Windjammers review (PS4/Vita)

Developer DotEmu previously brought Ys Origin to the Vita, and now they’re releasing a classic Neo Geo title in the form of Windjammers. It’s also available for PS4, and crossbuy functionality ensures that you get both versions for the price of one. Here are our impressions.

The Neo Geo, back when it was launched, was mainly known for two things: the insanely high prices of their games, and the fact that the system allowed you to play perfect arcade versions right in the comfort of your own living room. Out of reach for most regular gamers, it was still a fascinating system that generated a lot of classic titles. Franchises like Metal Slug, Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters all have their roots on the system and endure to this day through various compilations and re-releases.

For me personally, the Neo Geo was also the system that produced a soccer franchise called Super Sidekicks – which looked incredibly realistic during a time when Sensible Soccer was the genre favorite. Windjammers was another Neo Geo title that wasn’t a shooter or fighter, and its hybrid of dodgeball, shuffleboard, Speedball and Pong has made it a fan favorite – prompting DotEmu to bring it back for modern systems.

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The essence of Windjammers is very simple – you throw a ball back and forth, and score points by throwing it into a goal area or when your opponent fails to catch a high ball before it lands. When you’re not in possession of the ball, your task is to prevent that by walking or diving into the ball’s path before it reaches one of your goals (there are multiple, worth either 3 or 5 points). Once you gain possession, you have a variety of shots available to you, ranging from power throws to curve balls to special moves that differ per character.

The way you launch these different attacks is all about speed, timing and thumbpad movement – and it’s almost as if Windjammers took a few cues from The King of Fighters in this regard. A match is played on a “best of three sets” basis, where winning two secures your win and a sudden death tiebreaker occurs when you are tied at 2-2 because of a draw in your third game. However it plays out, matches are short, and the arcade mode is over fairly soon once you master the game.

The real joy is in the multiplayer portion of the game though, which can be played either locally (which is the best option available but obviously PS4 exclusive) or online. It’s the kind of game that is easy to pick up yet hard to master, and two newcomers who play each other will instantly have fun with it. The game also mixes up the layout of the arena quite a bit (with different bumpers, goal placements, etc.), so there’s no surefire tactic that is guaranteed to win every time.

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Windjammers also features a few mini-games you can try your hand at, which are fun as a way to mix up the action but can also be played in standalone modes. My favorite is a kind of frisbee challenge when you play as a dog chasing down a frisbee/disc while getting around obstacles. Especially on the Vita, these single player-focused modes are a lot of fun to play in short bursts.

Another reason that makes Windjammers work well on the Vita is that it’s a fairly faithful recreation of the Neo Geo version in terms of the audiovisual presentation – which makes for excellent performance although fans perhaps were hoping for the kind of upgrade that the recent Monster Boy title got from DotEmu.

Windjammer may be over twenty years old at this point, but it’s still a fun arcade sports title – though one that’s best enjoyed in local multiplayer. This makes the PS4 version the go-to title as Vita owners will have to depend on the online community for their multiplayer urges, which can result in long wait times unless you have friends who are also playing. Luckily, it’s a cross buy title so you won’t have to choose between the two versions! Play all the single player bits on the Vita, then play for hours in local multiplayer once you grow tired of the single player mode.

Score: 7.8/10

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