt in the decade between the 1988 Federal Law Review and the beginning of its 1995 invasion of Ustio.

The defining feature of the Belkans as a people is their pride and sense dignity. Belkan society teaches one to take pride in their work and in themselves, and to be proud of one’s accomplishments, like the knights of old would. However, that sense of pride can easily be twisted into arrogance and ultimately resentment. And when that pride is wounded, it can see terrible things wrought in the name of trying to restore that lost pride and honor.

When Belka’s economy began to falter in the late 1970s and early 1980s, that selfsame Belkan pride began to take the first of many crushing hits that would ultimately end in its ruin. A series of territorial disputes with Osea in the 1940s, and the invasion and assimilation of Recta in the 1970s left it drained economically, and a massive redistribution in spending to the military in 1987 sealed the nation’s fate. By December of 1987, Belka’s economy was in a full-blown nosedive, and its eastern territories capitalized on the opportunity presented by the growing weakness and instability in Dinsmark to make their bids for independence. Out of the chaos of this reformation came the nations of Ustio, Gebet, as well as Recta, now free of nearly 20 years of Belkan occupation.

As Belka’s economic woes continued into the early 1990s, the political climate in the nation turned toxic, and the extreme right-wing Democratic Liberal Party (known informally as the Fatherland and Workers Party) swept into power with a majority in the National Assembly in the 1992 election on a wave of anti-Osean resentment and ire over the nation’s lost strength and pride. DLP leader Waldemarr Rald was sworn in as chancellor (I’m assuming the leader of Belka is a chancellor because Belka=Germany in Strangereal, but there is actually no canonical position named for Belka’s head of state unlike Osea and Yuktobania, just FYI).

Under Rald and the now-politically enshrined Fatherland and Workers Party government, Belka underwent a massive military and political upheaval, rebuilding and consolidating itself into a military fascist state. The Belkan economy was rebooted as one giant factory designed to fuel Belka’s growing war machine as Rald stoked the Belkan populace with promises of the restoration of the Belkan Empire of old.

And on March 25th, 1995, Belka launched a surprise multi-front invasion of Osea, Sapin,and Ustio, beginning what is known as the Belkan War.

Full Name: The Osean Federation
Capital: Oured
Continent: North Osea
Head of State: President
Government: Federal presidential constitutional republic
Real World Analog: United States of America

A federal union of 68 states. The Osean Federation is the largest nation on Earth and is (disputably) its single greatest and most powerful superpower. Osea has been a world leader in the realms of science, technology, art, literature, finance, and space exploration for decades. It is also the home of the Assembly of Nations (AN) world headquarters and is a prominent member of the G7 international economic organization along with Yuktobania, Anea (represented jointly by the nations of Emmeria, Estovakia, and Nordennavic), the FCU (Federation of Central Usea), Verusa, Nordlands, and the Federal Republic of Erusea.

Osea is also the homeland of Ace Combat Zero’s narrator of sorts, Brett Thompson, a documentary producer and journalist working for one of Osea’s major broadcast networks, OBC (the Osean Broadcasting Corporation). The Osean head of state is its president, an elected official serving a four-year term in office and term-limited to three consecutive terms. The presidential office and residence is the Bright Hill complex in Oured (analogous to the White House in Washington, DC).

The Osean military is the strongest martial force on the planet, in terms of sheer numbers and estimated offensive capability, at the very least. And with good reason too, as Osea is effectively fenced in globally by nations that don’t particularly like it very much. Whether it’s Yuktobania across the Ceres Ocean to the west, or Estovakia to the north, to Erusea to the east on Usea, or Leasath down in South Osea, or the Principality of Belka right on its doorstep—the point remains that the Osean Federation, despite presenting itself as a paragon of a just, free, and peaceful society, has made its fair share of enemies over the last century with its international actions. As such, its military is on constant alert to repulse potential treats to the Osean homeland.

For those of you coming into this LP series from mine and Blind Sally’s other in-depth examination LP of the Killzone franchise, if you’re seeing any similarities between Osea and the ISA in terms of a public image/private action dichotomy: good for you! Yes, just like the Vektans in Killzone, the Oseans in Ace Combat are a very troubling lot. They are, functionally, the good guys, yet they get up to a lot of stuff that causes more problems than it solves on a global scale. We’ll be seeing that a lot more in our examination of Ace Combat 2, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (which is a remake of 2 designed to bring it more in line with the rest of the Strangereal continuity), and Ace Combat 5 regarding Osea’s troubling dealings, but for now I’ll just leave you with what is going to become an oft-repeated refrain across this LP series: “Osea is not the good guys.”

