Yukikaze: Fairies Dancing in the Sky (Xbox Port)
Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Beyond the hyperspace corridor beneath the glare of two suns, humanity combats mysterious alien invaders that once overwhelmed Earth's military forces. Started by a sci-fi novel series began in 1984, the Battle Fairy Yukikaze franchise has only spawned one official game release. Available in Japan only for personal computers and the Xbox Original, "Battle Fairy Yukikaze: Fairy Dancing in the Sky" offers the opportunity to fly reconnaissance and combat missions over the fictional planet named Fairy.
The world portrayed in the Yukikaze franchise revolves around humanity's first contact with and war against an alien race they named the JAM. The novels, original video animation (OVA) series, and video game all focus on a period over 33 years after the conflict began. The ongoing war started on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica with the JAM invasion through a hyperspace corridor, later named "The Passageway." After the formation of the Earth Defense Force by the United Nations, a successful counterattack forced the JAM to retreat back through The Passageway.
The first Earth reconnaissance units found a completely different planet on the other side. This planet, believed to be the JAM homeworld, would be named "Fairy" by humanity. To prevent a second JAM invasion, the Earth Defense Force established a series of military bases and massive airborne aircraft carriers around The Passageway on planet Fairy. Due to many factors related to the type of enemy the JAM is and the geography of the planet, the aircraft and personnel of the Fairy Air Force are the leading force against the JAM.
In this game, the player takes the role of a member of the United Nations Earth Defense Force, Fairy Air Force, Special Air Force 5th Squadron (SAF-V). Known as the "Boomerang Squadron" for their record of always returning from their missions, they utilize thirteen immensely high-performance aircraft which the whole of the Fairy Air Force relies on for gathering data on the capabilities of the JAM. Early on in the conflict, the JAM destroyed many human-made reconnaissance satellites that were put in orbit around planet Fairy. This forced the Earth Defense Force to rely on reconnaissance flights by aircraft able to outrun and evade JAM aircraft. The thirteen aircraft of SAF-V become a vital part of humanity's ability to combat the alien threat. Both the PC and Xbox Original versions of the game utilize aircraft designs, engine sounds, weapons and characters seen in the OVA rather than the novels. Even the unique Heads Up Display (HUD) of the FFR-31MR/D Super Sylph in the OVA is recreated.
Differences between the personal computer and Xbox Original port of the game are minimal. The Xbox port has minor non-story related cut scenes were removed, one or two elements of the HUD are visually different, but functionality remains the same. Other small features like free look around the aircraft are inaccessible during missions due to the limited number of buttons available on the game console controller. During game play replays more cinematic camera angles can be accessed. Including flyby cameras and 3rd person, multi-angle cameras. The Xbox Original port of the game is arguably easier to play due to its compatibility with the console's controller, whereas the PC version supports keyboard control without the use of a computer mouse. A limited number of flight sticks are supported without any software or modification needed. On the Xbox, the console specific version of the Thrustmaster Top Gun Fox 2 Pro Flight Stick is the only flight stick supported whereas the PC version supports the SideWinder Force Feedback, Thrust Master Top Gun AFTERBURNER 2 and Top Gun Fox 2 Pro USB. The soundtrack of the game is limited, but this is hardly noticeable during gameplay with a few exceptions. Music from the two original soundtracks or ending theme created for the animated series is not used. On the subject of sound, engine noises, missile launches and the like sound good with the radio chatter during missions being a nice added bonus to the atmosphere of everything. In the graphics department, the game is somewhat minimal with pre-rendered explosions that appear two dimensional and terrain at low altitudes is not particularly remarkable. The aircraft models in the game are faithfully recreated from the OVA release; not the original designs from the sci fi novels. Only the FFR-31 MR/D Super Sylph and FFR-41MR Mave (arguably the two titular aircraft of the entire franchise) feature multiple points of view, whereas other aircraft only have A Heads Up Display view or a single external view. A majority of the player and enemy controlled aircraft can be viewed with the model viewer available in Extra Mode. They can be further appreciated with the replay viewer that plays after each mission in single player, VS mode or Extra mode.
