At PAX 2019, OnlySP had the chance to sit down and play Windjammers 2 with its creative director Stephane Perez. Windjammers 2 is a sequel to the 1994 sports arcade game released by Data East on the Neo Geo arcade system. In 2017, DotEmu ported the game to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, as well as Nintendo Switch in 2018 and the upcoming Google Stadia. Players continuously attempt to shoot a disc into the opponent’s goal zone to score points.
While the demo was designed for co-op to move the line for the booth faster, Thomas Schulenberg of Tinsley PR confirmed the presence of single-player content, just like the first Windjammers.
The first thing I noticed about Windjammers 2 was the updated visuals. The pixel-based NeoGeo character sprites are gone—replaced with almost comic book-like art. While pixel-based artwork has a fanbase, I find the style overhaul a necessary move to appeal to a broader audience. However, alongside the new art style are updated mechanics to ensure the game feels like a true sequel.
For the demo, six characters were unlocked from the beginning, three new ones and three returning. Having played the first Windjammers, I was familiar with the returning characters: K. Wessel from Germany, H. Mita from Japan, and L. Biaggi from Italy. The three new characters were S. De Lys from France, H. Max from Canada, and J. Raposa from Brazil.
I was keen to try the new characters, so for the first round, I played as Rapoza, clearly the youngest of the new characters. Rapoza is built on speed, able to chase after returned frisbees easier. Anyone who has played the first Windjammers will find themselves at home, as the basic premise and controls are the same, except this time characters can jump(!). Although playing with an Xbox controller felt strange (I played the first Windjammers on PlayStation Vita), I quickly became accustomed to the set up.
During our match, Perez used one on Windjammers 2’s new mechanics: the dropshot. In the first Windjammers, I always found sticking towards the back of the court, close to my own goal, beneficial in guarding it. However, dropshots completely change that strategy. When I stood back, Perez simply whacked the frisbee and it landed with a thud at the net in the middle of the court. Being at the back, I was unable to reach the frisbee, and Perez scored a point with that play before I was able to react or process what just happened. Perez also used the new smash technique, which is similar to spikes in volleyball. He was able to toss the frisbee in the air, jump to catch it, then slam it down towards the back of my court. Unfortunately, I lost both sets against Perez.
For the second match, I chose H. Max, whose strength is power. This time around, I was prepared for Perez’s tricks. I stayed towards the middle of my court as to not miss any of his dropshots. One thing that I noticed is that the toss mechanic is much more difficult to execute. In the first Windjammers, players would have to stand still and press X (not cross, Sony) to toss the disc into the air. However, in Windjammers 2, players do not have to stand still, but the timing to press X is stricter. I gained the upper hand against Perez, and I used the Ex Move mechanic—basically an ‘Ultimate Attack’—where I threw a powerful curved shot around Perez and scored a goal. Players have a bar at the bottom corner of their screens that fill up during the match, and, when it is full, they can unleash the Ex Move. I ultimately got revenge on Perez and won the set. My game-winning point involved tossing the disc (after getting the timing down, finally), then jumping and grabbing it to get ready for a slam—but instead of doing the slam, I simply let myself get back down to the ground and fired a regular a shot into Perez’s goal. I bet he wasn’t expecting that!
The core premise of Windjammers 2 is the same as the first, so existing fans will definitely enjoy this sequel. The game adds mechanics that offer new dynamics to the gameplay, such as the dropshot. The new characters are welcome, too, representing countries that were not present previously. Whether the promised single-player content is going to be a simple campaign facing off against the other AI characters like the first game has yet to be revealed, but Windjammers 2 is a great time nonetheless.
Windjammers 2 will release on Nintendo Switch and PC later in 2019.