Project Sylpheed Review
The vast power of the past couple generations of gaming systems is well known throughout the industry. Many old franchises have seen 3d revivals, some with huge amounts of success (Mario 64 and Metroid Prime spring to mind) while others have been abysmal failures (see Bomberman: Act Zero). Playing the games you played as a kid with all the nice features of today's gaming consoles can bring back memories from your childhood, though.
However, games may have been in 3D over 20 years ago but the graphics were very low quality. Jumping to a newer system, though, gives them a chance to be fully realized in what the developers may have hoped they would be. This is where Project Sylpheed falls in. Over 20 years ago, a game known as Silpheed was released on PCs. It was a very basic pseudo-3d shooter where you piloted a plane of sorts. For the time, it didn't look bad, sure. But for gamers today to appreciate it, the game needed a major facelift. Project Sylpheed on the Xbox 360 provides just that. Instead of being pseudo-3D, the game is now a 3D Space sim of sorts. In all, though, the game is really more of a mixed bag of quality, with some things (such as graphics) standing out while other areas (such as the story and gameplay) falling somewhat flat.
Project Sylpheed puts you in the shoes of Katana. If you've ever watched any anime or played any Japanese RPGs, I'm sure you'll understand how this young guy happens to be such a good pilot at his age. The game's main story follows Katana as he flies around and blows crap up and the whim of the Terran Government. You'll also learn more about Katana's fellow pilots as you play through the game. Now, the box constantly makes mention of the game's story and how it is supposed to be something special, but it really didn't feel all that awesome to me. It actually felt like typical RPG fare – if you've played any of a wide variety of Japanese RPGs lately, you'll probably get bored with the story horribly fast.
Before you jump into the game, though, you'll want to spend time with the tutorial. It is here that you'll catch a major glimpse of the thing that most got in the way of my enjoyment of the game – the controls. At first, things seem normal. The left stick controls the direction your ship is facing and all. Heck, you even have a few different control schemes. The issues start to become evident, though, when you start to see that each button can do multiple things. Take the movement stick, for example. You can push it lightly to change where your ship is aiming, but pushing it harder to the right ends up forcing you into a barrel roll. This doesn't end here, though, as a lot of the buttons serve multiple purposes. I don't know, I'm really thinking this is the case of trying to shoehorn a full out flight simulator into a console control. Things should have been much simpler, a la the controls seen in earlier versions of Star Fox.
Even if there weren't issues with controls, though, the game still wouldn't be that great – the gameplay itself is also pretty bland. There are some elements that do manage to stand out, though. The biggest one that I did enjoy was the variety of weaponry available. I had a ton of energy weapons and ballistic weapons to choose from, all with varying amounts of power, ammo and firing rate to choose from. It won't take long to get all of them, sure, but you'll be able to customize your ship to your liking.
The problem with this comes in when you actually use the weapons against enemy ships. Your combat will, more often than not, involve you holding your lockon button, scanning over red squares on the screen (you'll only rarely see the whole ship because you'll nail them from far away) and releasing the button to fire off missiles. The game is supposed to support lots of dogfighting in space, but devolves into a round of high tech space tag with missiles. Sure, there will be times when you're in a massive battle, but those come with a problem all their own.
As I mentioned earlier, the graphics did manage to make a big jump from the game's roots. Your ship looks pretty neat, weapons all fire well and the bigger enemy ships do look good. However, the game's performance goes to absolute crap if there are lots of ships on the screen – I'm not sure why this is, either, as I've seen games do a lot more on the 360 with no real performance issues. This performance dive really hurts what could have been a fun and hectic game with massive battles.
Overall, Project Sylpheed is a good idea for a game – a space sim with the kind of story you'd expect out of Square Enix could be a blockbuster. In the end, though, the game fails to become a megahit because of controls that are lacking, performance snags in some areas and a story that is really not much more than standard RPG fare (albeit, in a space shooter).
While Project Sylpheed is far from absolutely horrible, it isn't something you should rush out to buy. It isn't so bad as a rental, though – It'll last you for a few hours of play, at least. It really isn't worth a purchase at a $40 price tag, though.