At the PlayStation booth at Pax East in Boston, the highly-anticipated return of Windjammers was on display for players to play. The retro video game is slated for release on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita Handheld sometime this year.
Originally released in 1994, Windjammers is an arcade video game where two players compete in a futuristic sport, inspired by tennis, volleyball, and Atari’s Pong. Players must move around the board, throwing their cyber-Frisbee across the stage in an effort to score and went the match. The anticipation of Windjammer is quite high, as the game comes from legendary video game studio, SNK, the makers of classic franchises such as Metal Slug and The King of Fighters. In the mid-90’s, SNK released their own gaming systems The Neo-Geo and the Neo-Geo CD. Windjammers made its way to these consoles following its arcade debut in 1994.
Windjammers follows a string of surprise returns for SNK classics, all remastered but not remade. Players still have the 16-bit pixelated visuals and sharp arcade audio, but with modern controls attuned to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Recent releases include The Last Blade 2 and Giroux: Mark of the Wolves.
At the PlayStation booth at PAX East, I immediately grabbed a controller and began to play. I went into the game completely cold, with no tutorial or instruction. Part of this was because the “press hour”, and hour in which the media has exclusive access to the Pax show floor for one hour, was running out. I was eager to check the game out.
I chose a random character and started right away in my match. I was facing off against another AI-controlled player, and soon, we were throwing the cyber Frisbees left and right. The objective was to throw the Frisbee around the player and into the goal. This is much harder done than said.
In moments, I was already scored upon by the opponent. It is then I knew I had to get my bearings. I realized the players could dash across the board, and with the right timing, grab the disc right in mid-air. Also, similar to pong or Disc of Tron, I noticed that I could angle the Frisbee throw. The Frisbee bounces off the walls, and at the right angle, could be the winning shot.
The more I played, the more I got the hang of it, though playing without the tutorial would cost me a few points. Players can pull off a super move, which allows the disc to come flying at near light-speed into the goal. I did not know how to activate this and found myself at a disadvantage. The opponent’s power move was to slam the Frisbee into the walls and have the Frisbee bounce repeatedly back and forth. You can intercept these special movies, but that is not easy.
Eventually, I was able to pull my own moves, twice. The Frisbee turned into a swirling disc of fire and flames, flying past the opponent and successfully scoring. Over the course of the match, things became very intense! I could feel my mind fixated on the heat of the match and my hands twitching to every sudden move possible in the game. This was white-knuckle competition in all of its pixelated 16bit glory!
After a few minutes, I successfully won two rounds against two different opponents and was treated to a mini game of fetch, where I would throw the Frisbee as fast and as hard as possible, getting a high score. With that, my demo ended.
Windjammers is shaping up to be a nice throwback to a classic era in gaming, from the sharp visuals, wonderfully preserved sound, and fantastic, intense gameplay. Look for Windjammers to swing your way sometime this year.