Review: Windjammers (Switch)

The Data East cult classic is back on Switch!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/20/2018 13:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Pick up and play fun at its best; solid gameplay; visuals are bright, bold, and memorable; great soundtrack
Poison Mushroom for...
Fun is diminished when played solo; gameplay can become stagnant over extended play sessions

Does anyone remember the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery? It was a spoof on the classic James Bond movies of the 1960s and ’70s that came out a million years ago in 1997. What was interesting about Austin Powers was that the film gained even more popularity after it had left theaters and was released on home video. Sometimes things are appreciated more later on than when they first debut, which is something that the game Windjammers can similarly attest to.

Developed by Data East back in 1994, Windjammers was an arcade sports title about “extreme” frisbee competition. When the game originally came out in arcades and on Neo Geo, it was met with fairly lukewarm responses from critics. Yet, despite what pundits had to say about it, Windjammers became a real fan favorite. Admittedly, it was not on the same level as more seminal titles like Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat, of course, but Windjammers was still a regular part of the casual competitive scene.

Flash ahead to now, however, and Windjammers has become something of a cult classic. Data East long ago went bankrupt (back in 2003 to be exact), with many of its various intellectual properties being disseminated to a number of different companies. G-Mode, a Japanese mobile developer, now owns many Data East franchises, but other titles like Windjammers are instead under the purview of Paon Corporation. Paon, in turn, had developer DotEmu (a French outfit) handle the rebirth of Windjammers on PlayStation 4 and Vita, and has now brought the game to Nintendo Switch.

Many people liken Windjammers‘ gameplay to a souped up version of Pong, but I think a more apt comparison would be to air hockey. Anyone who’s played that perennial arcade favorite will immediately recognize the similarities between how the puck ricochets in air hockey and how the power disc similarly bounces off of the walls in Windjammers. There might be far fewer smashed fingers when playing Windjammers, but the basic gameplay tenets are the same: try to fling the disc into the opponent’s goal in order to score points.

Thankfully, there’s a bit more to Windjammers than that, however. For starters, it’s possible to add some spin to your throws via directional inputs (along the lines of a typical fighting game), with the resulting loops and swirls of the frisbee really causing some chaos during matches. There are six playable characters to choose from, all of whom have their own pros and cons to learn and compensate for. Watching their gorgeous sprites bound across the screen was a real joy, as every bit of Windjammers drips with that stunningly retro, pixelated aesthetic of the ’90s.

Speaking of retro, Windjammers boasts authentic presentation options, as has become customary with re-releases of titles like these. Screen filters and aspect ratios are there to be adjusted, and there’s even the option to swap between different versions of the soundtrack. Neo Geo was a genuinely powerful console in its day and it’s a testament to the quality of that hardware that Windjammers still looks so great even now. Throw in the ability to play online as well as online leaderboards, and this is the greatest version of Windjammers to date.

With all that said, it is important to note that Windjammers is distinctly more enjoyable when played with other people. The computer AI can be entertaining to engage with, but for the best time with Windjammers, it’s essential to play the game alongside another human being. One of the perks of this being on Switch is that it means a two-player match is a simple matter of detaching the Joy-Con and passing one off to a friend. Of course, it’s also possible to play other ways, but for a quick round or two, Switch’s unique tabletop mode comes in quite handy for Windjammers.

It won’t be long before the Windjammers sequel comes to Switch (it’s slated for 2019), but until then it would be wise to give the original a download. It plays wonderfully, is immensely fun, and is stuffed with ’90s arcade fun. There are even a couple of extra minigames to fool around with, too, when not engaging in local or online multiplayer. The single-player mode might be a bit weak, but that should in no way deter anyone from buying Windjammers. It’s yet another excellent addition to the Switch library!

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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