Our first instance of “Osea is not the good guys ™” comes in this opening update, for that matter. Following the 1988 Belkan Federal Law Review, where Belka began its catastrophic hemorrhaging of territories and set the stage for the Belkan War itself, Osea swept in and exacerbated the situation by effectively annexing nearly a third of pre-war Belka and swallowing it up to create it’s 66th, 67th, and 68th states. So as you can imagine, it did not sit well with the right wing reactionaries that eventually became Belka’s governing party that their chief international rival planted their flag on nearly a third of Native Belkan Soil while its eastern third also slipped away to become Ustio, Recta, and Gebet. So it’s no surprise really that the brunt of the Belkan invasion in early 1995 was into Osean-held territory. Nobody can piss off people in Streangereal quite like Osea.

While we’ll be hopping in and out of Osean territory in Ace Combat Zero, our dealings with the superpower are going to be indirect at best. We’ll be seeing Osean forces in action in the game later on, however, including several named squadrons and pilots, as well as some cameo appearances coming up by a few units that will become major players in the plot of Ace Combat 5. So pay close attention whenever named Osean units show up.

Full Name: The Union of Yukotbanian Republics (Союз Юктобанийских Республик | Soyuz Yuktobaniyskikh Respublik)
Capital: Ciningrad
Continent: Verusa
Head of State: Prime Minister
Government: Socialist Republic
Real World Analog: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

A pact of 40 provinces comprising the majority of the north eastern portion of the Verusan continent. The UYR is a one-party ruled military, economic, and technological superpower roughly on par with its international rival, the Osean Federation in terms of power. The Yuktobonian communist Politburo has held power in the nation since 1918 when a violent revolution overthrew the ruling monarchy and lead to the creation of the socialist state the world knows today.

Despite nearly a half century of a Cold War with Osea and its constant saber-rattling and posturing with its neighbors and overseas rivals, Yuktobania has surprisingly managed to keep the peace between itself and Osea. Nearly every geopolitical expert agrees that if an all-out war were ever to erupt between Yuktobania and Osea, it would prove catastrophic for not just both nations, but perhaps even the entire world given each nation’s respective military strength and armament of nuclear weapons.

For now, however, Yuktobania appears to be signaling its willingness to engage in a new era of cooperation with Osea and its allies. Spurred by mounting winds of political change in Ciningrad, the UYR has committed heavy logistical and moderate military support to the Osean-led Allied Forces currently fighting to repel the Belkan invasion of Ustio and its neighbors. In some cases, it is even helping to turn Belkan-made weapons back on Belka itself, as Yuktobania has been one of Belka’s top arms buyers since the 1970s—a turn that has no doubt angered many in Belka and could perhaps spell trouble for the UYR in the future.

Compared to Belka, Ustio, and Osea, Yuktobania’s presence in Ace Combat Zero is relatively minor, but we’ll be seeing a lot more of everyone’s favorite Cold War-aping ersatz commie state three games down the line (chronologically) in Ace Combat 5.

Full Name: The Kingdom of Sapin
Capital: Gran Rugido
Continent: North Osea, Belkan subcontinent
Head of State: King (or Queen, possibly Prime Minister, speculative)
Government: Constitutional Monarchy (implied)
Real World Analog: Spain, England

Along with Nordlands, Sapin was one of the stronger non-Belkan nations on the Belkan subcontinent, both before and after Belka’s collapse and reformation. Located on the southern tip of the subcontinent, Sapin shares boarders with its close ally Osea, as well as with Ustio and Ratio.

By and large, Sapin has maintained its position throughout history as a politically neutral entity. Its only politically advantageous move in recent years was the claiming of a relatively small portion of seceded Belkan territory between Ustio and itself after the Federal Law Review and border reformation in the late 80s and early 90s.

That said, Sapin is functionally responsible for the outbreak of the Belkan War. The Sapin-based Joint Research Group announced in early March of 1995 that a large vein of natural resources had been discovered in the mountains along the Ustio-Sapin border. The announcement provided Belka with a rationale to launch its planned territorial reclamation campaign and on March 25th, 1995, the Belkan War began. By April 1st, 1995, Belka had steamrolled through Ustio and had pressed deep into Sapin as well, coming within striking distance of the Sapish capital of Gran Rugido.

With the Allied Forces now mounting their counter-attack on Belka to reclaim their occupied territory, Sapin has provided the second-largest number of planes, tanks, and soldiers after Osea, and has pledged to drive the Belkans out of their country and out of Ustio as well.

Geographically speaking, what little we see of Sapin over the course of Ace Combat Zero shows the nation to have both arid desert and temperate stretches.

Sapin is one of the enduring mysteries of the Strangereal world. There’s very few hard facts about it available, yet it plays a sizable role here in Ace Combat Zero. One of the three Project Aces-produced PlayStation3 concept games I mentioned in the OP, Brave Arms was to be set in Sapin and supposedly featured the protagonist character joining a revolution movement aimed at toping the Sapish government in the 2020s. But that game never made it past the concept stage and probably wasn’t more than a proof-of-concept piece anyway, so we have no idea if it or any of its plot elements are canon in Strangereal or not.

