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Jeremy Jastrzab
18 Aug, 2007

Project Sylpheed Review

360 Review | When typical is good.
What’s this? Has hell frozen over? Have pigs started to fly? Have Square-Enix really released a game on the Xbox 360? Well, yes and no. Project Sylpheed by Game Arts and Seta was produced in Japan by Square-Enix, while Microsoft took the honours for the rest of the world. Just in case you’re wondering, no, Project Sylpheed is NOT an RPG or a game affiliated with any other Square-Enix franchise. It’s actually a pseudo follow-up to the Game Arts venture, Silpheed, which was originally released on the Sega CD, and then later appeared on the PS2.

Project Sylpheed, like it’s predecessors, is a shooter. No, not the typical shooter that’s found on the Xbox 360, it’s actually a deep-space combat shooter. Set in the 27th century, it tells a story that feels like it has been ripped out of anything with Gundam in the title. The story revolves around a young (re: seemingly prepubescent) space pilot named Katana, who is caught in the middle of a war between governing and rebel factions. If that wasn’t Gundam enough, Katana is your seemingly typical “feminine” yet prodigious Squenix protagonist, whose enemies run away in shame after being beaten by his femininity. Among themes of trust, betrayal, courage-under-fire, destruction of worlds, questioning of values, revenge, death, sexual orientation of the protagonist and all your typical anime clichés, you’d be surprised that the story is actually quite bearable. Through some surprisingly well directed (if typical) cut-scenes, the story manages to stay afloat and at least keep some attention, though it will require you to stick out some of the first half. Unless you’ve watch A LOT of Gundamor similar animes, the story is quite good.

Here is your protagonist. He looks like a sissy but fights like a genius. Go figure.

Here is your protagonist. He looks like a sissy but fights like a genius. Go figure.
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As mentioned, Project Sylpheed is a space shooter, though unlike its predecessors, it will essentially be a free-form flyer along the lines of Ace Combat, only in space and over 600 years into the future. Despite the obvious influences, your ship won’t transform into a robot. At first, the HUD will seem rather cluttered but it’s actually quite easy to learn and comes in quite handy. For example, there are two bars that indicate whether your locked-on opponent is within range of those particular weapons. There is squad element but usually you either let the other members off the leash or go after the enemies yourself. That’s not to say its doesn’t work, just that you don’t have to use it to do well in the game.

The game is split up into sixteen missions. At first, you’ll be given one objective, to eliminate the enemy threat. From there, most missions are split into two to three phases. The first phase may have a primary objective of protecting your carriers from enemy onslaughts, while the second phase may involve setting out and destroy the enemy’s carriers. The objectives are relatively simple, though one or two missions will get quite difficult unless you can identify the correct tactic needed. There are secondary objectives, though you’re not informed that they exist until you’ve actually completed one, although they're only crucial to the earning of points or if you’re achievement hunting. One other minor gripe with the mission structure is that even though you can restart in the middle of missions if you die or fail a primary objectives, your kill counts are reset.

By completing secondary objectives, destroying enemies or completing missions in good time will earn you points and new weapons to put on your fighter. You start off with a meagre selection, with one nose weapon and three heavy weapons that you can switch between. You’ll gather more weapons, each with pros and cons. Still, the game actually manages to be more fun once you’ve started to acquire the more powerful weapons, as you really feel like you’re cutting a swathe through the enemies. While playing through the story won’t take that long, the fact that you can continue with your upgraded weapons actually adds some appeal and replay value. You can increase the difficulty and playing through with the better weapons can be more enjoyable. Unfortunately, you cannot selectively replay missions.

The game certainly has scope.

The game certainly has scope.
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Project Sylpheed is actually built quite well. Mechanically, the game is very solid, the combat progressively gets harder and more intense and it’s hard to find a fault in the controls. The automatic lock-on was sometimes questionable, though this was mainly its selection rather than any actual technical faults. The HUD has nice additions and you can restore your fighter on almost instantly on your carriers. For a while, the game may seem like a bit of a chore as you slowly hack through the enemy forces, but again, that is until you unlock the bigger guns. Initially, the enemies frigates, destroyers, carriers and cruisers take a lot of damage, but will eventually be at your mercy after you’ve procured some heavier firepower. You've also got three powers at your disposal, each with their own uses. The third power is the most useful, as it slows down time (by "processing data faster") but it requires you to sacrifice some of your life bar.

While the game is nicely put together, there is not likely to be much here that you haven’t seen before. If you can accept that, there are the design inconsistencies and slow start to make note of. We were a bit bummed that we kept loosing our kill counts, or sometimes it would have been better if we somehow got an indication as to what would be the best weapons to take into a mission, the radar was difficult to get a grip of and it would be nice to know what the side objectives were. Project Sylpheed doesn’t have a multiplayer mode. We have no reason to believe that it wouldn’t have worked and co-op would have been quite nice. Still, Project Sylpheed is surprisingly good game that manages just to do enough to warrant attention.

Project Sylpheed has a slight advantage in the graphics department, where there aren’t too many complex shapes or developments on screen. Still, it’s quite impressive to see the amount that can be happening on screen as once, what with all the trails, explosions and rockets flying around the screen. That being said, the frame rate does take a few hits. The game has a typical Japanese space shooter style but manages to be unique enough to look good and it’s very easy to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. At least the scope of the game is suitably massive, and the mood is nicely reflected in the environment. For example, one mission where you’re dog fighting one-on-one, you’ve got a red planet in the backdrop that is essentially representing the anger and tension of the fight.

Watch the left.

Watch the left.
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One thing that really helps the game is the excellent direction of the cut-scenes. They’re nothing particularly special, nor do they do anything new, but it’s the fact that they been put together well that makes them work and keep the player’s attention. In terms of the sound, the English voices do a reasonable job with the standard dialogue. At least the dialogue has been reasonably well localised. The sound effects sit in the background and work well but don’t really stand out in any way shape or form. The music fades in and out and it is quite easy to not to notice it. Again, it’s not but not much more than serviceable, though it does feel a bit like an acquired taste.

Project Sylpheed certainly fills a gap in the Xbox 360 library. Thankfully, it’s a reasonably good game as well. Sure, it does have some design inconsistencies and begins in a chore-like fashion, but at its core, it is a solid, well-built and enjoyable game. While the story is somewhat derivative, it is well directed and filled with enough emotion to keep the player going. Interestingly, the game gets even better the second time round, if you go through with your previously acquired upgrades. While it won’t revolutionise the genre, Project Sylpheed is an enjoyable romp that does a decent job at providing a space dog fighter for the Xbox 360. That is, unless you're the number one Gundam fan.
The Score
Project Sylpheed fits the bill for anyone who is looking for some solid flight combat action, and doesn't mind some anime inspired storylines. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  19/07/2007 (Tentative)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2007

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