The overall flight model of the game feels stiff in some areas, primarily in the touchy rudder response. Even lightly pressing the analog triggers of the Xbox Original controller can cause a full input rudder response, forcing the nose of an aircraft as far to the left or right as possible. Very little pressure is needed to make precise adjustments. Pitch and roll react nicely. They accurately become less responsive at higher altitudes or near stall speeds. Applying aircraft rudder to maintain yaw over a long distance can also cause the aircraft to slip into a stall and force it to tumble. Aircraft performance is most affected by battle damage which can disable afterburners and limit mobility. Though visual damage is not often shown outside of a specific story mission, heavy damage to the aircraft engine does cause it to visibly smoke. Throttle control can be adjusted to maintain a specific engine output without continually having to hold a button to decrease or increase speed. By setting the throttle to a specified thrust, the player can then focus more on maneuvering the aircraft with minimal throttle management. Offensive weapons systems are simplified to a mixture of the aircraft cannon, gun pods, two types of air-to-air missiles with specific effective ranges and one type of air-to-ground missile. For certain missions, deployment of tactical air information system pods takes up weapon slots. The gun sight used for the aircraft cannon is not always accurate, with each aircraft having its position at a slightly different angle. Visually confirming the flight path of the cannon rounds from the gun by test firing and understanding the aim point by seeing its tracer rounds. Usually, the aim point is just below the Whiskey Mark on the HUD. Something to note is the effectiveness of the Air-to-Air missiles in this game. They are quite accurate and realistic in comparison to other console based flight shooters and flight simulators. A single missile is more than capable of bringing down a JAM fighter, but like wise capable of destroying or heavily disabling the player aircraft. Generating the correct angles, altitude and speed to evade incoming AAMs without using countermeasures is challenging. Unsuccessfully evading an AAM usually results in battle damage that will make dodging future guided missiles even more difficult.
Defensively all aircraft come equipped with an ample supply of countermeasures which can decoy all incoming enemy guided weapons. Deploying countermeasures while the missiles are at a medium distance from the aircraft is optimal. Missiles in this game do have a type of proximity detonation which can still damage the player aircraft. Unlike most flight shooters found on game consoles, the missiles are very accurate and attempt to lead their targets, making evasion by outmaneuvering the missiles much harder. Because of this, use of countermeasures is strongly suggested for new players of the game. With experience, the player will be able to aggressively maneuver their aircraft close enough to get within minimum missile range and prevent them from successfully firing a missile, but even then, flares will be needed to handle medium and long range missile fire.
Single Player Campaign
During the campaign, the player plays as Lieutenant Rei Fukai, the main character in both the novel series and the animated OVA. Lt. Fukai is the pilot of the FFR-31MR/D Super Sylph modex #503 nicknamed "Yukikaze." Staying in line with the story only the Super Sylph is available for all except technically the final mission of the 15 mission single player campaign. Weapon selection varies depending on the mission with upgrades to missiles introduced as the campaign continues.
A majority of the missions are original, created specifically for the game. There are a few notable missions from the first novel that feature changes from their original form. For example, the mission to 'support' the American journalist Andy Lander. Lt. Fukai is tasked to provide the journalist with a joyride for an article he is writing about the Fairy Air Force.
In the novel, Yukikaze is forced to land in an unknown zone created by JAM interference. During their time on the ground, the journalist loses their hand after attempting to touch an unknown swamp of yellow material. After a second run-in with the JAM, the pair escapes the trap and returns to base. In the game, the mission includes a brief entry into the same unknown zone, but do not land. Instead, some brief air-to-air combat occurs before Yukikaze, and its crew returns to base.
The bulk of the campaign is made up of air-to-air combat missions with a rare air-to-ground mission or two. A pair of missions in support of one of the few absolutely hulking AAC-4 Banshee airborne aircraft carriers are also included. When assisting the Banchee, mid-mission airborne landing, rearming and launch from the AAC-4 is included.
While not every mission involves direct combat, the possibility of being attacked by JAM aircraft while flying to the mission area and while returning to base is a possibility. Depending on the mission, shooting down every enemy is not a requirement. Evading enemies using high speed and countermeasures, then returning to base before they can shoot down Yukikaze is an option at times.
