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August 2022

Windjammers 2

Platform(s): Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: DotEmu
Release Date: Jan. 20, 2022

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Switch Review - 'Windjammers 2'

by Andreas Salmen on July 1, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Windjammers 2 will combine everything fans love about the classic title with entirely hand-drawn 2D animations to create the ultimate windjamming experience.

If you've never heard of Windjammers, you're not alone. I certainly hadn't heard of it until very recently. It was originally released on the SNK and Neo Geo. If the developer Dotemu had not re-released the original game, video game history may have gone differently. Instead, Dotemu doubled down with an official sequel, Windjammers 2, which was released on all current platforms a short while ago. I've spent several hours with the Nintendo Switch version, and I'm simultaneously hooked and let down by a title that has an addictive and competitive gameplay loop. It successfully pulled me in, but it falls short in many other aspects.

Windjammers 2 doesn't make any direct changes to the original, but it expands the move set with some additional options. The core concept still lies somewhere between street fighter and pong. Two mean-looking characters face off in 1v1 matches, throw a frisbee back and forth, and score points by reaching the back of the field or causing the opponent to drop the disc. It isn't a fixed scoring system, since scoring zones and attributed points can change on some stages. What isn't different are the win conditions. Whoever reaches 15 points first wins a set, and whoever wins the best of three sets wins the entire game.

Each "fighter" has strengths and weaknesses displayed in different speed and power attributes. The character selection ranges from decidedly frail characters that excel in speed to bulky powerhouses who slowly crawl across the field. All in all, the roster of 10 characters (and an additional hidden one) is sufficient to find a suitable champion for your play style, with each also having their own arena.

Windjammers 2 lives and dies with its gameplay. It's one of the titles that I probably wouldn't have considered until I saw the gameplay, which features a frantic back-and-forth of some Street Fighter-esque characters flinging discs at one another at insane speeds. Reaction time is just as important as thinking on your feet and building out an approach to defeat your opponent.

The slightly expanded move set offers different opportunities and a lot of nuance. You can throw lobbed, straight, or curved shots, but those will rarely surprise your opponent. If you hit the disc right before you'd naturally catch it, you can return it with much more force. If your opponent lobs the disc, you can charge your next shot if you stand directly underneath it during its trajectory. It's also important to move or dash across the field quickly, since a dropped disc means gifting your opponent with extra points.

If that weren't complex enough, there's also a special move that charges up throughout the match. It unleashes your most powerful throw, and it can also help you catch discs that you're unable to otherwise reach or discs that have already hit the ground. This creates a tight back-and-forth, if both players know what they're doing. You're constantly trying to lure your opponent out of position with varying throws and then punishing them while keeping your special move handy to recover a disc that you'd otherwise miss.

In many ways, I'd consider Windjammers 2 to be a perfect 1v1 game in a competitive environment or with friends, but it has a steep learning curve. It doesn't help that the game has a few text boxes that explain the ins and outs of the controls or the most basic mechanics. You'll likely feel lost, and that may not change with practice. I'd recommend watching a few online videos about how to master the controls and opponents. Once you get the hang of it, the feeling of skill and control over your character is amazing. The controls are tight, and mistakes are punished swiftly and without mercy. It plays amazingly and has become the arcade title that I'm most addicted to. Alas, that quickly faded because there isn't a whole lot to do, especially if you're playing on the Switch.

Windjammers 2 is an arcade title through and through. It offers the bare minimum, so do not expect a fleshed-out title with a ton of content. It leans on its addictive gameplay and competitive potential, rather than offering many different ways to enjoy it. If you're looking to game alone, there's an Arcade mode with three difficulties where you face off against all characters in the roster until you're crowned the champion. There are also two minigames within the Arcade mode, but otherwise, there is little here to go on. It's more or less a glorified training environment to test your skills against NPCs of varying difficulties, and it doesn't even wrap a story around the proceedings. That isn't bad, but since Windjammers 2 was released at the $20 price tag, I would've liked more content.

Is Windjammers 2 worth a purchase? That's highly dependent on the platform you plan to play on. On the Switch, it's pretty dead less than six months after release because it's the only platform to not support cross-play with other platforms, so the Switch community is isolated from the other consoles. In my experience, finding an online game is tricky, and if you find someone to play against, chances are they are vastly superior to you. Of course, there is local play, so if you know other people who own the Switch version, you can play against them.

For now, I cannot recommend picking up the game on the Switch, even though I adore its gameplay. The Switch has other advantages due to its portability and the ability to bring your game to play with a friend, but I think a broader player base would be preferable.

Technically, Windjammers 2 is nigh perfect on the console. The pretty pixel art graphics come across as sharp and colorful both when docked and in handheld mode, and we observed no performance issues at all. It's a perfect port on a technical level, and apart from limited cross-play, it's on par with all other versions, so there are no other complaints here.

Windjammers 2 is an addictive 1v1 arcade game that is perfect for esports or your own little rivalries. The tight gameplay and controls expand on the original, and if you find an opponent close to your own level, you'll experience a ton of great matches. There isn't much that you can do outside of some bot matches and local play. Online features are available, but during our testing period, it was almost impossible to find an opponent, much less one who wouldn't immediately obliterate us. That doesn't make Windjammers 2 less good, but it does limit how much of that goodness you can experience. If you have a few capable friends or want to try it on another console, Windjammers 2 is the perfect 1v1 game to play and obsess over in a friendly rivalry.

Score: 8.0/10

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