Review: Windjammers (Neo Geo CD)

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I’ve been putting this review off for over a year now. Literally. Windjammers (known as Flying Power Disc in the East) is an odd title, it’s difficult to explain, and tough to write about. We did do a video review a while back, and you should definitely check that out.

So let’s do this. Windjammers is an extreme sports title, before extreme sports was even a genre, released by Data East on April 8, 1994. It’s a pong, tennis, frisbee hybrid with a few nods of the fighting genre sprinkled in for flavor.

You start by selecting one of 6 characters representing 6 different countries. Each character is rated by speed, power, and has a unique special move. The beefy German and American are slow, but have the most power. The agile Japanese and British characters are quick, but have low power. The Spaniard and Italian offer a middle ground. After selecting a character, the game selects a court and the match begins.

Like most Neo Geo games, the controls are simple. Move with the joy stick, throw the disc with the A button. The quicker you hit the A button after you catch the disc, the quicker your disc will fly when you return it towards your opponent. The A button also makes your player dive in the direction you are facing. This is occasionally problematic if you press the A button to soon, as you will dive away from the disc, rather than throw it back over the net. You can aim your shot as well, similar to most tennis games, by holding a direction while throwing the disc.

You score points by getting your disc into the opposing net. The net composes the entire length of the court though, just like pong. But unlike pong, different areas of the net are worth different amounts of points. The yellow area is worth 3 points and the red area is worth 5 points. The person with the most points after 90 seconds wins. On the AES and MVS versions of Windjammers, each match is just 30 seconds.

Each of the 6 courts vary quite a bit, at least cosmetically. Some courses have obstacles in the center net, which you can ricochet your disc off of for more strategy and misdirection.

The graphics are visually appealing, but don’t really show off the Neo Geo CD hardware. I do love the bright colorful graphics, and the exaggerated player sprites. Everything in the background is always moving. There are nice little touches as well, like how the referee’s head follows the disc. Windjammers feels alive, and definitely has the mid 90’s Japanese look to it.

The sound is where Windjammers really shines. The soundtrack is terrific. There are also plenty of effects. Every-time someone scores, the crowd cheers. The female announcer sounds crisp, and the disc makes the appropriate thunk noise every-time it hits something.

Despite it’s simplicity, Windjammers is a huge challenge. I can beat the game on easy, but can only get about halfway through medium; and forgot the more difficult levels. It will take a bit of practice to get a good grasp on the flow of the game. Being a Neo Geo game, a 2-player mode is available as well, which many consider the best part of the game. Add some beverages and you have one hell of a party game.

I mentioned at the beginning of this review that there are a few nods to fighting games in Windjammers. If your opponent lobs the disc in the air, you can charge up your player and do some special moves which are hard to return. However, if you mimic your opponents special move, you can send his special move right back at him. Lastly, if you do a half moon motion with your joystick, you can arc the disc, which can be tough to follow and return.

Overall, Windjammers, or Flying Power Disc, is a terrific game. I like these old Neo Geo sports titles. There are no rosters, so the games age well. The controls have that easy to pick up, hard to master quality that keep you coming back for multiple play-throughs. This game is dirt cheap on the Neo Geo CD, and should be a no-brainer. If you don’t have a Neo Geo CD, you can get it on Wii Virtual Console. Highly recommended.

Game play 9/10 - Terrific controls, great challenge
Graphics 5/10 - Average for the Neo Geo, but that's not a bad thing
Sound 7/10 - Fun soundtrack and great effects
Overall 8/10 - Great game, even if you don't like sports