Super Sonic Shoot!
Originally a NeoGeo favourite, Windjammers‘ garish Lycra has been thrust into the limelight with a fresh coat of paint on Switch, courtesy of Dotemu, in preparation for the upcoming in-development sequel scheduled for 2019. With the UK’s very own Steve Miller, I took on the best that the Windjammers circuit had to offer, and the game is still a ton of fun to play.
I’d never played Windjammers before, and in fact I reviewed Disc Jam earlier this year, a game that is clearly inspired heavily by the gameplay in Windjammers, but with Rocket League-esque sensibilities. So going into this was a little out-of-sync in some ways for me, but with the game’s accessible controls and classic, arcadey feel, it’s easy to jump in and understand the gist, which in turn makes it an instant hit at parties. It’s that old saying that I’m sure we’ve all heard a thousand times by now: easy to learn, difficult to master.
Frantically dashing and running in an attempt to anticipate the movement of the focal Frisbee, the aim of the game is to lob that disc into your opponent’s goal, scoring between three and five points depending on how technical you are. Angling your shots in specific ways, or aiming your shot at some of the varying obstacles will send the disc in unpredictable trajectories, snookering your opponent, and with no relation to snooker. With the HD rumble kicking in, gameplay is fast-paced and quickly gratifying, and winning a set after an increasingly tense rally is an amazing feeling, much like Disc Jam. It’s a game that quickly brings out a competitive nature in the player, and it works a treat with some friends. Don’t worry, if you don’t have any you can also play fetch with a dog instead in one of the two cool mini-games.
Windjammers feels very much like the Street Fighter of tennis games. You pick your player from a variety of different countries, they each have their own unique look, catchphrase and special moves, and each one varies in speed and power, with some able to run and dash to catch that tricky ricochet, with others able to knock back an opponent with a forceful Frisbee. Being a retro revival of a NeoGeo title, Windjammers also has some neat little extras in it’s options: You can play around with the look of the game, adding scan-lines, smoothing the graphics or adding a CRT effect, and you can even choose between the NeoGeo and NeoGeo CD versions of the soundtrack, a lovely historical inclusion for cult fans of the game.
With eight flamboyant characters and six different stages, Windjammers’ arcade mode has enough content (and challenging enough AI) to keep you satisfied, but the real meat is in the multiplayer. Dotemu have added a competitive online multiplayer scaffold to the classic title, revamping it for the modern day. As stated earlier the game already stirs up natural competition, and when you can find a game it works well. Going forward it’ll be awesome seeing the game at competitive events, not to mention when Windjammers 2 hits us in 2019, as it does seem like this re-release is just keeping the seat warm…
Windjammers holds up. The controls are simple, tight and satisfying, the retro chic aesthetic is somehow cool again, and the addition of competitive online play (when you can find a match) is a brilliant way of making the game relevant in the modern day. There might not be a ton of content under the hood, but with Windjammers 2 on the way it’s a great way to dust off the spandex and educate yourself on a somewhat forgotten classic NeoGeo title.