'Space Ace' (Blu-Ray)
By: Digital Leisure
(Blu-Ray / PS3 / ASIN: B000IMUYRY / Rated: E / $39.99)
Features: For the first time ever you can experience the stunning classical animation of 'Space Ace' in true High Definition on this fantastic Blu-Ray edition.
This release of Don Bluth's legendary animated arcade game features video transferred directly from the original film source, delivering the sharpest images and most vibrant colors ever - even better than the original laser disc release. Indeed, Digital Leisure is fast bridging the gap between animated film and video games and enabling players to progressively "unlock" scenes in an otherwise traditionally-produced animated film.
Description: In Space Ace you play the heroic Ace who must stop the evil Commander Borf from taking over the Earth! Borf plans to reduce all of humankind to infants and take over the planet. Only two people have the courage and strength to stop Borf and save Earth: the beautiful Kimberly and the heroic Ace. But as they approach Borf's stronghold, Ace is hit by the Infanto Ray, changing him into a child, and Kimberly is kidnapped by the evil madman! The fate of Earth is in your hands.
In this game, you play Dirk the Daring, a knight who must rescue a princess by exploring a castle filled with deadly dangers which require quick wits and precise timing to overcome.
Verdict: Despite it's improved gameplay, better graphics, and (then) cutting-edge technology, 'Space Ace,' like 'Dragon's Lair,' rests as a footnote in videogame history, one that hinted at but did not inspire a revolution in the industry. Though a third entry in the Laserdisc-based game cycle would emerge in 'Dragon's Lair 2: Time Warp' a year or two after 'Ace,' the mechanics of the approach were just too clunky (and expensive) to overtake traditional pixel and vector graphics games, which were getting more advanced by the minute. Meanwhile, home-based game consoles and personal computers all but obliterated the traditional Saturday night at the arcade. A Laserdisc player in a giant box was just not going to be the wave of the future, no matter how prophetic 'Space Ace' and 'Dragon's Lair' may have seemed at the time.
That said, 'Space Ace' is definitely made for HD, with much more fluid movement possible, with the only real lag times coming between the end of one gameplay sequence and the beginning of another (though even here, the half-second or so you'll have to wait is nothing compared to the slow load times of the average PlayStation release). 'Space Ace' on Blu-ray works where it counts - during the actual scenes of the game, keeping the animation running smoothly is easy - just make the right moves, and Ace keeps chugging without any hiccups.
One improvement I found in 'Space Ace' versus the Blu-ray of 'Dragon's Lair' is that I had no problems this time with the sequence of the game. On 'Lair,' if you screwed up a move, the game would automatically push you ahead to the end of a sequence. In other words, instead of going back to the beginning of the sequence to get it right, you would simply go on to the next adventure - essentially a free pass. Combine this with the Unlimited mode, and the game of course wound up having no challenge. Even selecting five lives and Expert mode on 'Lair,' the game is too easy. 'Space Ace' always put me back at the beginning of the sequence if I messed up, so the challenge level is upped considerably. Add to that the fact that 'Ace' is a much quicker game with a ton more moves, and you could spend quite a few hours solving this one.
In the end, 'Space Ace' has converted very well to Blu-ray. It's far and away the most seamless version yet on home video, and the animation looks superb. I'm sure there will be many who just can't get into the idea of a game like this, which really only requires you to watch a slight narrative and execute a series of simple remote moves.
Interview (HD, 5 minutes) - Basically a coda to the picture-in-picture track (see HD Exclusives below), Bluth, Goldman and Dyer give a wider overview of 'Space Ace's reception, it's place in the "arcade animation" trilogy shared with the 'Dragon's Lair' games, and how they still receive mail about Ace from fans.
Demonstration Reel (HD, 3 minutes) - Ignore the title, this is actually a restoration demonstration, using split-screen to compare the new Blu-ray remaster with past video releases. the results are impressive -- the Blu-ray blows away any and all previous challengers.
Previews - Rounding it out are video trailers for 'Space Ace,' 'Dragon's Lair,' and the upcoming (but as yet unscheduled) 'Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp.'
Reviewed by Tab Walker
'Space Ace' Blu-Ray Purchase Link