Air Aces: Pacific is an aerial combat simulator with an arcade-like approach. Launching from an aircraft carrier the player can take part in a campaign against the Japanese, controlling a single fighter. Some missions are done alone while in others a wingman offers assistance. Players can control the speed and perform a boost (needs to be recharged) and there are three weapons to engage enemies: unlimited machine gun fire, and limited rockets and torpedoes. The latter are especially useful against naval enemies, but most opponents fly a plane as well. Each mission has multiple objectives and landing back safely on the carrier is an additional requirement.
There are five planes to choose from but only one is unlocked initially. Objects and buildings in the environment can be shot, but there is no permanent damage. There also is no way to repair the plane once a mission is in progress and no types of power-ups are available. Opponents are marked as red dots in the radar mini-map in the top left corner. There is a double cross-hair and the state of enemy planes is shown through a health bar.