- "Did you know there are three kinds of aces? Those who seek strength. Those who live for pride. And those who can read the tide of battle."
- ― Larry Foulke
Ace Style is a gameplay mechanic affecting which aces and what aircraft are unlocked in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War. Ace Style is also known as Ace Ranks. Below details the ranks and how to achieve them.
There are three Ace Styles: Mercenary, Soldier and Knight, arranged on a gauge. The gauge is controlled through yellow targets in missions; these can represent civilian objects such as houses or factories, or defenseless military targets such as barracks, storage buildings, and even ships which have been disarmed and critically damaged. Damaged enemy aircraft may turn yellow and attempt to flee the battlefield.
Destroying most or all of the yellow targets in a mission will move the gauge towards the Mercenary end, while sparing such targets will move it towards the Knight end. Destroying and sparing an approximately equal number of yellow targets will keep the gauge around its current position.
A pilot who seeks strength and money, a Mercenary Ace leaves no target on the battlefield alive, whether it's defenseless or not. This the easiest AR to achieve in Ace Combat Zero. All you must do is destroy as many yellow targets as possible on the map before going after the main objective. It's simple as it sounds; doing it this way makes a fighter seem more savage and the player will be treated as such over the radio. This style offers the most credits, and higher-end airplanes will be acquired earlier, but squadrons faced will be considerably more difficult.
A Mercenary Ace will face these enemy ace squadrons:
By being a Mercenary, you'll unlock these medals:
- Mercenary Ace (finish the game as a Mercenary)
- Supreme Mercenary (finish with the AR indicator at the very left end of the bar)
A pilot who can read the tide of battle, a Soldier Ace keeps the balance between destroying and sparing defenseless targets. To be a Soldier Ace, players must balance between the Mercenary and Knight styles. Being a soldier Ace unlocks some of the best aircraft in the game, so it's worth it in the long run. Keeping a balance in your engagement of yellow targets can make this the most difficult ace style.
A Soldier Ace will face these enemy squadrons:
By being a Soldier, you'll also unlock these medals:
- Soldier Ace (finish the game as a Soldier)
- Supreme Soldier (finish with the AR indicator at the very middle of the bar, i.e. under "d" in "Soldier")
A pilot who lives for pride and honor, a Knight Ace shows mercy towards the weak and defenseless. In order to be a Knight Ace, refrain from killing yellow targets, even if it means forgoing their credit value.
A Knight Ace will face these enemy squadrons:
By being a Knight, you'll unlock these medals:
- Knight Ace (finish the game as a Knight)
- Supreme Knight (finish with the AR indicator at the very right end of the bar)
- The Ace Ranks also affect the way Allied squadrons behave over the radio. For example, if The Stage of Apocalypse is played as a Mercenary or a Soldier, allied Ustian pilots will tease PJ about his future marriage with his girlfriend or how many girlfriends PJ had had, respectively. Playing as a Knight will result in those same Ustian pilots telling PJ not to talk to his girlfriend over the radio and instead to concentrate on their mission.
- A player's ace style also changes PJ's comments following the destruction of the V2 launch devices at the end of The Valley of Kings. If the player is a Mercenary PJ will remark on how much money they'll earn, if the player is a Soldier PJ will say how the fighting is over, and, finally, if the player is a Knight PJ will remark about how they'll be heroes.
- The Ace Rank a player has also changes what Gelb 2 and Espada 2 say in their interviews. A Mercenary style results in them commenting on how ruthless the player is, while Espada 2 says that Espada 1 was killed by the player in battle. A Soldier style results in them saying the player was calculated, and Espada 1 survived the initial battle with Cipher but succumbed to his wounds soon after getting out of his plane. A Knight player gets the most respect from both as Gelb 2 ends his first interview saying he just wanted the battle to be over, as Cipher showed no emotion. Espada 2 says that someone who's born with their heart in the sky will return to the sky: Espada 1 survived, but returned to combat and was killed in action.