August 16, 2007

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Project Sylpheed, (XBOX 360)
Square Enix, June 15, 2007
By Glenn Given production@hippopress.com

Shmup fans from back in ‘88 will perk their ears up at SqEnix’s re-tooled and re-spelled space pilot war story Project Sylpheed. Oh noes! My hair has turned all anime!

Things have changed in space warfare, though. Unlike its predecessor, Silpheed, Sylpheed jumps the Gradius rails and goes all Wing Commander on us. Zero-G dogfights? Check. Massive capital ships to amputate turret by turret? Check. Swarms of space missles and swappable weapon packs? Double space check.

For good measure Project Sylpheed cribs the best ideas from the heydays of 3-D space fighter sims like X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter. You and your AI squadron must jump from hot spot to hot spot variously defending convoys, harrassing cruisers, and harrowing every last enemy fighter until their entire alien force is wiped from the stars. Oh, wait, you mean they’re human? Cue the moral quandary. See, in the future all is not strange eyebrows yet comfortingly bipedal conflict. In the future there is just us, expanding our civilization and inevitably descending into civil strife. Yes, there is a story here and yes it is handled rather well, despite the fact that our hero is named Katana (which all but the most well-adjusted of us knows would be akin to naming your child Sword).

Do you have a dozen fingers on each hand? No? Well then Project may take a few failed missions for your inferior present-day-Earth digits to master. Not to worry, though; once you’ve mastered the baby grand’s worth of keys and toggles you’ll be blasting away with glee. That is, until you encounter the most frustrating aspects of the game. See, many missions are only conquerable with specific weapon load-outs, and you’re likely to spend a half handful of failed sorties figuring this magic combination out. To frost that Cookie Puss are hidden timers that infuriatingly force you down in the last gasps of a stage. If repeating missions, albeit ones as majestically chaotic as the best that the 360 can splash on your HD, is your cuppa then look no further.

Space warfare is an ironically dying breed of game today, and on the next-gen consoles you haven’t exactly got a buffet of Asian delights to sample. That said, Project Sylpheed does its job when it comes to shooting between the stars and earns some points for a healthy stab at story. The frustration level can be high if you don’t find yourself immediately taking to its schema but the game is nevertheless a solid B. — Glenn Given