The release of the SNES came during the same year (1991) as the end of the Gulf War. It was inevitable that games released during this era would take creative license with these events. A.S.P. Air Strike Patrol wraps a whole isometric shooter around a thinly veiled Gulf War scenario…sort of. In the game, the Zarak(Iraq) troops are invading Sweit(Kuwait) and we must stop the incursion. The whole game takes place in a desert, naturally, and primarily during the day. You are given a set time, from around 2 to 3 days worth, to complete each of the eight missions. Each mission runs about eight hours, game time of course, but only in the last mission do you actually fly at night. At least when Pilotwings did it, it didn’t fly in the face of a core mechanic. Fly in the face of, get it? Ok, moving on.
I have to admit I picked this up knowing it wasn’t something I’d usually like. I was immersed in platformers and RPGs for most of my life, so flight sims weren’t really on my radar. On my radar…no? Anyhow, at first glance all my worries seemed confirmed. The menu is horrific, I don’t know what I’m doing, and just getting the first mission to start was a feat. I started late at night so I could get a feel for the controls and hit the ground running the next day. Thirty minutes was not enough and I went into day two dreading it. It’s extremely important to push past that first hump. The game is by no means a masterpiece, but once the controls and menus are figured out I actually enjoyed it. You can set it to easy and manually save between missions, so even if you progress slowly, eventually you’ll power through.
All missions require you to bomb something on the ground. Sometimes it’s buildings, sometimes it is a mix of both buildings and troops. You can see your progress between mission runs in the horrible menu system, and building targets can be accessed during the mission on your map. This is super helpful, but sadly leaves off the troop targets if they are needed. Checking status between mission runs will leave targets as red if they are untouched, yellow if they are partially destroyed and looking like a green fire if they’re totaled.
That being said, not all planes can actually hit targets on the ground. Some, like the A10 bomber, will drop a limited number of bombs and have an infinite fire for ground troops. I used this guy throughout the entire game. The problem is that it can’t hit the fighter planes trying to shoot you, so you spend the entire time dodging them. The other option is to take a plane that only shoots these other planes, clear the area, and then coming back to bomb. The change of planes it costly on time and it’s unnecessary. I’m sure they were aiming to make them more unique, but it resulted in sticking with just one for the entirety of the game. I never unlocked the other ones, was never sure how, and it wasn’t needed.
As you race the clock to complete a mission you balance your destruction of the opponent, management of supplies and public opinion. Each of these metrics is presented to you when a run is over. Public opinion is the only one that caused me issue since one level I apparently bombed a few civilian places to pieces. If this occurs to a bad enough degree, your game will end and you’ll have the media berate you. They’ll probably do this anyhow, as the game will allude to the constant coverage of the Gulf War by CNN. In game it’s the “GNN”, but for some reason still called the Gulf War. Seriously game developers, I’m only five games in and 60% of them have some obvious lack of imagination in the naming department.
The flying in the game is a bit difficult at first because you have limited direction to smoothly guide the plane. It takes a bit to turn, which is more realistic, and once you get a feel for it the controls are manageable. Not great, but functional. The hit detection however is spot on. You can argue that the bomb didn’t drop where you thought it would given your position, but when it lands, you don’t have to worry about being a pixel or two off. This is true for enemy attacks as well. It adds to the feeling of accomplishment when you rotate the plane just right and hit a small truck, turn, and do it again.
The targets were usually a decent size, such as oil buildings and scud missiles (two major focuses of the Gulf War). This made the primary buildings fairly easy to destroy even if one wasn’t a sharpshooter. Only later in the game do they require any accuracy, but since you are fighting tanks, you can just fire your normal rounds that don’t damage nearby buildings.
I said this game was clearly based on the Gulf War and I’ve tried to point out some of the glaring relations. In addition to all of this, there are also billboards of someone who looks like Saddam, and if you look at the date, it’s early January towards the end of the game. (Just like at the end of the Gulf War) However, all along the game starts making weird statements. Weird metal is found, and soon you find out that there were aliens behind the whole thing. Yes, reread that, aliens. In the end it turns out the Zarak troops were either aliens, or guided by aliens, which I can only imagine was to mess with us or to keep people from getting PTSD. It’s OK to have bombed all those buildings and people, it was just evil aliens. OK SETA, whatever helps you sleep at night.
Beating the game results in a few endings depending on your stats in those three metrics. I had a little tough time with the public after the accidental building damage, so I received the ending where terrorist attacks occur and they think I should stay away from politics. Next time I’ll just let the aliens at them.
The game overall is decent. It’s a shame that it has a bit of a ramp up time until you’re feeling comfortable. By the time you really know what you are doing, the game is almost over. Other than the menu system, there really aren’t any major glaring flaws. However, there also aren’t really any major selling points. It’s reasonably short and on the easy side (when set to easy), everything else feels pretty average. I wouldn’t say replay value is high on this, but it’s definitely there, even if it’s to catch the humorous moments you might have missed. I didn’t set the bar high, but this game definitely exceeded my expectations.