Windjammers 2: review of the sequel that no one was waiting for, but everyone should play



A review of Windjammers 2, a sequel to an arcade classic that no one ever thought they’d see in 2022, especially done so well.

Do you know Pong? Atari’s Nolan Bushnell stole from Ralph Baer, the designer of Magnavox’s Odyssey, that simple yet brilliant idea that would later launch the video game industry: two rackets placed on opposite sides of the screen, moving only vertically, and a ball to repel: whoever misses the ball the most loses. The project was to make a kind of ping pong simulation, but the result was the realization of an archetypal video game that, either by virtue of the authors, or because of the technological limitations of the time, staged in a way that has become iconic one of the essential elements of the game and the video player: the confrontation. Since then, the Pong scheme has been used in countless titles, arcade and otherwise, evolving along with the hardware, but never giving up its founding core.

One of these epigones was Windjammers, a game for arcades and Neo Geo consoles published in 1994 by Data East, in which two athletes, placed on opposite sides of various playgrounds, had to compete to see who could put the most Frisbees in the opponent’s goal, to reach 15 points. It was a simple but mercilessly funny game, but it didn’t give life to a series and never had a following… or, at least, it didn’t have one until today.

The review of Windjammers 2, talks about the surprise that you don’t expect and that you discover, after a few games, that you can’t do without.

The background

Windjammers 2 is the January surprise

Really, who expected to start 2022 with a sequel to Windjammers? Above all, who thought it would be done so well that it would not regret the original? Usually these operations leave the time for what they are, that is, they come out nice games that wink at the fans of some average famous series of the past, which no longer interest the big industry, and die there. In recent years the French publisher Dotemu, now controlled by Focus Home Interactive, has put itself in the spotlight for the recovery of titles of the past, first republishing some in very successful operations such as Double Dragon Trilogy, then commissioning remakes of high level as that of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap and finally making or commissioning new episodes of series considered dead as Pang Adventures, but especially the excellent Streets of Rage 4, which also sold very well.

Now it is the turn of Windjammers 2, probably taken more for love of the original than thinking about the possibility of selling millions of copies, since we are not talking about a name of who knows what appeal to the masses.

Playable even alone, Windjammers was at its best against another human being, where the matches became something physical both inside the screen and in reality, with the special attacks of the six selectable players often emphasized by blatant gestures and loud screams, especially after scoring points. Windjammers 2 doesn’t just celebrate the original, but takes up its spirit, presenting itself as a renewed version of a formula that can’t be perfected any more than it already is and would be destroyed by any kind of structural change. So here again the playing fields are fixed screens, so without any scrolling or zooming, and here again 2D graphics have been chosen, less pixel art and more illustration, but still very colorful and lively, so as not to lose the style of the original.

Of course, there are some new features in terms of content, but let’s go in order.

Game modes and characters

Super shots have very nice animations

Started Windjammers 2 we are given the choice to select one of the three modes available: the online multiplayer, made of fast games, ranked, or customized, that is, you can set the general parameters (duration, score to achieve and so on); the arcade mode, in which selected the difficulty level we must win five games against the CPU to become the world champions of the discipline and the versus mode, where we can play a single match locally against a human opponent or against the CPU.

The roster of playable characters is not very large, but in our opinion is more than enough for the type of game: there are ten athletes who stand out for their power and speed values, as well as for their special shots. Six of them are returners, that is they were also present in the first chapter: the Japanese Hiromi Mita, the fastest and least powerful of the group, the English Steve Miller, another very fast character, the Spanish Jordi Costa and the Italian Loris Biaggi (curiosity: the name comes from the motorcyclists Loris Capirossi and Max Biaggi), both with balanced values, the American Gary Scott and the German Klaus Wessel, both very powerful, but definitely slow.

The new recruits do not disfigure in front of the old ones

The new recruits are the very fast J. Raposa, from Brazil, the French S. Dalys, who honors the nationality of the developers and is a fairly balanced character, the Canadian H-Max, powerful but slow, and the Chinese S.Ho, another balanced character. The only absentee is Korean Bee-Ho Yoo, who appeared in the original version of Windjammers in place of Steve Miller in all territories except the USA. Actually, the two characters had identical sprites, but different voiceovers. Note that each character has its own ending, often linked to the commonplaces of his nation (spoiler: guess what Loris Biagi ends up as? Working in a pizzeria where he is attacked by mobsters that he silences with pizza … just missing the mandolin). Overall, they are not exactly the best, but it is an extra overlooked, except by those who want Windjammers 2 for its narrative side (who, pray tell?).

Fields

The fields are all different from each other, not only graphically

The focus of Windjammers was pure fun, and that of Windjammers 2 is exactly the same. Indeed, without bothering a concept as aleatory and intangible as fun, we would like to call it a cheerful game, a word that makes better what you feel playing it. But let’s go back to its more concrete aspects. Once you’ve selected your favorite character, it’s time to take the field. While not making too many bows to modernity, the Arcade mode is slightly more structured than the original and for each match allows you to choose between two courts, for two different opponents. Only the last match is fixed, i.e. it is played on a field chosen by the CPU and against the last player left among the ten.

