Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Space Ace (Blu-Ray/PS3)

Bringing the classic Laserdisc arcade title to high-definition screens for the first time, Digital Leisure's latest edition of Space Ace is the definitive version of this nostalgic title. With an outstanding digital transfer, you'll be able to appreciate the beauty of Don Bluth and co.'s animation which has never looked better. The game itself seems to be more cohesive this time around with better reaction time and a less bumpy feel, which reflects the advancements between the two titles. It's more complex command structure and better timing make this a much smoother game, though there's still some trial and error involved. Space Ace is an entertaining blast from the past that should appeal to players with fond memories of the original title.

Released in 1983 as the follow-up to the seminal breakthrough Dragon's Lair, Space Ace improved on the formula with a better sync between the gameplay mechanics and on-screen animation, slightly more complicated gameplay thanks to the charge feature and a fun, thrilling storyline involving Dexter, a space hero who finds his friend Kimberly held hostage by the evil Borf. Unfortunately, he's been zapped by the Infanto ray. This turns our muscle-bound hero into a seemingly powerless child, reducing his powers while adding to the comedy. However, he's still a persistent little character and seems to get his way out of a jam despite the odds. Space Ace's cast of characters is fun and interesting, with an array of memorable enemies and scenes that makes the experience all the more enjoyable. The fact that these characters remain appealing 25 years after its original release is a testament to the talent and creativity of its creators, showing that there's still plenty to enjoy about traditional cel-animation with its personality and creativity that seems more personal and artistic than many of today's animated features which seem to emphasize flashy 3D computer generated effects instead of creating memorable characters and interesting storylines.

While Space Ace's gameplay is fairly simple and straightforward by today's standards, it remains as engaging and enjoyable as you remember. In order to help Dexter on his adventure, you basically wait until an action-point arrives and perform either a directional or shooting move on your controller. These points are generally easy to spot and are usually indicated by a moment where a flash occurs showing you where or when to go. This makes it fairly easy to understand when to use your moves. Adding to the mechanics of Dragon's Lair, there are times when you can transform Dexter back into his adult self, which makes the game more interesting, though these moments are predetermined, it's still a nice change of pace. Mastering the timing is what makes things tricky at times, but the structure of the actions feels less arbitrary than Dragon's Lair. There seems to be less of a delay between the moment you issue your command and when you see it in action. The game also seems to rely less on repeat mirror image sections, which makes it less repetitive. This results in a better overall experience. It must be pointed out that these changes were evident back in the arcades as well, so it's not fair to say that the Dragon's Lair translation was any less accurate, just that Space Ace was a more refined game, and the Blu-Ray edition reflects these changes. The game itself is somewhat shorter than you might remember, but it's still fun. There are several modes of play included, including one that's just like the classic arcade version where you can set a finite number of lives and receive a score, which is challenging and enjoyable. Space Ace really is a test of memorization and timing, which players can find either annoying or challenging. You can also choose to play with unlimited lives and not see the score, or take the experience in as a free-view movie where you don't have to interact with the game at all, just watch and enjoy the story unfold. You can also set other options including the aspect ratio and other options. Players can also choose to have an onscreen move indicator if they find the motions a bit too subtle.

Like the previously released Dragon's Lair Blu-Ray, in-game commentary and extras populate the disc, making for a complete package. These extra features can be viewed separately or in-game using a pop-in window, which allows you to see the screens as that are being commented on unfold simultaneously, one of the unique features of high-def discs. Unlike many other HD special features, Space Ace's are all-new and were filmed in full 1080p, allowing for a better quality and continuity between the new transfer and its commentary. During these sequences, several interesting facts about the game are revealed and many players will be surprised to learn who the voice of Borf actually was after all these years. These give you a good sense of the amount of work that went into Space Ace which makes you appreciate it all the more. One of the more interesting features in this edition is the evolution reel, which shows you all the different home versions of the game, ranging from its original Laserdisc form to consoles like the NES, later versions for the Amiga and PC, and the more recent DVD versions. Viewing the jump in quality between these editions is quite astonishing, and this fully restored and remastered version exceeds even the original in terms of picture quality and presentation. Its colors seem more vibrant and its lines are cleaner, without the somewhat dark transfers who's flaws seem more evident. One interesting aspect of the newest edition is that while it is presented in full 16:9 HD widescreen mode, the original game was always designed for standard size screens. This means that some detail on the top and bottom of the image are lost when playing in widescreen mode. If you want the more authentic 4:3 mode, it has been included as well - though the HD transfer here is just as vibrant and colorful, so there's no compromise in image quality. Space Ace's sound quality has also been enhanced with a superior new 5:1 mix that truly shows off the technology, making this the best version of the game ever released, from a technical standpoint. Contrasting the somewhat glitchy menus that marred Dragon's Lair's Blu-Ray release, Space Ace's interface is smoother and much easier to use and there aren't any noticeable playback issues. Overall, the presentation and production values on Space Ace are superb, making this a joy to watch.

The Blu-Ray Space Ace is a superb, archive quality release in many respects, and it will probably most appeal to those who enjoyed the original game. Space Ace has held up better than Dragon's Lair in many aspects, with a smoother, better gameplay interface that feels much more organic to the action. The multiple modes of play allow you to choose either an arcade-authentic experience that's more challenging and recreates the original or a less-intense casual style with no limits on lives or score that allows you to enjoy the animation and storyline more. This is an excellent package and the remastered image quality is several steps above even the DVD release from a few years ago. This makes playing Space Ace an absolutely brilliant nostalgic experience that ultilizes HD technology to effectively showcase the beautiful, classic 2D animation and breakthrough gameplay that made Space Ace such a landmark title.  - Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

> Related Reviews

Dragon's Lair (Blu-Ray/PS3)
Dragon's Lair/Space Ace (DVD)
Dragon's Lair 3D (Xbox)