The day has finally come. A game that had thought to have been lost in licensing hell, Windjammers has finally made its way into the capable hands of developer, DotEmu bringing the game to modern platforms for the first time, with a few new improvements and a couple of flaws.
Platforms: PS4, PS Vita
MonsterVine was provided with a code for review
Windjammers has been the ideal local-multiplayer game since it first released in Arcades and on Neo-Geo in 1994. Now, 23 years later the core of the game still holds up. The principle is simple: take two characters and pit them against each other in one-on-one competitive play, hurling and deflecting flying discs across a net which bisects a court. First person to 12 points wins the set, first person to win two sets wins the match. Different venues each have different goal points, 3 points for the large score zones and 5 points for the sections that require some precision aiming. Some of the dividers offer different mechanics in how the disc reacts when it passes over it. There is something pure, extreme and so 1990 about how everything comes together in Windjammers and this modern port just enhances everything that was great about the original.
The concept is simple, but the gameplay hides depth in mechanics and strategy. Similar to a fighting game, Windjammers makes use of quarter, half and full rotations of the joystick in order to deliver different types of throws or deflects. These are what makes playing easy to pick up and difficult to master. Each of the six characters has a different balance of speed to power and a different set of power moves. The power moves can be activated whenever the disc is knocked into the air, and the player gets underneath with time to charge. This is where the amateurs Power Disc players are separated from the professionals. Getting to know how each character moves, and what they can do is a rewarding learning experience. Being able to recognize when one character is winding up for their power shot, and being able to react and then counter is wholly satisfying. I love the tension that persists throughout a match when two players know what they are doing. Volleys can last for what feels like a lifetime, but in reality are only 10 seconds long. The arcade mode lets a player tackle all of the characters in your typical fighting game style, on three difficulties or just play around for a high-score in one of the minigames (catch the disc as a dog, or go speed bowling). However the real game starts with multiplayer, and the first option in the menus is “Online Game.”
Online started a little rough the night before release on PS4, but improved as more players were venturing into the matchmaking. Within online there are quick, ranked and custom matches. A few times when trying to connect I would randomly disconnect from matches, but be instantly given a chance to rematch. During these times the audio would break and wouldn’t be fixed until a reset of the game. Since playing more of the online I have yet to re-encounter these glitches. The netcode is quick, and through the few dozen matches I played I only screamed at my own reaction times, never at any connection issues. The ability to rematch quickly had me frothing at the mouth to redeem my loss and climb the ladder.
The Final Word
Windjammers is a beloved, cult-classic from the mid 90s on a platform that not enough people have access to. With the game finally being released to modern hardware more people are able to experience it. The added online matchmaking is a little barebone, but the netcode is strong to feels almost as good as local play. The neon 90s aesthetic, with the jammin’ classic soundtrack pair together to whisper the perfect recipe for an overly-extreme fake sport that everyone should try.
-MonsterVine Review Score: 4.5 out of 5 – Great