Classics of the 90s arcade and the Neo Geo, the furious games of Windjammers undeniably remain an indelible mark in the hearts of many fans. 28 years after the release of this cult game, the French studio Dotemu decided to take the frisbee out of the closet. Known for his excellent work of dusting off retro licenses like Wonder Boy or more recently Streets of Rage, Dotemu tackled the creation of Windjammers 2 in 2018 and decided to do everything in-house.
The Windjammers 2 test was carried out on PC via its Steam version and no notable malfunctions were noticed.
- What’s up under the Windjammers sun?
- “All frisbees are catchable”
- Hope for eSports? Certainly
- A game that runs smoothly
But then concretely, what is Windjammers? It is first of all a game released in 1994, inspired by Pong. On a two-dimensional field, the players face each other and must score points by throwing the frisbee into the opposing goals. Matches are divided into rounds of 15 points each and the first to win two sets wins the game. Characters, whose stats vary slightly from one to another, can throw the frisbee in front of them, left or right with a straight, curved or bell trajectory. The walls of the field serve as walls to bounce the frisbee and surprise the opposing player. Once these mechanics are understood, there are wild exchanges of Frisbee throws between the two players, the timing of which is essential in order to score: the stronger the reaction, the faster the throw and the chance of piercing the opposing defense.. It is therefore necessary to constantly juggle between throws and rapid movements. Results ? A nervous and addictive action game whose sunny beaches serve as the perfect backdrop. A “couch” game also available on PS4 and Vita (2017) and on Nintendo Switch since 2018: it is the French studio Dotemu (Streets of Rage 4, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap), fan of the game and specialized in the resurrection of retro games, which takes care of the port.
What’s up under the Windjammers sun?
And with the release of this remaster, well received by the strong French Windjammers community, Dotemu has decided to embark on the development of a sequel called Windjammers 2, available since January 20 on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. A new opus that includes its share of new features! In addition to the three new characters and the additional stages to diversify the tactical approaches to the matches, it is probably the new moves that bring additional strategic depth without complicating the game. By integrating the jump (to catch the lob throws), the response (to return the frisbee directly), cushioning and a super power bar, the developers achieve their goal: make Windjammers 2 a sports game whose mechanics are taken from fighting games such as Street Fighter.
And with Windjammers 2 not only improves gameplay of the saga. Indeed, a world map accompanies the arcade mode which serves as a single-player campaign: the player connects the matches against his opponents and has no room for error. In addition, the studio swaps the large pixels of the first episode for a hand-drawn 2D rendering that oozes the 90’s. As far as game modes are concerned, the arrival of online ranked games is one of the real strengths of this second part. However, a few more possibilities for warming up the wrists and Frisbees would not have been too much. ”’The tutorial, a succession of images and instructions, is a bit sparse: we would have liked something more advanced. Likewise, a slightly more goofy matchup mode with random elements during matches would have been welcome.
“All frisbees are catchable”
Nevertheless, Windjammers 2 is particularly attractive and you just have to play five minutes to realize it. It’s also the time needed to understand the keys, the principle and start having fun.. Windjammers 2 features ten characters. They are all characterized by their nationality, but also by their Super : a special move to use offensively, or defensively. The latter allows you to regain the advantage by means of a crazy trajectory, a frisbee that splits, etc. There is something for every taste ! Note that the champions are also distinguished by their Speed/Strength balance: a very fast character moves faster on the ground, but has a less powerful throw, while conversely a more heavy (slower in this case) turns out to be less skilful. Also keep in mind that the rolls (or slides) made with heavier characters cover more ground: an initiative probably carried out to ensure a semblance of balance between the athletes. A balance that is all the more important because “all frisbees are catchable” in Windjammers 1 secured a top player in Dotemu.
A crucial aspect therefore which prevents the abuse of the same technique and makes it possible to transform the matches into a real spectacle if the two players synchronize themselves: variation of throws, Super in all directions or fake hits, etc.In short, exchanges worthy of Roland Garros, one might say. Windjammers 2 perfectly captures the nervousness of a sports match while integrating demanding fighting game mechanics, all in a format perfect for short sessions. (less than five minutes per game). A philosophy stemming from the arcade game that you quickly become addicted to: I have to do better, I can do better and I won’t be had anymore. In short, Dotemu manages to offer players a title that is very demanding at a high level, but whose handling is so easy that it will not frighten neophytes, as is sometimes the case with Street Fighter or other fighting games.
Hope for eSports? Certainly
As mentioned several times throughout this test, Windjammers 2 is a child of the arcade of the 90s. However, we should not blame it (too much) for its lack of content compared to Smash Bros or Mario Kart for example . Windjammers 2 is a pure game that leaves no room for luck or chance. In this sense, it is with Rocket League that the similarities are the most numerous. ‘And if it remains often misused, the expression “easy to learn, hard to master”” is fully applicable to Windjammers 2.
To improve, nothing better than fashion In line of Windjammers 2, a big novelty and a feature that will undoubtedly be observed in the days to come. Players can participate in online matches that determine their ranking based on their wins and losses. Playing against other humans is the best way to quickly enrich your range of moves and sharpen your reflexes, while adding a challenge to the games. An additional pressure that immerses the player even more on the field. Pointed out when the remaster was released on PS4, the mode online of Windjammers 2 is now more than convincing. In the testing session after the game was released, it was easy to find a game and rarely suffered from latency issues.
A game that runs smoothly
To be sure, just watch the documentary / Making-Of concerning the development of Windjammers 2. In love with the first opus, the studio team decided to make a second one, the first prototype of which is available from 2018. It wants to do it right and decides to do everything in-house, including the title engine. Another witness to this love, the retro-engineering made by the developers: to ensure that players will find the same way of playing as the first opus, Dotemu got their hands on the original program and dissected each line of code to reimplement it in Windjammers 2.
On the technical side, the test session was done on PC and no malfunction hindered the gaming experience. It is worth remembering that Dotemu reworked the animations for this second opus and it’s excellent work : a treat for the retina. In addition, the studio has also adapted the game to today’s display formats: developed in 4/3 at the time, Windjammers goes to 16/9 with this second episode. Consequently, the length of the field is greater (without it being a defect) while the public has been added to compensate for the gains in width : without being the modification of the century, this novelty gives life to the matches and reinforces this feeling of immersion of being “on the field”.
- Almost immediate handling…
- The strategic depth brought by the new mechanics…
- Online mode, perfectly integrated
- Nervousness and tension worthy of the greatest sporting events
- More than faithful to the first episode
- Hand-painted 2D renderings that set the tone
- …but the tutorial is much too light
- …which can discourage the less determined
- A training mode would not have been too much
- Not enough solo content
- A soundtrack behind
With Windjammers 2, Dotemu keeps its promise. The game excels in what it is asked to do: namely, to offer a nervous and dynamic sports game perfect for evenings with friends. In this sense, Windjammers 2 is the logical continuation of the episode released in 1994: new characters, new mechanics and online ranked games, it comes out with all the advantages expected of such a title in 2022. in easy hand does not close the door to neophytes while the added moves constitute an additional strategic layer for amateurs of high level game. That said, it must be recognized that the title of Dotemu is sorely lacking in content and that it will hardly hook solo players in the long term.
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