Over the past few years, Dotemu has been taking past beloved properties and bringing them into a new age. While the graphics have certainly improved since its NEOGEO genesis, Windjammers 2 takes its original spirit and moves forward, presenting entertaining, frenetic gameplay. However, for this modern era, it feels lacking in content, but maybe, that’s okay.
It’s been 25 years, but Windjammers 2 brings back the cult classic game into a new era. It simultaneously keeps its 90s energy alive with vibrant visuals and cool character designs that feel of its era. In this sports title, you are throwing discs back and forth into the goal line. It’s like a blend of tennis, air hockey, dodgeball, and soccer, in the best way. And while simple to play in most aspects, it’s still energizing to this day. The disc is thrown left, right, and center, and you want to aim it at the opportune location to get the most points. And while you’d expect the three-pointers to be on the outlines and the five-pointers in the zone behind the opponent at all times, that isn’t, particularly the case.
A simple precise of throwing a disc between you and another player in this game turns into an absolute riot. You can do different trick shots, like slamming the disk down, lobbing it to the other side of the arena, hitting it back for a faster return, and simply trying to throw it to the other side of the map to trick your opponent. Like air hockey at the arcade, you can bounce the disc on the walls to get some awesome trick shots. The standard game is fun already with many different ways of returning the disc.
There are special abilities that each character has, as well, however. A brand new star Sophie De Lys can throw her disc like a rocket, supercharging it into the opposite side of the arena at a high speed. Meanwhile, Sammy Ho, another fresh fighter for the sequel, unleashes a three-pronged strike with his special ability, confusing the player on the disc’s true location. The majority of the special moves are balanced, but we found the returning Steve Miller and Hurricane Max’s attacks a bit too difficult to catch; they’re both way too speedy and Max’s has too much animation around it to detect where the disk is before its too late.
The stages all feel vibrant and consistently change the formula of Windjammers 2. For example, at a casino level, the points that determine your goal score changes from a lucky draw. You can score between one to eight points, depending on what you get. Meanwhile, at the junkyard, there are weights in the center of the stage that can block your disc or allow you to maneuver it to an unexpected location on the opposing side. These stage varients help make the game feel fresh for a few hours.
Everything in the game looks stunning. It looks retro but touched up with excellent render work and animations. While the crowd doesn’t react to what’s going on in the match, they do have charming animations that help make the stages feel alive. For example, at the junkyard again, you see a couple kissing on the left side, a woman drinking bottles underneath an umbrella, and a couple of kids getting hyped for the match they are watching. They all add character to the already beautiful graphic comic-like world.
Even though the stages and animation look charming and retro at the same time, the game does have a few faults. First, it’s way too hard. Even on Easy mode, I was struggling to beat the opponents in the game. They easily catch the disc and retaliate in a brutal fashion. I’ve finished the campaign a few times, but I failed more often than not. In addition, there isn’t a tutorial mode as Dotemu instead opted to include an on-screen manual instead. It does go through the important moves, but when you’re first starting out, the CPUs can be terrifying to go up against. Thankfully, I’m starting to get a hang of it, but it will take a few hours to understand the rhythm of the game and the different moves at their disposal.
In addition, the roll animation seems just a little too slow. It will be difficult to capture the special move strikes from Steve Miller and Hurricane Max as they’re just a tad too fast for the roll that you have. I also feel like the button delay for rolling is a tad off, creating some frustrating moments during gameplay. With a few improvements through patching, Dotemu should have a rock-solid sports game in its hands.
Despite some issues with the controls, it plays like a dream. It runs perfectly at 60 frames-per-second on the Nintendo Switch (even while in portable mode) and the reaction time for the majority of moves is pristine. Every swing of the disc feels amazing and accurate, and at most elements of the game, you’ll know when you’ve screwed up. I imagine that the volleys in Windjammers 2 between top-level players will be amazing to watch. Hopefully, a pro tournament scene emerges from the ashes of this game series and shines like a phoenix.
However, you should know that there is a lack of modes in Windjammers 2. There isn’t a big story to divulge in, and there are no challenges to complete. Instead, there lie online and arcade modes in the game. Arcade takes you through five stages of fierce competition and at the end, you’ll receive a few brief graphics explaining a bit of their background. Then, there is the online mode that allows you to play ranked, brisk you into a quick match or lets you compete with friends. There is a leaderboard as well if you’re intrigued. One small feature that every online game should have is the number of players that are currently playing. Windjammers 2 has that feature while you’re logged in, so you know if it’s worth searching for a ranked or quick match at that very moment or not.
I’ve admittedly only played two online matches, and to be honest, I had mixed results. The first match was likely with someone from Latin America as the name hinted towards that area. It was certainly playable, but at multiple points of the match, the game froze and the opponent scored without me being able to counter. However, I also played with someone from Asia with Japanese characters, and the connection was close to perfect with no drops whatsoever.
To end this review on a positive note, the music is absolutely glorious. It has an awesome rocky 90s vibe that would fit into any electrifying game show of that time. At the Tiled stadium, there’s a riveting guitar riff that goes completely ham. The beach stage also gives a wonderful summer vibe with its music as it provides a rush of positive energy and an upbeat melody.
If you love sports games or have some great memories from playing the first Windjammers, I’d highly recommend it to you. The thrill of its high-intensity volleys, awesome power-ups, and overall joyful personality will keep me coming back for more arcade goodness. It just lacks a wealth of single-player content and an easier difficulty. It also has a few balancing issues that can likely be fixed later on.