The "flying-around-shooting-stuff" game type, of which StarFox and Crimson Skies seem to be the only memorable examples, turns up every few months without much fanfare or acclaim. There are some excellent examples of this genre, but they seldom receive great awards, nor surprise us with their innovation. We fly around, shoot stuff, and then generally fail to include them on our "games of all time" lists at the end of year. Air Rivals probably isn't going to get on those lists either, but it's nevertheless trying quite hard, and has two excellent features in its favour: it's free, and it's an MMO.
So, things start out well. Not many games are a Manga-styled flying game, and fewer still put you in a world war between two airborne factions, alongside several hundred other players. The flying-around-and-shooting mechanic means that Air Rivals is quite unlike almost any other MMO you could mention, even the defunct Earth And Beyond, or the upcoming Jumpgate Evolution.
However, in most other respects this really is a traditional MMO. Much of the level-based treadmill remains in all its awkward glory, and there's this constant feeling that the game's ambitions are overshadowed by its Korean MMO heritage. What this means is that much of your early game - well, much of the game in its entirety - is going to be taken up by shooting flapping, floating or flying enemies in a series of landscapes or tunnels. Get a mission, go shoot dudes. That is what it all boils down to. As you go through these missions you'll gain experience, go up levels, and gather various bits of equipment. Sound familiar? Oh, it is. Painfully so.