Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown Lands On Switch Today In A Port Two Years In The Making

Ace Combat 7 Switch
Image: Bandai Namco

Originally launching nearly five years after Ace Combat: Infinity and four years after the 3DS release Assault Horizon Legacy+, 2019’s Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown was the first game in the mainline series for over a decade and brought the series back to Strangereal, the franchise’s fictionalised Earth stand-in.

Now, five years further on, Bandai Namco is bringing Skies Unknown to Switch in Deluxe Edition form. The Assault Horizon entries on 3DS familiarised Nintendo players with the series’ arcade-style flighter combat, but we’re very happy to see this particular entry land unexpectedly on Switch — and perhaps a little trepidatious about how this port will hold up on the hybrid system.

We’ll be jumping into the cockpit to work on our review as soon as possible, but in the meantime, we were recently able to ask the game’s producer Ryunosuke Hagiwara some quick questions about this Switch port…

Nintendo Life: News of the Switch “successor” is on everyone’s radar at the moment, and it’s been a while since an Ace Combat game released on a Nintendo platform. We’re very happy to see it return, but our first question is: Why greenlight this Switch port at this time?

Ryunosuke Hagiwara, Producer: The development of this Switch version started in 2022, before information about its successor was available. When we conducted a survey of Ace Combat users around the world, we found that there were players who were interested in Ace Combat but could not play it because they did not own a gaming console.

Therefore, we decided to release a Switch version of the latest title in the series so that more people can enjoy it.

For Switch gamers who perhaps aren’t familiar with the series and its storied history, could you tell us what you think sets Ace Combat apart from other combat and flight-sim games?

The Ace Combat series is a series of flight shooting games in which the player becomes an ace pilot, flying freely in 360 degrees in a graphic space that pursues a realistic view of the sky. Enjoy the experience of becoming a hero and saving the world by controlling a fighter jet with casual controls that are different from those found in flight simulators.

Switch is already home to some impressive “impossible ports”, but there are also plenty that fall short. What were the biggest challenges in bringing the full Ace Combat experience to Nintendo’s hardware?

The realistic cloud rendering of ACE7 could not be reproduced on the Switch during the verification phase. [However], we were able to reach the quality of the production version after a long period of trial and error to ensure the frame rate without compromising the gameplay.

What frame rate are you targeting on Switch?

30fps (variable).

Ace Combat 7 was the first game in the series to feature volumetric clouds, real-time condensation, and icing on the plane. Did these features make the jump to the Switch? If so, were they difficult to implement?

Ace Combat 7 featured realistic representations of clouds and weather affecting the game in real time. After much trial and error, we succeeded [in porting] the game on Switch so that players can enjoy the same realistic weather expressions and volume that were reproduced in the original version.

It would not be a proper Ace Combat game without a deep, complex plot in Strangereal. Can you talk a little about how you approach developing the story for a game like this? Also, can we expect a 1:1 single-player content experience on Switch compared to the 2019 version?

When considering the storyline, it is important to portray each product as an independent story so that players who are new to the series can enjoy it even if they have not played the previous titles. However, we believe that the appeal of the series lies in the fact that, while independent as stories, each story can be seen as an event in the common world of “Strangereal” and feel connected to each other.

In order to achieve this contradictory setting, we held many discussions with staff members who have been involved in the development of the series for a long time, designed the stage with great precision, and spent a long time creating the story together with Director Sunao Katabuchi, who is in charge of the script.

We noticed the trailer had no mention of the Top Gun: Maverick DLC including the Darkstar prototype. Should Switch owners scratch “the need for speed” off the pre-flight check? Is all the other previously released DLC campaign content included?

Due to the popularity of the Top Gun: Maverick Aircraft set with players around the world, we are pleased to announce that the Top Gun: Maverick Aircraft set will be available for Switch too, it will be sold separately. We hope you will enjoy the Top Gun experience on Switch.

Online multiplayer was an enjoyable experience with the right group of friends within the original AC7 release. Did it survive the transition or is the Switch version strictly a single-seat affair?

This Switch version supports the same online multiplayer mode just like in the original version. We hope you will compete with other ace pilots from around the world and aim to become the world’s strongest. Online play requires an Internet connection and a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. However, note that the multiplayer mode does not support cross-platform play.

Is there anything you’d like to add which our questions haven’t touched on?
This edition of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown for Nintendo Switch will be a luxury edition that includes the main game, three original aircraft sets, plus three SP missions and other content. Enjoy the thrilling dogfight experience in the sky on your Nintendo Switch, in the comfort of your room or outside!

Finally, what games have you been enjoying in your spare time recently — on Switch or elsewhere?
I am a member of the Ace Combat team, so I play other companies’ AAA titles every day as a gamer, even if I say it is for reference purposes.

Recently, I got hooked on Rise of the Ronin. I enjoyed the thrill of meeting real historical figures in an open-world setting of the Bakumatsu period, and the thrill of using swordplay action to cut down enemies, partly because I am a Bakumatsu fan.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. Our thanks to Ryunosuke Hagiwara, and to Claire at Bastion for setting this up.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown Deluxe Edition is out today on Switch — we’ll have our review with you as soon as we’re able.

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