The most interesting mission type featured are the reconnaissance missions which fall in line with the role of the SAF 5th squadron. Utilizing a Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) the player flies through a series of way points on a flight path shown in the mission briefing and during the mission through their HUD. These missions are set up to challenge players by having them fly at low speeds and various altitudes to reach them. Passing through them too quickly will not allow the TARPS to gather data and cause them to be missed. Some of these way points can be set at radically different altitudes or directions from the previous ones. This challenges the player to make coordinated, low speed turns while trying to avoid stalling and missing the optimum flight path completely.
When it comes to flight games and simulators, this is an interesting challenge not often presented. Especially in arcade combat flight simulator games which place less emphasis on technical flying and more on high speed, high G maneuvering. The events of the campaign mode end around the same point within the novels where the transfer of the internal operating system of Yukikaze is done from the FFR-31MR/D Super Sylph to the FFR-41MR Mave. The events of the campaign are presented as a memory of Lt. Rei Fukai as he recovers from his last combat mission in which the Yukikaze Super Sylph was destroyed, and the lieutenant himself was injured.
This game mode supports a maximum of two players in either player vs. player or player vs. CPU combat. Combat against the CPU in this mode is often very fast with engagements rarely taking longer than four minutes on average, depending on player skill level. VS Mode has the largest aircraft selection. Both human and JAM aircraft: FA-1 Fand 1, FA-2 Fand 2, FFR-31 Slyphid, FFR-31MR/D Super Sylph, FFR-41MR Mave, JAM Type-1, JAM Type-2 and Gray Sylph. After setting weapons to either Guns only or Guns and Missiles, a maximum of six locations is available as the setting for the battle: Forest, Fairy Air Base, Grassland, Sugar Desert, Subspace and Wilderness. Finally, the option to allow accompanying aircraft to act as the wingman for each player is available. Turning the 1 vs. 1 to a 2 vs. 2. No options such as 1 vs. 2 or 1 vs. 3 are possible. The settings for VS Mode are shown below in two screenshots:
This is an instant action game mode with some details that are not fully explained from the start. Its appeal is to let the player select an aircraft then pit them against waves of enemies. At the end of the session, their points are accumulated and compared against a leaderboard. It starts with aircraft selection, which is coupled with a model viewer for each aircraft available. Each aircraft model can be rotated with a zoom in and zoom out function. A selection of Human and JAM aircraft is available, but it is not clear why every aircraft from VS Mode is not available in Extra Mode. Only in Extra Mode can aircraft besides the FFR-31MR/D be flown using the full screen rather than being stuck in split-screen VS Mode.
After aircraft selection, the player is placed in an onslaught scenario. Waves of JAM Type 1 and Type 2 aircraft attack the player. Over time the player is taken to different maps with gradually increasing JAM presence. Weapons do not replenish between each round, and the damage is not repaired. The difficulty is further enhanced with the JAM using their unknown ability to disappear and reappear at random locations. Any missile pursuing a JAM loses lock when it disappears - this is the most frequent cause for wasted missile shots in Extra Mode.
In the story of Yukikaze, the complete capabilities of the JAM remain a mystery throughout the entire conflict with humanity. Their ability to disappear or teleport is first visualized in Battle Fairy Yukikaze OVA episode 1 and episode 4. JAM type 1 and the JAM created Grey Super Sylph clone could disappear both visually and from radar. Though never explained in detail, the ability is most likely tied to the truth behind the JAM's very existence - something explained within the novels and animated OVA. At the end of each Extra Mode play through, all points are tallied up, and the player's score may be entered on a top ten scoreboard.
Battle Fairy Yukikaze: Fairy Dancing in the Sky as a flight game is not particularly spectacular. It would be somewhat confusing and slow paced for someone that has not at least seen the OVA. Die-hard Yukikaze fans have most likely sought this game for years now, and their efforts are rewarded with a decent overall experience. The biggest hurdle to overcome continues to be the game being rather inaccessible because of its exclusive Japanese release. The difficulty of finding physical copies for the PC and Xbox Original and region locking which prevents Japanese games to be played on non-Japanese Xboxes can be costly to deal with.
About the Author
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
The Director of Operations for Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870