Review: Windjammers (PS4/PSV)

Review: Windjammers (PS4/PSV)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Neo Geo
  • Arcade

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 / Vita
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • PlayStation TV Compatible No
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Windjammers
Format: PS4 (78.85 MB) | PSV (137 MB)
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Original Arcade Release Date: February 17, 1994
Publisher: DOTEMU
Developer: DOTEMU
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Windjammers has found itself in the middle of a resurgence thanks to streamers and retro game sites shining a light on this overlooked gem from the Neo Geo.

Its popularity grew and fans campaigned for a revival only for those efforts to die due to no one knowing who actually owned the rights to the game.

Flash forward to August 2017 and Windjammers has been resurrected for the PlayStation 4 and Vita. It isn’t a sequel or a full on remake, instead we have a polished version of the Neo Geo classic with online support and some bells and whistles.

Windjammers is essentially a tennis match with a frisbee or power disc. Courts have a goal line that’s broken into either three or five point sections and the objective is to throw the power disc into your opponents goal. The first to twelve wins the set and two sets equal an overall win.

There are six characters in total, each of which has a different level of power or speed and a special throw. The power and speed is represented on a single bar like a slider with the bar favoring one or the other, meaning the fastest character is the weakest and the strongest the slowest.

You don’t have to do much in a match outside of running and sliding to the power disc and throwing the disc back at your opponent. Finding the right match-up character wise is where the skill comes in and in game it’s all about being quick and knowing where and how to throw the disc.

Throwing is an easy button press, but aiming and putting spin on it is where the game requires skill. Matches can be intense if both players know how to manipulate the disc and take advantage of their special abilities. I saw my skill level grow over time. My early matches ended fast but as I learned more of the nuances things began to last longer and grow in intensity.

Personally I gravitated towards the quicker characters since they helped compensate for my slow reflexes, but this did mean their throw was weaker. It’s a balancing act that takes some time to determine your preferred playstyle. I lost a ton of games before I found the character that fit my style then I lost more with some wins sprinkled in between.

There isn’t much to explain about Windjammers, it’s a simple sports game that’s a hell of a lot of fun to play. It feels great on a modern controller and the port feels pretty faithful to the original game. The controls are tight and the gameplay is smooth and has aged well.

I spent a majority of my time on the PS4 but the the Vita port is the same game just on a smaller screen. While the Vita version is playable I don’t think it’s the best way to play it. The D-pad and analog stick don’t really feel great compared to the DualShock 4 for this game. With that said, if you prefer playing games on the Vita it works well enough on the handheld.

Visuals:
Windjammers is here in all its Neo Geo gloriousness, the resolution has been worked on to make it presentable in 2017. By default the game runs in 4:3 and there is an option to stretch it to 16:9 though I’d recommend keeping the game in 4:3 because it doesn’t look natural stretched out.

There are things you can tweak like changing the side art around when it’s in 4:3 or adding scanlines and other visual effects to try to recreate the visual style of the original game. It’s cool that the options are available, but in my opinion the game at its best on the default settings.

Audio:
It doesn’t sound like the audio was tweaked much, if at all. The music is clear and what little voice work there is sounds muffled like old games always do. There’s a generally enjoyable soundtrack with just a few songs.

I would occasionally run into issues where the music would cut out, but the problem became less and less of an issue as the game has been patched a few times since launch.

Online/Multiplayer:
Since the gameplay has remained untouched, the biggest selling point for Windjammers in 2017 is the online capability. It features Ranked and Unranked Play with the ability to send an invite to a friend and challenge them in a custom game.

In terms of the online suite as a whole it feels a little bare bones. Ranked Play rewards you with points that designate you to a league which one would hope would make matchmaking easier.

The matchmaking can be uneven, placing people against those that are way out of their league and more troubling, matching up players with horrible pings. When the game decides to place people against someone with a bad ping the match will begin to load only for it to kick both players out and send them back to the menus.

I think the online could use a little bit of work and I really wish there were lobbies to help gather a group of friends since custom games only support one on one matches.

The Vita version seems to have its own issues when it comes to online play because I noticed the game getting a choppy frame rate during online matches. It isn’t a consistent problem, but it has caused some frustrations when it popped up. In terms of online online features it has the same as the PS4 version though.

Conclusion:
Windjammers in 2017 is banking on nostalgia and thankfully the game still holds up today. The package that we have on the PS4 is a straightforward version of the original game with online play, and that alone is a big win.

Where the game falters is with the shallow level of the online connectivity and the issues that I hope can be worked out in the future. Right now it needs improving and I hope they’re something that can be worked on and not a sign that there isn’t a big enough audience to support good matchmaking.

I prefer to play it on the PS4 because the controller feels better and although I think the visuals on the Vita’s smaller screen look good, they don’t make for the best experience when comparing the two.

I am having a blast with Windjammers and I’m happy that the game can be shared with more people since it was a hidden gem on a console that never really took off. The overall package might not be a grand suite of features, but what’s there is still worth playing.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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