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A fairly obscure Isometric Shoot'Em Up / Simulation Game (in the same vein as the Strike series), A.S.P. Air Strike Patrol (known in Europe as Desert Fighter) was produced in 1995 by SETA Corporation for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
The game itself takes place during a thinly-veiled Gulf War. A Middle Eastern country, Zarak, is invading its smaller neighbor Sweit. In early 1990, the P.D.F. launches Operation Desert Corrado, with the aim of stopping the Zarak military's advance. As part of the Air Strike Patrol, you fly either F-15E Strike Eagles or A-10 Thunderbolt IIs in support of the Coalition.
What's really notable about Air Strike Patrol is that you're not simply tasked with going out there and completing your missions; you also have to do it while managing public opinion and without being wasteful of weapons, fuel, and aircraft. Three different gauges measure how effective and aggressive you are in destroying enemy units and targets, how good you are at managing supplies, and how well the Coalition's actions are received by the rest of the world--all of which rides on your actions. This adds a whole new layer of complexity in the game, by giving players a taste of what it's like when soldiers and commanders are put in this very same position.
A.S.P. Air Strike Patrol provides examples of:
- Zero-Percent Approval Rating: If this happens, the game is over.
- Bottomless Magazines: Your aircraft's cannons have these. You can hold down the trigger all day without running out of ammo or hurting your logistics score. This is the main advantage the A-10 has over the F-15E, as its cannon fires downward and is great for destroying enemy vehicles without wasting supplies.
Averted with missiles and bombs, though. Once you run out of those, you've got to return to base to rearm.
- Color-Coded Armies: Allied tanks are green (the soldiers wear tan). Zarak's ground forces are tan. Civilian vehicles are red.
- Crippling Overspecialization: You'll have three sets of possible loadouts for both the F-15E and the A-10 which are unlocked as you progress. In all cases, you only get one type of missile or bomb to take on the sortie. Thankfully the choice isn't permanent, but it does take several hours for base crews to change armaments, and you don't have all the time in the world.
- One of the F-15E loadouts features AIM-9 Sidewinders. This gives you an unmatched ability to knock down Zaraki MiGs, but leaves you with no way to attack ground targets (and therefore complete your missions) unless you return to base and choose a different armament.
- Taking an F-15E loaded with air-to-ground weapons might seem like a good compromise between an all-air F-15E and an all-ground A-10 since it can fire on other aircraft with the cannon, but you'll often find yourself wasting precious time and fuel while locked in a "turning fight" with MiGs this way.
- All the A-10 loadouts are strictly air-to-ground and having limitless ammo for the cannon makes it easier to keep the Supplies score up. However, you have no way of fighting back against MiGs if you haven't spent a sortie shooting them down with an F-15E first.
- Friend or Foe: Be careful where you're aiming. If you hit your own troops, it will make the news.
- If you're using AIM-65 Mavericks, you'll see an indicator in the top left corner of the screen telling you if you've locked onto a friendly or enemy target.
- Hero Insurance: World opinion will say otherwise if you bomb civilian buildings during your missions.
- High-Speed Missile Dodge: Your aircraft can out-turn missiles, and in many case it's possible to shake off missiles through sheer maneuvers alone. This is handy for managing your supplies rating, since expendend countermeasures are counted the same as expended munitions.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: GNN will air reports highlighting your screw-ups if you screw up too much.
- Hundred-Percent Adoration Rating: If you manage to keep a high Opinion rating, GNN will run reports extolling the weapons and technology being used to fight the war.
- It's Up to You: No effort is made to make you feel like you're part of a larger air campaign, as your plane seems to be the only Coalition combat aircraft in the skies. There's plenty of friendly forces on the ground, but they mostly mill around doing nothing, and rarely fire on enemy forces.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Most things in the game are unmistakably renames and references to the real Gulf War.
- Operation Desert Corrado, anyone?
- Global News Network (GNN) is a clear take on Cable News Network (CNN).
- Zarak and Sweit are very thinly disguised versions of Iraq and Kuwait.
- Zarak's leader, who goes unnamed but is seen on billboards around Area 2 (Zarak's capital), looks like the splitting image of Saddam Hussein.
