It is time to admit it, but my reflexes aren’t what they used to be. Being the high school goalkeeper elongated my reflex lifespan perhaps longer than it should most, but there is a reason I prefer the single player lifestyle. And games like Windjammers 2 will only remind me of the fact that I am utterly useless at online competitive multiplayer. But when you are still having fun despite being routinely beaten, doesn’t that say a lot about the game?
Windjammers 2 is the sequel to the 1994 Neo Geo arcade game. The original recently had a resurgence in popularity thanks to a port with added online multiplayer that appeared on PlayStation and Nintendo Switch in 2018. That never made it over to the Xbox, but the sequel has, launching straight into Xbox Game Pass too.
Have you ever played table hockey at an arcade? That is Windjammers in a nutshell, though it does also get surprisingly complex too. Players must attempt to get the disc into their opponents’ goal, or an area where they cannot catch it. Different goal areas score differently but be the first to 15 points and you win the set. Win two sets and you win the match.
It is also reminiscent of Pong in that you are playing in an arena in which you have a top-down view of. However, you aren’t simply batting the disc between each other. You will automatically catch the disc instead. From this point you can choose to throw it, lob it or toss it up in the air for a smash shot. Here is where the twitch reflexes come in handy as the quicker you react to your opponent’s shot, the better your riposte. Defend the smash or super shots of your opponent and you can find yourself reversing them; utilising them yourself. The basic shots can only get you so far in Windjammers 2; advanced tactics are key to victory on higher difficulties.
Character selection is also very important and you can get a taste of these during the Arcade mode, choosing from one of ten characters – to begin with at least – based on their speed and power attributes. And I cannot emphasise how much these really make a difference. My experiences with Arcade mode had been failure after failure; for the way I played I had been picking characters with too much of an emphasis on speed rather than power. Then I chose my man Max Hurricane, a big brute of a guy who looks almost like a bad Captain America cosplayer. Hardly any speed but loads of power, we blitzed our way through the four rounds of Arcade – and two bonus modes – to the final only to be beaten. Our tactic of aiming for the corners didn’t work in the final arena due to the subtle shaping of this particular arena. I was way more upset than I had any right to be, but at least I had found my Windjammers man.
The loss did come as a surprise, but more so how different the courts can play from each other. Not only does the scoring differ across courts, but the overall shape changes too. They are split into three classes: Narrow, Regular or Wide. Sometimes the scoring zones has the max score of five down the middle, and other times it is in the corners. Apart from the Casino court, where the disc is designed as a casino chip, denoting its value for that particular point.
Away from Arcade mode, Windjammers 2 is fully designed to be played against human opponents. As well as local multiplayer for two people where you can amend various attributes as you see fit, there is a large emphasis on online multiplayer.
In fact, the online option is at the top of the main menu, giving you some indication of where Windjammers 2 is being pitched.
Online is split into Ranked, Quick and with friends. Online matches with friends once again allow the rulesets to be changed as you see fit. The other two modes use the default rules; first to 15 points with the set and whoever wins two sets wins the match.
The online lobby indicates how many people are currently playing online thanks to a number at the bottom of the screen. As Windjammers 2 is launching into Xbox Game Pass, you shouldn’t have too long to wait for a match. Though, choosing a Quick Match instead of a Ranked one will further increase your chances. It would appear most players are just wanting some casual multiplayer as Ranked mode seems pretty barren.
Matches online can vary in quality. One game I had with high ping resulted in chaos and not of the good kind. I had thrown the disc past my opponent for it to only then suddenly appear in their hands as they slapped it back into my goal instead. Launch day teething issues are par for the course nowadays however, but hopefully these issues can be ironed out as the game moves forward.
Crossplay is also enabled but can be turned off in the menu should you desire.
And did we mention how ‘90s Windjammers 2 is? Just look at the screenshots. And the accompanying soundtrack is ripped straight from the same time period. Windjammers 2 is the type of game that still uses the terms ‘radical’, ‘hip’, ‘eat my shorts’ and ‘take a chill pill’ unironically.
Windjammers 2 is more proof that simple ideas can take off when done effectively. What is essentially Pong sprinkled with a bit of table hockey and a dash of Street Fighter works because it is so simple to play. Spend just a short amount of time with it and you will discover a whole range of advanced techniques to help turn the tide in your favour.
Windjammers 2 doesn’t add too much over the original – it just refreshes things and adds more depth. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.