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Ombeline Le-Mire Cahn first started drawing Ace Combat-inspired fan art when she was 13 years old. As a life-long Ace Combat obsessive and active community member, eight years later her dreams came true when we she finally got to visit Bandai Namco’s Tokyo HQ, meet the developers and even shoot an Ace Combat-inspired photo session directed by the team.
We spoke with Ombeline about her love of Ace Combat, the community’s reaction to AC7 and her visit to the studio.
“I fell in love with Skies of Deception on my PSP when I was 13. The art style, music and world of Strangereal totally captivated me. It’s kind of embarrassing but I cried when I completed the story… I couldn’t get it out of my head. I started a yearly ritual of playing Skies of Deception over the summer, Joint Assault at Christmas and Assault Horizon in the spring time.”
Soon after, she discovered the wider community of fans online.
“After I turned 14, I got pretty active on ‘Ace Combat Skies’, an early forum where fans got together to discuss the games, dissected the lore, and later on create patches and speculate about what we’d like in future games.”
Meanwhile, the AC series went on to influence Ombeline’s choice of degree and she started developing her own stories.
“I spent three years writing and illustrating my own comics that integrate AI, androids and fighter jets. I’m just a tiny part of it and the quality of fan art from the broader community is amazing. And as the AC games evolved, the whole aesthetic, colour scheme and tone inspired me to basically get better and pursue a degree in digital art at Westminster.”
After a break from the last mainline Ace Combat, the announcement of a new game came as a shock to the community.
“We went back on the AC Discord chat as there were fresh rumours of Ace Combat 7 – someone had interpreted a code from the credits of ‘Infinity’. When the trailer was released at the end of PSX, the entire group chat was literally screaming and we were all rushing to decipher it, taking screenshots and sharing them with the group.”
Ace Combat series lead Kazutoki Kono had been a long time admirer of the community’s talent and passion, and was looking for ways to build more active bridges with fans. When Ombeline contacted Kono-san through Twitter saying she was planning to fly to Japan for the Akihabara launch, the team decided to invite her to the studio.
“I couldn’t believe it. When I got there I was so nervous walking into this huge glass lobby with my tablet of fan art. I’d never been to Asia, let alone Japan and suddenly here was ground zero for the series that changed my life”.
“My hope was that maybe he’d sign my copy of AC7, and we could take a photo together. This is like launch day for them…”
“But they team actually took time to look through my art. Then Kono-san fired up the game and handed me the controller to play in front of them. It was surreal”.
Ombeline stayed on to meet other Project Aces team members including Producer Manabu Shimomoto. They had one last surprise in store: An official photo shoot with specially created Ace Combat gear.
“I still haven’t processed the last 24 hours. The team is so humble, and Kono-san said they’re heading to Pax South to hear more fan feedback on AC7 and think about the future of the series. For me, it was really the honour of a lifetime to be a tiny part of that conversation”.