- Man Behind the Man: Aliens are manipulating Zarak's leaders.
- Missile Lock On: For AIM-9 Sidewinders and AGM-65 Mavericks.
- Mook Chivalry: No matter how many MiGs the Zarakis have in the air, only one of them will attack you at any time--and only when that MiG is shot down does the next one appear in the mission zone (after a brief respite that is).
- Multiple Endings: The Force, Supplies, and Opinion meters all determine the kind of ending you get. If any of those are lacking, the ending will only be merely an okay ending (for example, you'll be told that the Gulf War was a political disaster if public opinion is the lowest of the three).
- Golden Ending: Manage to win the game with high enough marks in your force/supplies/opinion meters and you'll be treated to a hero's welcome. This is NOT easy to do.
- It's a Wonderful Failure: If you happen to fail the final mission in any way, you get treated to watching a nuclear holocaust which ends in aliens conquering the Earth.
- Nonstandard Game Over: Failing to complete a mission in time isn't the only way to get a Game Over--waste too many bombs and missiles, lose your aircraft too many times, or run public opinion into the ground and the Coalition will be forced to pull out, with the commander giving you a nastygram in the process.
- Outside Context Villain: The aliens. Their involvement is foreshadowed in some of the mission debriefings, but there's still not much information on why they're doing what they're doing.
- Palette Swap: The MiGs are all the same model, apparently, but their colors signify how aggressive they are.
- The U.N. tanks (M60A3 Pattons) use the same sprites as the Zaraki T-80s, just colored green.
- Reporting Names: Some of the Soviet vehicles and weapons in the game are referred to by their NATO reporting names, although not always spelled correctly--and in one case, the wrong reporting name for a missile type is used.
- Shout-Out: Some of the voice clips heard in the game are soundbites from Top Gun:
- When flying an F-15E, your commander will tell you "Get 'em outta here!" at the start of a sortie. This is from Commander Tom "Stinger" Jordan, USS Enterprise's CAG, during the movie's opening MiG confrontation.
- If you get hit during a mission, your pilot will shout "I'm hit, I'm hit!" This is from Lieutenant Tom "Iceman" Kazansky during the MiG battle near the end of the movie.
- Shown Their Work: The F-15E (though just referred to as an "F-15") and A-10 both have access to the same kind of weapons they're typically armed with from the time period.
On the other hand, despite the accuracy used in the planes flown by the players, Zaraki vehicles aren't based on what the Ba'athist Iraq forces had during the Gulf War. They are still mostly based on real military vehicles, though; the Soviet MiG-29 Fulcrum, Mi-24 Hind, T-80 main battle tank, SA-4 Ganef (spelled "Gannif"), and the British Rapier SAM (including a tracked variant called the "Rolland"). The only real problems are that the T-80s have anti-aircraft missiles (they have anti-tank missiles in Real Life), and that there are trucks said to be armed with "Swatter" anti-aircraft missiles (a NATO reporting name given to a type of Soviet anti-tank missile).
- Slave to PR: If you want to get that Golden Ending and keep the Gulf War from being seen as a second Vietnam War, you've got to do your best to keep the public happy while still completing your missions. No pressure.
- Super Speed: The F-15E can use its afterburners to provide a temporary speed boost, to get out of trouble quickly (or into trouble if so desired).
- Timed Mission: All missions in the game are time-sensitive, but the time you have for each is measured in hours and days, so you won't run out while in the mission zone. Rather, fractions of hours are deducted every time you return to base for refueling and rearming, or if you're selecting a new loadout. If you crash or run out of fuel during a mission, a huge chunk of time is wasted in rescuing you (to say nothing of what it means for your Supplies rating).
During missions, though, you are subject to a fuel gauge. In most cases you will have to return to base during the mission in order to refuel at the very least. If you linger too long in the mission zone and run out of fuel, you crash and take a big hit in your logistics score for crashing.
- Universal Ammunition: Your countermeasures, missiles, and bombs all draw from the same reserve--it's probably why your plane has such a high ammo count in the first place.