Windjammers 2 Review

Windjammers 2 Header

I never got to play the original Windjammers. Oh, I heard about it – everyone in my school had – but since none of us had the pocket money to afford an eye-wateringly expensive Neo Geo, we could only stare enviously at the gorgeous 2D artwork that adorned the preview in the latest issue of Game Master Magazine. It definitely looked like my kind of game. Fast paced over-the-top arcade sporting action is most definitely my bag, baby. Shame on me for not playing DotEmu’s port to modern consoles, but with the announcement of a sequel, I resolved to finally play me some Windjammers. Can Windjammers 2 possibly match the anticipation that 28 years of waiting had burned within my soul? You better believe it!

Update: This is now our final, scored review of Windjammers 2

First off, the 2D visuals of Windjammers 2 are utterly sumptuous. A bright and bold comic book aesthetic combined with silky smooth animation ensures that this is a game of power Frisbee – or ‘power disc’ to use the game’s copyright dodging lexicon – that looks and moves like a cartoon. The delightfully eclectic character roster will surely bring a smile to even the most jaded player’s face, each disc lobbing personality channelling 90’s nostalgia with unashamed relish. Playable stages are gorgeous too, each one cram-packed with detail; fans leap with excitement, photographers snap away at the action and the quintessential bikini-clad umpire lobs discs to the players with zeal. In short, Windjammers 2 looks exactly like it should.

What of the gameplay? Like the best arcade games it is simple to pick up, yet surprisingly deep and difficult to master. Players face each other across opposite sides of a netted court. Lob your disc past your opponent’s defences to hit the wall behind them and you’ll be rewarded with either three or five points depending on which coloured zone you strike. The first player to fifteen points wins the set, and it’s the best of three sets.

Windjammers 2 Court

The controls are accessible and responsive, ensuring even a novice player can look and feel good as they slap, lob and curl their shots with abandon. You’ll even get to release a ridiculously excessive special move from time to time. Of course, shot control is only one aspect that a skilled Windjammer has to consider, as this is really a game about controlling space. Work the net, pressure your opponent, control the angles and work jumping strikes into your game and you’ll earn all the cool kids’ respect. In conclusion, the gameplay is an absolute delight.

You’ll definitely need all those skills too, as the arcade mode offers a stiff challenge. Taking a note from Street Fighter, Windjammers 2 sends players around a city map, taking on opponents and enjoying some mini-games to accrue bonus points. The mini-games are suitably daft but rather forgettable, asking players to lob a hot dog as far as possible or knock back the discs from a mechanical launcher. They add little to the experience, but do reinforce the sense of playing something from Street Fighter series.

Despite the top-notch ridiculously addictive gameplay of Windjammers 2, the arcade mode can feel oddly hollow. Not having a final boss or two to dethrone at the end of each championship feels like a missed opportunity, as does the lack of unlockables. Still, the arcade mode does each what every arcade mode should, and that’s provide the player with vital experience to win in multiplayer.

Windjammers 2 Multiplayer

Both local and online play are catered for. Local, as you would expect, is fantastic. My partner and I whiled away many hours with increasingly competitive play. Things got a little intense, but you’ll be pleased to know that no feelings were hurt or controllers smashed. Again though, the experience feels a little light on content. I found myself wishing for a tournament or tag-team mode; anything to keep things fresh.

Online play then is clearly the meat and potato of the game, promising both ranked and friendly matches. At the time of writing, there are still precious few people to play against online – something not helped by the game’s lack of cross-play between consoles. It’s all too easy to log on and find too few people to play against. However, stick with it, find the right time of day to play, and you’ll get some ranked matches under your belt.

When you do get a match, online play is both smooth and lag-free, but while this is a positive start to Windjammers 2’s odds of finding a lasting online audience, what it really needs is more content. Ranked play is fun enough, thanks to the core gameplay being mighty good fun, but once you’ve had a few wins – ah, who am I kidding, in my case it was definitely losses – there’s little motivation to return. You gain victory points, you lose points, but without a sense of progression you’ll find your attention wondering soon enough.

 

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Summary
This is the sequel that every Windjammers fan has been waiting for, a tight, gorgeous over-the-top sports game filled with arcade thrills and not an ounce of fat. That lack of poundage though can be a curse though, as while everything is here a delicious treat there’s too little to munch on in order to make Windjammers 2 an essential purchase.
Good
  • A splendid reinvention of Windjammers
  • Tight and responsive gameplay
  • Sumptuous 2D visuals
Bad
  • Lacking in content, both arcade and online.
  • Finding people to play online with can be tricky.
7