Good show! Windjammers is an addictively great old-school experience.
Who would have thought that a random, forgotten Data East game from 1994 would gain such a big following (thanks, Giant Bomb). That’s the story of how Windjammers was dusted off and brought back to mainstream relevance, and now it’s available on the Nintendo Switch. The online component is inconsistent at times, which takes the experience down a tad, but this is still without a doubt one of the more fun retro ports I’ve had fun playing on the console.
Windjammers has you on a field throwing discs back and forth against an opponent, with the goal of winning 2 out of 3 sets. I think the best comparison here would be an ‘80s pastel colored version of Pong with a dash of Street Fighter II-esque personalities and mini-games. On the surface, the gameplay seems relatively simple, and really it is; Windjammers easily falls into the category of a game that is accessible yet takes time to master, kind of like a retro Splatoon.
After playing Arcade mode for a few hours, I felt pretty confident about my skills. But the more I played, the more I realized that the best part of Windjammers lies within the intricate details that really make it so addictive. Finding the right serve, swerving the disc in just the right direction, busting out a character’s special move at just the right time and angle, using the stage as a tool against your opponent: all of these elements are vital to mastery. Windjammers is one of those games where the small details absolutely pay off.
Presentation wise, this is a colorful, cheerful game that has a cool ‘80s vibe to it, despite being released in 1994 (which I’m more than willing to ignore). The music isn’t much to speak of, but the sprites are rich and vibrant, which is always a positive in my book.
Once online launched, I was really excited to test out my skills. The downer here is that my experience with Windjammers’ online play was spotty at best. Most of the time, I was able to play just fine against the opponents I was put up against. But other times, the game would be a completely laggy mess. Not bad enough to where I couldn’t play, but it was a clear nuisance and brought down the experience a bit.
Beyond the Arcade mode, not much is available offline. You can play the mini-games (Dog Frisbee and Bowling) separately, which is nice. Honestly, they’re a fleeting experience more than anything, though I wouldn’t mind playing a more fleshed out version of the bowling game in a future sequel—there’s a ton of potential there.
At its core, Windjammers is an addictive, colorful, and vibrant experience that is worth investing time and effort in. The online could be better, but this is a great, faithful port of the 1994 original updated to today’s standards. It’s definitely worth a look for both local multiplayer and retro enthusiasts alike.