SIMPLE 2000 Vol. 117 The Zero Fighter
Updated: Jan 18
The SIMPLE Series was created by D3 Publisher starting in October 1998. The focus of the series was to publish budget-priced video games. These games were developed to meet a price point of 1500 JPY, much lower than the usual high prices of brand new games released for the Sony PlayStation 1 and the Sony PlayStation 2.
With a wide variety of developers involved, the genres of games produced cross just about every genre there is: racing, shmup, mahjong, dating sims, light gun shooters, sports, board games, roleplaying games, and so many more to mention. Of course, there were a few flight games, which brought us to SIMPLE 2000 Series Vol. 117 THE零戦 (The Zero Fighter).
Released on May 10th, 2007, for the PlayStation 2, The Zero Fighter was developed by Mobile & Game Studio and Bit-Town. Of the two studios, Bit Town was primarily a developer of flight games. Their works include the Sidewinder series (known as Lethal Skies and Raging Skies outside of Japan) and Astro Trooper Vanark. This developer also worked with Asmik Ace Entertainment and Aqua System, who published other flight games on the Xbox Original, Super Nintendo, Sega Mega, and PlayStation 2. This was stated earlier, but it must be repeated.tle that's a part of a lower-budget series of games. Don't load up this game expecting to play something on the level of its high-profile contemporaries on the PlayStation 2.
Visually this game is about as presentable as could be expected of a title on the PlayStation 2. The soundtrack and sound effects are not worth focusing on much due to their low quality and limited variety. Skipping all of this, we'll focus on other parts of this release.
Mission and Story
This game features a ten mission long, single-player campaign that is set in World War II. The missions are based on well-known battlefields of the Pacific Theater of World War II. Rabul, Port Moresby, the Solomon Islands, Pearl Harbor, Santa Cruz, and more. Some battles are easier to recognize than others. While one should not expect to see the majority of the US Navy Pacific Fleet rendered during the attack on Pearl Harbor mission, the representation of many warships and the general layout of the map is adequate enough to make the battle scene identifiable.
Each mission comes with a few optional settings before aircraft selection and beginning the mission. These options can change the time of day and weather, along with choosing mission difficulty. There are no pre-mission briefings to explain the situation or combat objective, but a sentence quickly sums up the type of mission you are about to embark upon. Mission objectives are very straightforward, with few surprises. There are no mid-mission updates, surprise waves of enemies, or unusual objective types. After completing all missions as a pilot of the Empire of Japan, playing as a pilot of the United States of America is unlocked. This grants access to new aircraft but only flip-flops mission objectives. The Japanese and American campaigns are essentially mirrored versions of one another.
Enemy difficulty does vary somewhat with the increase in mission difficulty, but the level of challenge isn't anything to write home about. Raising the difficulty level increases the amount of damage output from the enemies but not their skill levels. The most difficult enemies to deal with are the warships. They usually travel in groups with multiple anti-aircraft guns with a longer engagement range than your aircraft machine guns and cannons. The warships quickly concentrate fire on any aircraft that enters their weapon range, bringing a large volume of firepower directly onto the player within seconds.
Fifteen aircraft are available in total: 6 for the United States of America and 9 for the Empire of Japan. These aircraft are a mixture of land-based and naval aircraft: fighters, dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and strategic bombers.
Imperial Japanese Aircraft
Aichi D3A Type 99 Carrier Bomber
Mitsubishi A6M2B Zero Type 21 Carrier Fighter
Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero Type 22 Carrier Fighter
Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero Type 32 Carrier Fighter
Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero Type 52 Carrier Fighter
Mitsubishi Navy Type 1 Attack Bomber (G4M)
Nakajima Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber
Boeing B-29 Super Fortress
Consolidated B-24 Liberator
Grumman F6F Hellcat
Lockheed P-38 Lightning
North American P-51 Mustang
Vought F4U Corsair
Completing missions unlocks more aircraft, while the post-mission rating the player receives unlocks paint schemes and aircraft tuning settings. Changes to engine power, armor, machine gun power, and more can be made, but they are subtle changes. These are minor adjustments to base aircraft performance, but they are adequate in combat. Especially increases in armor.
When starting up a game or simulator set in World War II, anyone with basic knowledge of history understands the level of technology available throughout the conflict. The weapons selection includes bombs, rockets, and torpedoes of many sizes. The option to sortie without these weapons is also available. There is no limit in the quantity of how many of these weapons can be carried, but there is a reloading timer after the available stock of weapons is fired.
Naturally, bombers such as the Mitsubishi G4M and Consolidated B-24 can carry larger versions of the torpedoes and bombs that smaller aircraft cannot. But even so, fighters like the A6M Zero and F6F Hellcat can be seen with almost comically large weapon loads. The first sight of a Vought F4U with four full-length torpedoes beneath each wing requires a moment or two to let sink in. Luckily, these visually overloaded weapons do not cause performance reduction on the aircraft carrying them.