Beyond that, Sapin is something of an also-ran nation in the Ace Combat shared universe, something that deserved to get a lot more love and attention than it did and now probably never will because Namco accidentally murdered the Ace Combat franchise between Ace Combat 6, Assault Horizon, and Infinity... or maybe not now that Ace Combat 7 has officially been rolled out.

*This flag is non-canon and is only here for display purposes.
Full Name: The Republic of Recta
Capital: Cor
Continent: North Osea, Belkan subcontinent
Head of State: President (conjecture)
Government: Democratic Republic (conjecture)
Real World Analog: Unknown

A landlocked nation in the center of the Belkan subcontinent on North Osea. Little is known about Recta as a nation, except that it was involved in a war with Belka in the 1970s which ended in Recta’s military defeat and its assimilation into the then-Belkan Federation. It languished under Belkan rule for nearly twenty years until the Belkan Federal Law Review of 1988, where it seceded from Belka as a part of the newly independent nation of Ustio at the time. By December 1991, Ustio allowed for Recta to regain its independence and the Rectan Republic returned to the world stage as a sovereign nation for the first time since its fall in the 70s.

The opening cinematic of Ace Combat Zero implies that Recta is a part of the Allied Forces and has committed troops and pilots to the Belkan War, but they will never be seen or acknowledged if this is indeed true. It is implied through source material, however, that Recta does indeed maintain a standing army and air force, but while the Rectan Air Force is said have its share of highly skilled pilots, they are few and far between due to its sparser population and smaller economy compared to stronger nations like Osea and Sapin.

*This flag is non-canon and is only here for display purposes.
Full Name: Unknown
Capital: Centrum
Continent: North Osea, Belkan subcontinent
Head of State: Unknown
Government: Unknown
Real World Analog: Unknown

Now here’s where we start getting into the “Space Filler” countries. These ones are mainly here for posterity’s sake as Project Aces has published literally zero supplementary information on most of them. The only time we even see the majority of them are in the intro to Ace Combat Zero, or as a two-second flash on the Strangereal world map glimpsed at the start of briefings in Ace Combat 5.

The only two things worth noting about Ratio are that its northern portion was once a part of pre-war Belka, and then a part of pre-continental restructuring Ustio. Now, it’s just a big giant question mark in the center the map that will probably never be filled in.

*This flag is non-canon and is only here for display purposes.
Full Name: Unknown
Capital: Mons
Continent: North Osea, Belkan subcontinent
Head of State: Unknown
Government: Unknown
Real World Analog: Unknown

The Ace Combat Wiki, quite hilariously, literally sums up Gebet as “a landlocked country on the Osean continent.” Thanks, Acepedia

But seriously, there is again literally zero to know about Gebet because there is no other existing information on Gebet. It’s claim to fame is that it broke free from Belka after Belka’s economy collapsed. “We’re a recovering balkanized failed state! Yay!

*This flag is non-canon and is only here for display purposes.
Full Name: Unknown
Capital: Unknown
Continent: North Osea, Belkan subcontinent
Head of State: Unknown
Government: Unknown
Real World Analog: Unknown

Welvakia is a country

*This flag is non-canon and is only here for display purposes.
Full Name: Unknown
Capital: Unknown
Continent: North Osea, Belkan subcontinent
Head of State: Unknown
Government: Unknown
Real World Analog: Unknown

The nation of Nordlands is one of the larger states on the far eastern extreme of the Osean continent. It shares a boarder with Wielvakia and the FATO states, and lies a short distance across the Cascade Ocean from the Federal Republic of Erusea and its capital city of Farbanti.

The only other fact of interest about Nordlands is that it is, according to supplementary material and in-universe background information, a part of the G7 nations, suggesting at the very least that it is one of the world’s leading economic powers, despite the lack of information that exists about it from an out-of-universe perspective. Beyond that, Nordlands (along with Wielvakia) holds the distinction of being the only nation on the Belkan subcontinent to never have been under Belkan rule at any point in its history.

*This flag is non-canon and is only here for display purposes.
Full Name: The FATO States / The Fato Federation (possible acronym, full name unknown)
Capital: Brunies
Continent: North Osea, Belkan subcontinent
Head of State: Unknown (Referred to as “Hopkins” by the AC Wiki)
Government: Leading Council (unverified)
Real World Analog: Unknown

Most of this is pulled from the Ace Combat Wiki, which is a tenuous source of information at best. But, fuck it, Namco hasn’t published anything to contradict it and probably never will, so let’s see what Acepedia has (probably) pulled out of its ass about FATO. Hell, I don’t even know where they got that flag up there from. The non-canon political map I posted alongside the “canon” map speculates that FATO stands for the “Federation of Aboriginal Tribes of Osea”, but that, again, came directly from someone’s ass, and I’m only tentatively willing to indulge fanon here when it comes to Strangereal’s sadly numerous grey areas.

