The real classics never die, and Windjammers’ peak popularity is proof of that. Despite being a relatively obscure Neo Geo release in the mid-90s, this game of futuristic Frisbee has endured the test of time – becoming a popular streaming attraction in recent years due to its balletic competitive play. And now, courtesy of pixel perfect port masters DotEmu, it’s easier to play than ever before on the PlayStation 4 and Vita – proving that the ol’ power disc still has plenty of life left in it yet.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is essentially the fanny pack wearing offspring of Pong and Street Fighter. The frenetic to-and-fro sees you taking charge of a Lycra-clad athlete, lobbing a Frisbee back and forth until you’re able to get it past your opponent. The intense action is accompanied by a Pop Tart-esque aesthetic – it’s all reflective wrap-around sunglasses, surf boards, and hundreds-and-thousands. Search for Saved by the Bell if you were born around the turn of the century and you’ll get a rough idea for the visual feel here.
The gameplay is impeccable: you dash and slide around beach and lawn-based courses, attempting to snatch back the Frisbee as it cascades against metallic walls. Hitting your return perfectly will increase the power of your throw, while a half-circle wiggle on the analogue stick will arc your shot; tap the receive button just as you’re about to catch the disc and you’ll toss it up into the air, allowing you to plant your feet for a special move.
While it’s not necessarily the most technically impressive Neo Geo title, watching two seasoned veterans slug it out is a sight to behold; animations blur as the Frisbee fizzes backwards and forwards – it’s like the 2008 Wimbledon final all over again, only with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer kitted out in DayGlo as opposed to their traditional whites. The best thing about the game is that you don’t need to be an expert to understand the principles of play – but you do to dominate the online field.
And make no mistake, the multiplayer is the major draw here. There’s a short single player campaign with a couple of neat minigames, but it’s playing against others either online or offline that will eat up most of your playtime. The netcode is sensational, with matchmaking rapid and play response instantaneous. We did encounter a few more connection issues on the Vita than the PS4, but we’re putting this down to Wi-Fi interference rather than anything else.
If we have one gripe it’s that the progression system in Ranked play could have been better. The game employs one of those old-school systems where you earn points for a win and shed them for a loss, and while moving through the leagues feels perfectly fine, it’s all a bit My First Online Game. We reckon more could have been done here, with in-depth stat-tracking and a more rewarding levelling system, but with a gameplay loop this good we’re probably being greedy.
Speaking of gluttony, there are a belly-busting array of visual options available in this port. You can choose to stretch out the pixels to fill your widescreen display, or keep it in its native 4:3 format with borders applied. Said bookends can be edited, and you can even choose to simulate the curvature of an old CRT display. We kept it simple with the borders, but left the scanlines option on as a throwback treat.
An arcade masterpiece that’s been lovingly revived for the PlayStation family, Windjammers is absolutely essential. A hoot both online and offline, hoofing Frisbees across sunbaked beaches is still fun 20 years removed from the title's original release, so here’s to another two decades of top tossing.