The machine guns and cannons available on each aircraft share the same damage output and sound effects. They are especially effective against air targets because of the large gun sight the game provides once an air target is in range. The enemy aircraft hitboxes are also somewhat on the large side, making it easy to shoot them down once in range and at a good angle. The gunsight provided only appears to help the player lead their target. The player is not provided with their own gun sight to generally show the path their bullets will follow. This means that visually guiding tracer fire into targets while firing is the most reliable aiming method. Thorough use of yaw when firing is necessary; fortunately, yaw is very easy to use at any air speed, and there is no threat of entering a stall or departing from flight because of overuse.
The omission of the aircraft having its own gunsight makes it especially hard to attack land and naval targets. A strafing run on a warship is particularly unrewarding. The time spent making corrections to hit the target allows the warship to pummel the incoming attacker. Factoring in that these warships usually travel in groups, the attacking aircraft will quickly find itself being hit rapidly from multiple angles. Coming off of a tedious strafing run with a large number of new holes in the aircraft isn't entirely worth it. The use of air-to-ground and anti-ship weapons becomes even more appealing because of this. Now, this is where things get... interesting.
With the game set in World War II, the safe assumption would be that the most advanced weapon available would be unguided rockets. Most likely created for attacks against anything that doesn't fly. 'The Zero Fighter' throws a curveball in weapons characteristics by providing all torpedoes and rockets the ability to self-guide onto targets after achieving some sort of target lock. By far, the most beneficial optional weapon is Small Rockets. Capable of hitting air, land, and sea targets at twice the range of guns, they are akin to Standard Missiles in arcade flight action games like, Sky Rouge, Project Wingman, or Air Force Delta. The enemy also possesses these weapons, so evading guided rockets from an Aichi D3A is something that will happen. Alternatively, selecting a Mitsubishi Type-1 Attack Bomber with Small Rockets makes it a pseudo-Arsenal Plane, capable of firing many rockets at all targets from medium range. I doubt anyone saw that coming.
The overall flight model lands squarely within the flight arcade genre. While it is possible to increase or decrease and set engine power to hold at a constant speed, there are no other more sim lite functions. The focus on aircraft control is more on maneuverability than speed. All aircraft featured seem to accelerate and decelerate similarly and share the same top speed - which feels like a very low speed. Do not expect to outrun enemies or perform zoom and boom tactics during gameplay here.
All aircraft, including the strategic bombers, are more than maneuverable enough to outturn one another. The prospect of bringing a B-29 Super Fortress to a large-scale air battle is actually very positive. Its now fighter-like maneuverability and forward-mounted guns are backed up by all other gun positions on these bombers, being capable of firing at targets independently. The gunners can even hit targets while performing barrel rolls and Immelmann Turns.
Each aircraft comes with at least one Special Move - an ability that temporarily alters aircraft capabilities or weapons systems. These abilities have a cool down gauge which must be full or all green before they are used. The four skills available are:
After selecting Homing but before activating it, enemy aircraft that are in attack range show a red lead indicator somewhere near them. Once Homing is activated, aircraft speed and control are automatically taken over by an autopilot. The player only needs to fire their machine guns until the target is destroyed. Once the target is destroyed, Homing turns off, and the player regains full control of the aircraft.
This causes a set amount of damage to enemies that are rammed while also inflicting damage to the player's aircraft. This function is the hardest to use due to the restriction of aircraft performance in the game.
While active, it is possible to launch bombs, rockets, and torpedoes at multiple targets. This ability, coupled with the guided missile-like performance of these heavier weapons, can make an attack or bomber a medium-range powerhouse.
Engine output is doubled for a short time.
A feature that many would remember from a first-person shooter than a flight game. At any time during a mission pressing the Triangle button will allow the player to switch from their pre-selected aircraft to any of the other allied aircraft participating in the battle. Though the aircraft cannot be manually selected before switching, the player can access attackers, fighters, and bombers and their equipped weapons with a few button presses.
This is by far the most attractive addition to this game, but a specific danger comes when hot-swapping to another aircraft. Suddenly taking control of an unseen plane may put the player from flying horizontally to diving nose down at the ground in the middle of a dive-bombing attack. The threat of taking control in a somewhat dangerous position is real, but the reward of always being able to remain in action via hot-swap feels as though it is worth the risk. Immediately throttling down as soon as a hot-swap is complete allows for more time to ascertain the situation of the aircraft that is now under the player's control. Two things to remember: Hot Swap is not available while a Special Skill is active, and being shot down while attempting to Hot Swap will result in mission failure.
The replay viewer features four camera angles that can be selected by using the L1 and R1 shoulder buttons. Though camera #4 has frequent problems with clipping through aircraft or being blocked by parts of the aircraft, cameras #1-3 offer camera angles that focus on the player's controlled aircraft and dynamic cameras, which show the battle from many sides. The emphasis on showing the large scale of the battle is evident in the replay viewer. The quality of the replay viewer makes watching the post-mission replay twice or three times in a row entertaining.
SIMPLE 2000 Series Vol. 117 The Zero Fighter doesn't offer much in terms of replay value or long-lasting experience but it does have a few minor features making it worth playing all the way through at least one campaign. Flight game enthusiasts outside of Japan certainly haven't missed out on much by not having easy access to this title but it is worth entertaining a passing interest if you happen to see a copy of it somewhere.
About the Writer
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.