HAVE A VIDEO YOU WANT TO FEATURE ON OUR PAGE?

Submit Video

To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Not now
OK
Advert

‘Windjammers 2’ Review: Cult Arcade Classic Revived For Modern Tossers

Published 
| Last updated 

‘Windjammers 2’ Review: Cult Arcade Classic Revived For Modern Tossers

In the arcades of 1994, one genre was king: the one-on-one fighter. In Japan, the top six highest-grossing coin-op cabs of the year were all fighters, with Capcom’s legendary Super Street Fighter II Turbo reigning supreme ahead of the likes of Fatal Fury Special and SEGA’s polygonal breakthrough of Virtua Fighter. In the US, Mortal Kombat II and Killer Instinct devoured quarters; and in the rare spots where fighters didn’t bring in the money, racers did, with Daytona USA and Ridge Racer amongst the most successful cabs of their kind.

Advert

It’s into this landscape that Data East launched Windjammers via the Neo Geo MVS: a one-on-one Frisbee ‘em up - first to 15 points wins, unless the timer runs out first - that borrowed its best-of-three-rounds match structure, colourful character roster and exaggerated special moves from Street Fighter II, but also offered intuitive and exciting sports thrills akin to the previous year’s incredible NBA Jam from Midway. Which isn’t to say Windjammers was quite as good as either of those arcade heavyweights, but its fast-paced disc-tossing gameplay, easy to pick up but challenging to master, established a cult following - and that audience has gently grown as the game’s been ported over the years, most recently (in 2018) to the Nintendo Switch.

Watch a trailer for Windjammers 2 below

Loading…

Advert

DotEmu’s first wholly in-house-developed title - as publisher, the French company has put its name to 2020’s exceptional Streets of Rage 4 and 2022’s much-anticipated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge - is the sequel to 1994’s Windjammers, and very much follows the mantra of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, going so far as to actually disassemble its predecessor’s code as a foundation for what’s new. The studio’s added to the DNA of what was already playable in surprisingly restrained but uniformly positive ways, without doing a Jurassic World and resurrecting a bastardised monster of what we hoped we were getting.

Those familiar with this game’s predecessor, whether played on original Neo Geo hardware or via any other means (side-eyes the emulator crowd), will feel right at home from the outset, as Windjammers 2’s arcade mode sees the player go up against a raft of brightly attired competitors from around the world, on courts ranging from grass and sand to a junkyard and a casino. Keep winning, rack up extra points in a bonus round or two - one of which sees you controlling a dog chasing a flying disc along a beach full of sunbathers to avoid - and you take home the trophy.

Windjammers 2 / Credit: DotEmu
Windjammers 2 / Credit: DotEmu
Advert

Scoring is simple: get the disc past your opponent and you’ll score either three or five points, depending on the zone it ends up in; and should anyone miss a tossed-high return, mistiming a jump or sliding in the wrong direction, that’s two points conceded. But no court plays the same way: scoring zones switch places, the dimensions of the playing area change, and the net dividing the players can have disc-deflecting obstacles on it. In the casino things get really switched up, as the points you earn are reselected at the start of each play, anywhere from one to eight for a successful shot. Cue: astonishing comebacks aplenty.

This variety - and an array of special moves mapped to a double-button press, alongside the new options of parrying the disc back rather than catching it first and jumping for aerial shots - can almost feel overwhelming given the two-button simplicity of the first game. (Tricky curve shots remain as easy to pull off as they ever were, using a fighting game-style semi-circle sweep on the analogue stick.) But just like its predecessor, Windjammers 2 isn’t a tough game to gel with, and with three difficulty settings its arcade mode allows you to learn its ropes at your pace. Better still, local one-on-one play is a fantastically fun way to make mistakes and learn from them, as you get the satisfaction of rubbing your same-sofa rival’s nose in it when you fight back from 0-12 down in a round. 

Windjammers 2 / Credit: DotEmu
Windjammers 2 / Credit: DotEmu
Advert

Windjammers 2 has ten characters to pick from - each has a different balance of power and speed, so you can find the right build for your level of play (pro-tip: go with speed to start with) - and ten courts, expanding on the first game’s six of each. The art has a lovely hand-drawn style throughout - no pixels here - and while animations aren’t always exactly fluid, the visuals are always clear to follow while undeniably looking very cool. The ‘94 game’s roster reappears in full on the select screen, albeit with Windjammers 2 choosing the British Miller over the Korean Yoo (this either/or was a product of ‘90s localisation - keep ‘em peeled for a reference in this sequel), so veterans can opt for their favourites if none of the newcomers do it for them.

If you stick with Windjammers 2 long enough to really get good, you’ll likely tire of offline play pretty fast. Expectedly, online competition is an option here - but at the time of writing (pre-release), we were not able to test it. DotEmu has confirmed that cross-play is available between PC and Xbox consoles, which is a big plus given this game is headed to Game Pass. There’s also cross-gen play for PS4 and PS5 players. There are three main options to pick from when you go online: ranked play, if you want to climb the leaderboards; a quick match against a random player; or a game against a friend. Choices are nice.

Windjammers 2 / Credit: DotEmu
Windjammers 2 / Credit: DotEmu
Advert

Sticking to what we definitely could test, the game really pops on a Switch OLED and docked it does the business too, with no notable changes in performance. Playing on a bigger TV screen makes the experience that little bit more arcade-y, and of course you can then choose to use whatever controller you prefer over the Joy-Cons. The game’s relatively slight install size of 530MB also makes this a good title to keep on your Switch for whenever the urge to one-on-one a pal strikes.

Revealed back in 2018 and with pre-production stretching back to 2017, it does feel like Windjammers 2 has been a long time coming. But despite its delays, and the fact it’s a sequel to a game approaching its 30th anniversary, it’s a fresh-feeling arcade affair that sizzles with vibrant colour and plenty of on-court drama. It’s a quite old-school sequel, really, like games used to be: add to what’s already great, without breaking anything. Like NBA Jam and Street Fighter II, and more recently the Super Smash Bros. and Overcooked series, it’s a game that’s best suited to social play, to getting together with friends around the same telly. But even enjoyed solo, Windjammers 2 is a fine remedy indeed for banishing any lingering winter blues.

Pros: simple to start playing but challenging to master; art style is terrific; matches can quickly become incredibly heated

Cons: longevity is a question mark given the game’s short arcade mode; proper cross-play only covers Xbox and PC; the game’s primary appeal will be to fans of the original and there aren’t exactly legions of them

For fans of: NBA Jam, arcade fighting games, Windjammers obviously

8/10: Excellent

Windjammers 2 is available for PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series consoles, PC, Stadia and Nintendo Switch (version tested) on January 20, 2022. Code for review was provided by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible’s review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: DotEmu

Topics: Retro Gaming, Indie Games, Opinion

Mike Diver
More like this
Advert
Advert
Advert

Chosen for YouChosen for You

Xbox Game Pass

GeoBook 140X Review: A Sleek Laptop for Game Pass Players

2 days ago

Most Read StoriesMost Read