The Zeros had the upper hand against the P-40s and F-4F Wildcats and Even P-38 Lightnings, but when the Corsairs and Hellcats got out to the Pacific it was a completely differrent story.
The Corsair had higher top speed, better rate of climb, better aramament and armor. About all the Zero's had on them was tighter turning circle. And, remember the Hellcats were largely responsible for what was called the great turkey shoot where Navy pilots dropped about 10 Japanese Aircraft for everyone they lost.
The Japanese wwere forced into the lightly armored, light plane philosophy because of thier heavy reliance on imported oil and steel. They just didn't have the natural resources to build heavily armored big engine planes.
IMHO The toss-up for the best fighterplane of the war has to go to the P-51 Mustang and Focke Wulfe FW-190, with honorable mentions going to the Spitfires, Zeros and Corsairs.
Anybody here used to watch "Baa, Baa Black Sheep" as a kid? Much better than the cr4ppy "Love Boat" and"Fantasy Island" on ABC at the time.