Canonically speaking, the FATO states purchased a small portion of north eastern Belka after the Federal Law Review, claiming a small chunk of territory between the northern coast and the border of what would eventually become Gebet, with the finalized border landing close to the Belkan capital of Dinsmark.

When Belka launched its invasion of its southern neighbors, it seemingly spared its former northern territories, such as those now held by FATO and Gebet, though it is unknown if Belka was planning to retake its northern and easter seceded lands after it had secured the south. The FATO states remained neutral for the course of the Belkan War, declining to provide aid to either Belka or the Allies during the conflict.

Belka, at the height of its power.


A quick note on the “Ace Style” mechanic. Depending on your actions in-game, you are graded on a sliding scale and assigned an Ace Style in one of three catetories.

A KNIGHT Ace flys by a code of honour and will refrain from destroying non-combatant targets like houses or infrastructure that may or may not be in use by the enemy, and will permit disabled or neutralized enemies (all targets that appear in yellow) to leave the battlefield unharmed.

A SOLDIER Ace will adjust his tactics with the tide of battle, destroying non-combatant targets where necessary, but never to an excessive degree. Maintaining a Soldier Ace Style throughout the game is perhaps the most difficult and requires you to be conscious of what you’re shooting down because you can very easily slip into Knight or Mercenary if you kill or spare too many yellow targets.

And lastly a MERCENARY Ace seeks to dominate the battlefield. No target escapes their wrath, active, disabled, or non-combatant alike. The Mercenary is all about earning the biggest paycheck they can grab, and that means shooting down and taking out every target they can, honour and finesse be damned.

Beyond that, the game will change slightly based on your Ace Style. Certain in-mission dialogs will play out depending on your Ace Style, you will encounter different boss squadrons at certain points in the game depending on what style you’re playing, and the subjects of Brett Thompson’s documentary interviews in the mid and late game will also change depending on your Ace Style. Note, that the over-all plot will remain the same depending on your Ace Style.

Also, the special target Aces that make up the Assault Records (which I will go over later) will change in missions depending on your Ace Style. So that means that to fill the entire Assault Records, you will actually need to play through the game at least 3 separate times to unlock each Ace Style’s specific mission. …And then do it all over again two more times to unlock Hard and Ace difficulty, because those also have unique Aces that don’t appear in other difficulties.

tl;dr: I probably picked the most singularly complex Ace Combat game to start this franchise LP on

Frank Friedrich
30, Male, Belka
04.02.95 Operation Crossbow - Shot Down
F-5E Tiger II* Special Plane Colour Unlocked
Difficulty: Any
Ace Style: Mercenary

Assigned to an aggressor squadron that plays the role of the enemy in combat practice, he was sent to the front when the war situation worsened. He now serves as an instructor at the Heierlark Air Base in North Osea.

Felix Boesch
29, Male, Belka
04.02.95 Operation Crossbow - Killed In Action
J35J Draken
Difficulty: Any
Ace Style: Soldier

Having gone missing in action during an attack on the Valais Air Base, his remains were discovered in the surrounding mountains after the war. His remains were verified through dental records and, along with personal effects, sent to surviving family.

Rudi Kaltz
28, Male, Belka
04.02.95 Operation Crossbow - Killed In Action
F-4E Phantom II
Difficulty: Any
Ace Style: Knight

In 1987, he enlisted as a volunteer in the Belkan Air Force, and went on to forge a brilliant war record during the Belkan invasion of Ustio. During an aerial battle over Valais Air Base, he was shot down and killed by the Mercenary Pilots stationed there.

Oswald Baermann
34, Male, Belka
04.02.95 Operation Crossbow - Shot Down
F-117A Nighthawk
Difficulty: Expert
Ace Style: Any

After the war, he hid out in South Belka, presently North Osea, and organized a terrorist unit of former Belkan soldiers known as The Falcons of Dawn. To date he has organized seven acts of terror against the Osean Federation and remains at large.

Karlheinz Litbarski
42, Male, Belka
04.02.95 Operation Crossbow - Shot Down
Difficulty: Ace
Ace Style: Any

A member of the Belkan Air Force's Aviation Test Corps with a record of 6000 hours of test flight time under his belt. He moved to the front line shortly after the war's outbreak. He is now working as a consultant for the Osea Air Defense Force Technology Development Bureau.

Ace Combat Zero Original Soundtrack
Composer: Tetsukazu Nakanishi
Release: 2006
Discs: 2
Tracks: 23, 22

Tracks Featured In Mission 1 & Prologue