Title: Windjammers 2
Release Date: January 20, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Sports, Arcade
The original Windjammers was a NEOGEO classic, and it enjoyed a resurgence thanks to an excellent port by developer Dotemu on modern platforms, which even featured online multiplayer. Still, as timeless and playable as the original classic still is, it was about time we saw a modern sequel with some new bells and whistles. So, after porting the NEOGEO original, Dotemu went back and created their very own interpretation of the signature gameplay in the all-new Windjammers 2.
The first trait that will jump at players is the developer’s classic visual style, which can be found in some of their other projects like Streets of Rage 4, and the animation is just as fluid and smooth here. In an age where so many developers are attempting hand-drawn 2D, Dotemu has truly created their own signature style, one that is instantly recognizable. This style works wonders in creating a vibrant presentation for Windjammers 2, managing to stay true to the spirit of the IP, all while bringing in a fresh vibe.
Windjammers 2 plays just like the 1994 arcade hit, and it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel too much aside from adding new special moves. These incremental improvements make sense because there is no point in drastically changing gameplay that already worked so well. The experience essentially feels like the ultimate air hockey video game and, in so many ways, the ultimate evolution of Atari’s Pong. It’s the ultimate party game, one featuring plenty of nuance for skilled players but still always maintaining an unhindered pick-up-and-play appeal. It has the same alluring appeal as the air hockey table at your local bar and is always a blast to play with friends.
The set-up is as simple as it gets: toss the frisbee disc into your opponent’s goal. However, the real fun is the sheer freedom and mobility the game allows in how you throw the disc around. There are ten playable characters here, each with their own attributes and ’80s style. They each have unique special attacks, too; a feature Windjammers 2 prominently features in its gameplay mechanics.
It’s a relatively easy and self-explanatory game. You can throw the disc in various directions and speeds, taking advantage of the stage design to bounce and rebound it. Players can also toss the disc into the air and pull off some neat tricks. As they do this, a special meter fills up, which can perform powerful super attacks. The controls and core mechanics quickly become second nature, but true mastery comes down to timing, execution, and maintaining momentum. Every movement is crucial, especially when mastering the timing of receiving an opponent’s shot and instantly sending it back to them.
Windjammers 2 has a single-player arcade mode with a superb fighting game presentation, but honestly, this is not a game you’re going to enjoy playing against the AI. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that the CPU kind of cheats by reading your button inputs. Instead, it’s more about the sheer joy of playing a mental chess match with a human opponent. No CPU opponent can ever replicate this feeling. It’s all about making your foe flinch, and so as a couch multiplayer experience, it really doesn’t get much better than Windjammers 2. Thankfully the online multiplayer holds up just as well. Hopefully, the game quickly builds an online following.
Windjammers 2 isn’t necessarily better than the 1994 original. It’s simply a modern interpretation with a few new notable tricks up its sleeve. This isn’t necessarily a negative, as developer Dotemu has done a great job of adding new flavor and style to the strong fundamentals of classic play mechanics. If you’re a fan, chances you’re probably going to own and continue playing both games. It probably would have been nice if the sequel tried to do a little more in terms of single-player content, but this was always going to be a multiplayer experience first and foremost.
Windjammers 2 is a welcome modern interpretation of a timeless classic. It may not reinvent the wheel, but thanks to stylistic visuals and some new gameplay systems, this is a game you’re going to want to add to your multiplayer rotation, even if you happen to be still playing the original Windjammers.
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