Per request from Purge:
I picked this up based on the demo, and after having played the Ace Combat 6 demo I was really wanting a fast paced arcadey space combat game.
For me the game really delivers. It feels like an early wing commander game with aspects of anime space combat thrown in (ala Robotech, minus the ability to transform.)
The controls can take a bit of getting used to. I ended up switching to the 'professional' controls that put yaw on the triggers and the weapons on RB and LB. Speed is controlled through A and X. You can configure things to your preference from what I could see. Once you get the feel for the controls it is easy to fly through the levels barrel rolling, flipping 180 degree turns, afterburner slide, all while spitting out bullets, missiles, and lasers at multiple targets.
You can padlock onto targets, and something that I just found out reading some forums, actually lock and fire weapons that have the 'sight homing' ability. This allows for some really nice maneuvers to be pulled.
Capital ships have turrets, main guns, shield generators, engines, and bridges that can be blown off to make killing them easier for you or your allies. Capital ships have shields that protect them from energy weapons, which are the main attack of other capital ships. The shields do not stop missiles or projectiles, however.
The action is very fast paced... actually, more like frantic most of the time. You have the ability to sacrifice varying amounts of shield power to pull off a berserk attack, a ramming attack, and a slow time ability that comes in very handy versus the elite squadrons you face. Trying to take out attacking bombers and fighters while still killing enemy capital ships is very (frustrating at times) fun.
The story is nothing spectacular, but I enjoyed the cut-scenes. I did develop some feelings for the other members of my squad and various other characters. (particularly a certain admiral that I would have happily shot down myself given the opportunity). Apparently there is a movie easter egg at the very end of the credits that I missed the first time; being impatient to start my second run through.
One of the drawbacks is that this is a game that is meant to be played through multiple times. You won't be able to get access to some of the better weapons until late in the game or until a second/third time through. Although it seems that you get more points (also used to unlock weapons) playing on Hard which I have not done yet.
There are 16 missions in the campaign. Some of them are really long, some are pretty short. The longer ones have one or more breaks in them that you can continue from if you goof up. However, if you choose to retry from one of those points as opposed to starting the mission from scratch, the game only counts kills/points from where you restarted. I had a lot of problems with one of the missions the first time through, and in fact after failing the section three times it started giving me the option to skip the mission entirely, which I eventually did. Got through it the second time through, but will try again to get a couple of the sub mission goals and an achievement.
My recorded flight time for the first run was right around 5 hours. That doesn't count time spent outfitting my fighter between missions and tries at missions, or the time spent retrying various sections.
There is a challenge mode of some sort available for download on the Japanese marketplace which is rumored to be coming to the US marketplace at some point. I am not sure what exactly this is, I would hope something like the gauntlet mode the wing commanders had.
There are a fair variety of achievements. 24 total, some are gotten as you progress through the story, others require some very specific goals to be accomplished. The game tracks the total tonnage and number of Warships/fighters/bombers you destroy, and there are achievements for 100 warships destroyed, 1000 units destroyed, 10,000 units destroyed, and for destroying 1 GIGAton worth of tonnage. That last one is going to take a while. If you load a completed save when you start the campaign over it keeps all of your stats to date.
I love the game. If you like arcade space combat games with some sim-like features thrown in, you should like this game. If you think you will only play it through once or twice, I would recommend a rental. If you really love the genre and loved the demo the price tag of 40 dollars is a nice deal. Plus with the short length it is likely that there will be used copies showing up for sale or trade fairly quickly.
As always, if you have any questions feel free to ask. I know that I saw Dreamshadow and a couple of others on my friends list with the game, so they can jump in for things I have missed.