Windjammers 2 on Switch
Back in 1994 the original Windjammers hit NEO GEO MVS arcade cabinets which meant those lucky few who owned the relatively obscure and expensive console could also enjoy this game at home. Unfortunately, that led to the game falling into relative obscurity until it was released on the Wii Virtual Console back in 2010 and then ported in 2017. The team behind that port, DotEmu, is now back with Windjammers 2 to put some respect on this wildly underrated franchise.
The quick elevator pitch on Windjammers is that it’s essentially a top-down version of handball with a frisbee, played on a tennis court. The point of the game is to throw the disc past your opponent into their goal in order to score points. Certain areas of the goal are worth more points than others. You can also score if your opponent fails to catch the disc and it lands on their side of the court. After a player gets 15 points, then they win the set. Win two sets and you win the game.
It’s a straightforward concept that is made incredibly fun and addictive by the nonstop, intense gameplay. The quicker you’re able to respond to an opponent’s throw by grabbing the disc and tossing it, the faster your own throw will fly across the court. This makes for some impressive-looking volleys even at the lower levels of competitive play.
But if you want to make it in a competitive match, then you’ll also need to change speeds, add in the occasional drop shot or lob, and even curve your shot to completely throw off your opponent’s timing. The best thing about all of these additional types of tosses is that they’re just as simple to implement into your repertoire as a regular one. Every type of shot is just a face button press plus a direction of the left stick.
Despite the simplicity, there’s plenty of room for high-level play. Up until COVID reared its ugly head, the original Windjammers had a small but dedicated following that would host tournaments around the world.
The core gameplay that made the original a cult classic is still present in Windjammers 2 along with a handful of new mechanics that only make these high-speed back and forth battles even more intense. The jump, smash, drop shot, slap shot, power toss, power disc, and roll smash are all incredibly useful additions in Windjammers 2 that give the familiar gameplay an entirely fresh feeling.
On top of the fantastic gameplay is a hand-drawn art style that looks like it’s torn right out of a futuristic early 90s Saturday morning cartoon. Each character has their own distinctive look — while still fitting in the futuristic theme — that makes them instantly distinguishable from the rest of the roster. The six players from the original game are all in Windjammers 2 along with four new additions in J.Raposa, S.Delys, H-Max, and S.Ho.
Besides just looking different, each player on the Windjammers 2 roster has clearly labeled strengths in the categories of Speed or Power. The one exception is S.Ho who is the one character to have an even split between the two stats. The only thing that’s missing on the character select screen is a preview of their power tosses. Instead, you’ll just have to jump into a quick match and test out each character and try to memorize each character’s power toss.
If you’re planning on taking Windjammers 2 that seriously, then you’ll want to check out the online modes. Playing on the Switch, I was initially concerned that a game like this would be rendered nearly unplayable online. But I was pleasantly surprised. The online experience was even good enough to play on Wi-Fi. It’s important to note that my Switch getting 42 Mbps down and 19 Mbps up while on wireless.
However, it’s hard to truly say how the online experience will be once the game is out in the wild. The fact that Windjammers 2 has rollback is certainly encouraging and it seemed to work well with the small sample of online opponents I was able to play against.
Despite all that is good in this game, there are just not enough options when it comes to different types of gameplay. You can play arcade mode, versus, or online, but they’re all essentially the same. Some courts have gimmicks or different point values in their goals that try to shake up the standard formula. In the end, they’re not enough to make the core gameplay feel all that different.
Overall, Windjammers 2 is a massive success that fans of the franchise will surely enjoy and those new to the game will quickly understand why the fans of the original game love it. The lack of game modes with meaningfully different gameplay is unquestionably disappointing. Yet, the core gameplay is just so good and enjoyable that hours will pass in the blink of an eye.
- Fantastic gameplay
- Rollback netcode
- New gameplay mechanics
- Classic core gameplay
- Not enough different gameplay modes