Air combat games for consoles and handhelds are often a hit-or-miss affair. Some games, like Ace Combat, are quite good and bring the thrill of fighter combat across in the game without all the minutiae of hardcore flight combat sims on the PC. Many of the games in the genre leave a lot to be desired, though, and Top Gun for the DS is a prime example. Top Gun's poor presentation and dull, sometimes cheap design make it a game that never should have gotten off the ground in the first place.
Yes, it's a flight combat game that's actually based on the movie.
First of all, it's quite odd that 20 years after Top Gun sent Tom Cruise into superstardom, someone would choose to make a game based on the film. No, the title of the game is not a coincidence, as you'll discover when Harold Faltermeyer's "Top Gun Anthem" starts playing when you boot up the game. Sadly, that's pretty much the highlight of the game. After you choose which of four characters you want to play as, from Maverick, Iceman, Jester, and the lovable Slider, you can embark on the game's 11 mission campaigns, which will take you from flight training school right into combat against MiG fighters, warships, surface-to-air missile launchers, tanks, and more. It turns out that it doesn't make much difference which pilot you choose, as the game plays out the same each way.
Over the course of the campaign you'll unlock three different fighters, which include the F-14 Tomcat featured in the film, as well as the F-16 Fighting Falcon (which is an odd choice as it's not a Navy plane), and the F/A-18 Hornet. These all seem to have the proper shape and silhouette, with the Tomcat exhibiting its swing-wing design where the wings sweep back as you increase speed, and swing out at lower speeds. The unfortunate problem is that all the jets still look quite ugly, with muddy-looking textures. Other than the obvious cosmetic differences, there's little else that separates the planes, other than slightly different amounts of missiles that the three jets can carry.
The flight model in Top Gun is very simple. You use the D pad to climb, dive, or bank. The X and Y buttons control the throttle, B locks and fires your guided missiles, A shoots the Vulcan cannon (which never runs out of bullets), R cycles between your available targets, and the L button fires your unguided rockets. There's a so-called "flight-sim" control model available, but it doesn't appreciably change the way the plane is controlled. There are no real complicated moves you can pull off, so forget about Immelmann turns or even simple loops--pulling back on the stick awkwardly and automatically flips your aircraft over after you've reached the apex of your climb, which looks and feels disorienting, mostly because the game's graphics are so poor at rendering terrain or cloud cover that you never get a good sense of speed, or much of a reference to discern the direction you're flying in, other than the primitive radar on the bottom screen. If you need to change direction, you're generally better off just making a wide turn.
The actual flying in Top Gun feels extremely arcadelike, similar to something like the classic Afterburner games or even the original Top Gun on the NES. Unlike those games, Top Gun for the DS is not set on rails--you have freedom to fly within a designated combat area. Your plane can also carry dozens of each type of missile, which is unrealistic, but given the number of enemies you'll take on by yourself or with just one or two wingmen to help you, you'll need all the ordnance you can get.