So, playing Ace Combat, particularly Ace Combat Zero, has become part of my daily writing routine, in that I’ll hammer out usually two missions of it before I get started. I’ve written before about how I dislike the game’s final boss quite a bit. I stand by that, but I’ve also discovered something: Pixy’s third phase is easier to defeat the further away from Hard difficulty you get. Now, Hard is the highest difficulty level available at first, but you can unlock two more: Expert and Ace. On Expert and Ace level, Pixy is easier because he is more aggressive, which makes him easier to line up a shot on during the third phase. On Hard difficulty, enemies seem to prioritize self-preservation a lot more than on Expert or Ace, where they’ll gladly suicide rush you if they think they have decent odds of taking you down with them (indeed, probably about two-thirds of my Expert or Ace deaths were caused by enemies who died immediately before or after their missile connected and downed me).
This means that during that third phase, the one where you have to joust with Pixy by flying at him head on, firing missiles, and breaking away before his own missiles could hit you, is much, much harder, because Pixy is most averse to coming at you head on while on Hard difficulty. On Normal (and, I presume, Easy) his reflexes kinda suck and it’ll take him several seconds to realize you’ve locked a missile onto him and he should move – more than long enough to get the lock, fire, and break away. On Expert and Ace, he’s as gung-ho about murdering you as you are him, and will gladly face towards you long enough to get a missile lock and fire at you, which means the joust works as intended: It’s dangerous and can kill you a lot, but it’s not tedious.
The jousting thing also works really well in regular missions on Expert difficulty, provided you can dodge the missiles the enemies fire at you. If you’ve got an enemy on your tail, you can use afterburners to get a bit of distance, turn yourself around, fly back at him, fire missiles straight into his cockpit, and break away before he returns the favor.