Paon DP, the development team, has also kept the idea of the two bonus stages, confirming one already seen in the first Windjammers, the Frisbee throw on the beach, which consists in throwing the disc as far as possible so that it is caught on the fly by a dog running after it. The second, however, has been modified: no more bowling, but a challenge to catch on the fly and smash the discs thrown by a machine shoots Frisbee.

Some fields offer peculiar elements

Their playing fields all have peculiarities that make them unique and that, even in the presence of apparently minimal differences, deeply alter the strategies to be adopted to win, depending on the character selected. For example, there are narrower fields, such as the beach, that favor slower characters, because they run less risk of leaving uncovered corners where the opponent can try to put his shots, while on the contrary, wider fields, such as the stadium or the casino, favor faster characters who can cover greater distances more quickly with their slides.

However, there are also other variables to consider, such as the presence of small obstacles placed in the middle of some fields, which can make the trajectory of the puck less predictable, even blocking it, or the positioning of the goalposts, which require you to better cover the areas of the field that if pierced would yield more points to the opponent.

Gameplay

Speed or power?

As we said, the gameplay of Windjammers 2 is very fast. Each character has a very high mobility: in addition to walking can perform more or less rapid slides and can jump to try to grab the freesbee on the fly, to maybe crush it in the opponent’s field and get two points. The throwing techniques of the Frisbee are even more and, once mastered, give many possibilities in terms of tactics, although you must learn to reason very quickly on what to do, becoming as instinctive as possible in the responses, if you want to have some chance of victory against stronger players. However, in addition to normal shots of varying power, it is possible to execute effect shots, with less predictable trajectories, as well as palombella shots, which are used to try to make the puck fall to the ground in the opponent’s half of the field; the already mentioned dunk and quick responses, with which you basically punch the puck, quickly pushing it away from the other side of the field.

There are also several super shots, which are activated after charging into a position to retrieve the puck, after having parried it: a flat shot, which rolls towards the opponent’s goal, a rotating shot, which whirls around the field, and the special shot, which is different depending on the character selected. To give a couple of examples, Loris Biagi creates whirlwinds of fire with the Frisbee, while Jordi Costa performs a very fast Zig Zag shot.

Offensive and defensive techniques offer great leeway at the tactical level

It is important to note that the player has full control over the shots made by his character. During the first few games it seems to be at the mercy of chance, but the more you become aware of the control system and of the combinations of keys and stick movements, useful to give directions and effects, the more exciting the games become because you really feel like the master of the playing field and you understand that there is nothing random about it: you win if you are good (relatively to the selected difficulty level or to that of the human opponent you meet) and if you learn to exploit the spaces left by the opponent, while dominating your own half of the field.

At higher levels, Windwammers 2 becomes a real spectacle, with the shots in rapid series that seem almost choreographed, helped by the physicality with which the disc interacts with the characters, which gives a unique feeling, and games played until the last second (at the end of the time wins the round who has more points, while the game is won at best of two, at least the standard ones). Soon you realize that the variants to consider are more than what they seem at first glance, such as the energy bar that loads in the lower right corner while playing, which once full allows you to perform a special defense technique, which blocks the puck automatically within a certain area, or an enhanced version of the super shot.

Conclusions

Will we get it or will it be points?

A special praise deserves the fact that Windjammers 2 is a game that deeply respects the player’s time. A single game lasts only a few minutes, while it takes about half an hour to finish the arcade mode (if you win all the games). By accumulating points you win credits that allow you to continue in case of defeat, but the game time is slightly longer and you never feel burdened by not knowing whether or not you’ll be able to finish what you’re doing. Someone might consider the not many contents a malus, but it is sincerely to wonder what other characters or other fields could have added to the game, given the balance achieved with the roster included. After all, we are talking about an arcade title to the marrow that makes the most especially when played with other human beings, so what matters is not so much the outline, as the core gameplay and the refinement of the mechanics that govern it, in this case excellent.

As a comparison, although a bit ‘forced, we are quoting Rocket League, which stands very well even without all the cosmetic extras added over the years. On the other hand, the game is visually very tasty, while not working miracles, thanks to the details that fill every field, especially on the side of the audience (the terrain is designed for maximum readability), and the beautiful animations of shots and characters. The bottom line is that Windjammers 2 is a little gem that has projected us into a dimension of the game that we have not experienced for a long time, reminding us of the days of the arcades, with the lines in front of the most popular booths and coins placed in the boxes to get a few minutes of happiness.

Comment

Windjammers 2 is an excellent title that succeeds in hitting the target in full, achieving what it set out to do: to be the sequel that Windjammers never had, taking over its playability and joy. Incredible how the developers have managed not to sacrifice anything of the nature of the game, while improving in every aspect. Did you need some more content? Maybe, but we guarantee you that you’ll find it hard to tear yourself away, especially if you have someone to play it with, offline or online.

PRO

  • It has the spirit of Windjammers
  • Mechanics very finished
  • Very fast gameplay
  • Any additional content?
  • Some character endings are a little embarrassing
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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