If you were one of the unlucky few to own a Sega CD when it came out you were no doubt disappointed in its meager software offerings. However, there was one title that really struck a chord with players and funny enough it was originally packed in for free when the system first launched. I am of course referring to Silpheed, which ironically enough received an upgrade not too long ago on Sony’s still dominant PS2 platform. Now that the next-generation of consoles have landed on the market GameArts and publishing super-power Square-Enix have brought forth a new chapter in the franchise, which oddly enough is being published by Microsoft Game Studios in the US. The big difference here is that game more resembles Wing Commander or Colony Wars rather than its predecessor.
Instead of dodging spreads of bullets you are now thrust into an open-world space combat sim that focuses more on one-on-one dog fighting. This also alters the dynamic of simplistic weapons and fast-paced action giving the game a more methodic and strategic feel. I highly recommend giving the tutorial a complete run-through just to learn all of the intricacies of the control scheme before diving into battle as it will come in handy in the long run.
The combat itself is actually very well done if not a bit complicated and daunting at first. You will have to learn to match speed with an opponent, cycle weapons, and even perform aerial maneuvers all while in the heat of a firefight. After completing the training and blasting through a few missions all of this will feel like second nature, but for those hoping for a pick up and play mentality you will be sorely disappointed.
As you progress through the game you can also earn upgrades to your weapons. While this is a nice touch I found myself finding a nice combo and sticking with it. Granted you can take the time to test each weapon against different enemies to see which has the greatest effect, but this leads to tedious trial and error that simply isn’t necessary to complete the game. You can also bark simplistic orders to your wingmen such as attack your currently targeted enemy or to get the enemy off of your tail, but just like the enhanced weapons I found myself ignoring this less than half-way through the game.
Probably the most surprising aspect of Project Sylpheed though is the integration of the story. While not a pivotal role in most shooters the storyline here is certainly engaging to the point where you will actually take the time to watch the finely crafted cut scenes in between missions. Without spoiling too much the inhabitants of Earth have been slowly colonizing the galaxy for over 500 years when a rebel group called ADAN decides enough is enough. This sparks a conflict that sees the main character deal with more emotional struggle than an episode of Gilmore Girls. It is refreshing to see this kind of storytelling in a game where you actually start to care what happens, even if it is short-lived and extremely cheesy.
Even with all of these high marks Sylpheed isn’t without problems. My biggest gripe comes in the hidden time limits scattered throughout the game. More often than not I would fail a mission simply because I didn’t complete it fast enough; worse part was I didn’t even know there was a time limit. This design really put a hurting on my replayability as I often turned the game off in frustration. The second biggest complaint is obviously a lack of online multi-player. For years we have been starving for a great online space shooter in the vein of Tie Fighter or Colony Wars and still we have yet to see one. Perhaps we could get StarLancer on Xbox Live Arcade? All requests aside this game screams for a multi-player component and sadly suffers without one.
Even with these shortcomings Project Sylpheed is a game that anyone who enjoys the genre should not miss. With a friendly price tag and polished visuals you will be hard-pressed to find enough faults to not recommend this game to anyone who enjoys space shooters. While online is sorely missed and the flawed mission design will ensue rage there is still plenty here to enjoy. If you are on the fence give the demo a whirl of simply Net Flix it; I guarantee you will find plenty to love about GameArts latest space odyssey.