(Note: Like the Mario Party review, this was written by a 16-year-old Zach Rich in September 2007 for GameFAQs. I found this review, and the other, to be good enough to be posted somewhere where everyone knows your name and you’re not just a card trying to get your name discovered in a pool of filth. Though, hypothetically, I guess I was discovered, now that I’m here. Huh.
Well, we all had to start somewhere. I started with Big_Blaze, and now we know the difference between him and I. There isn’t one.)
I think my biggest issue with Project Sylpheed doesn’t have anything to do with the game itself, but how it was marketed, saying it was from the creators of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, two of my favorite game series. This is one big ol’ lie.1 Project Sylpheed is not only nothing like the series aforementioned, but Square Enix had nothing to do with the game outside of publishing it. I’m not taking any points away from it for this fact,2 but that horrid false advertising crawls under my skin just a wee bit.
Project Syphleed is a space shooter created by Game Arts, and it’s a sequel to a Sega CD and PlayStation 2 title known as Silpheed, without a “y.” Whereas that title was a sidescroller that would remind one of games like R-Type, this is a full 3D space shooter, similar to games like Star Fox 64 or the later titles in the Wing Commander series. It’s unfortunate that this game does not live up to space combat titles like those, though. What we have here is a short, mediocre game wrapped in a very pretty package.
Syphleed tells the story of Katana Faraway, a space pilot for the Terra Central Government, also known as the TCAF, and his role in a war between the TCAF and the ADAN Freedom Alliance, a band of galaxies united against the TCAF. Katana becomes the pilot of a prototype space fighter that every pilot on the block would marvel at. The story is told through several beautiful cutscenes scattered among the story’s 16 missions. The story is very short of epic, even though it has a large cast of supporting characters. None of them break common anime stereotypes, and they all are largely uninteresting to follow. Some parts of the story are nonsense, as well. They’ll hold a funeral for a guy who dies in the first five seconds of the game, and then you’ll go out and mow down thousands of enemy forces. Then there’s a sappy love story that comes from nowhere, with kisses that last for half a minute.3 Oh, and jumping out of your ship to hug said love interest because the giant super weapon is destroyed, and by god, you’re ALIVE. Some day, all hugs will be done in ZERO GRAVITY, so says Project Sylpheed.
If there’s anything to learn about space from Sylpheed, it’s that it’s big. Yeah. Space is huge. So big, in fact, that when you’re the unsung hero, fighting it out in your space-fighter, 90% of your time on the battlefield will be spent rushing back and forth between a battalion of enemy battleships and your supply craft, so you can get it out of yet another terrible situation or recharge your shields that the mean enemy cruiser took out with unavoidable missile fire.
“Oh, what’s that? You say combat will be unable to continue in three minutes? But…but why? No reason? But…I have 15…no, 20…wait….30 more ships to get, and they’re all the way over there! No, don’t end combat! Just let me restock, and…WAUGH.4 It’s a good thing all the bad guys’ ships leave these red vapors all over the place, otherwise I’d NEVER see these black ships in this totally black space!”
Yeah, there’s a lot to be desired in terms of Project Sheepherd’s mission structure. 95% of the time, you’ll be shooting down X number of ships, dotted all across the map. They might be small fighters, or large warships, or maybe a big ol’ battleship that would make a star destroyer blush with absolute envy. One of the weird things is that there will be more ships out there than the ones already on-screen, yet there are certain ships that you’re supposed to take out and some that are just there. Shooting down the ones that are just there does nothing to help you, except maybe adding another kill to your score.
Although occasionally you’ll be taking out missiles (think Sector Z in Star Fox 64), a minefield (yes, in the middle of SPACE!), or bosses twice in the game (one of which is a normal ship that just happens to have a really strong shield, the other being the final boss, whose strategy to defeat in the time needed is beyond ridiculous), you’ll mostly be shooting down ships. Tiny, black ships, against the usually dark space. Even if you’re fighting in the atmosphere of another planet, you can’t see enemy ships almost at all. It’s the red vapor trail they leave behind that leads you to them. The way to get those filthy rebels off your radar is also easy. Lock-on with your rockets, shoot, and forget. Easy as that. Maybe you’ll need to get more than two missiles on a ship from an elite squadron of ships. Heck, they might even dodge once or twice. Too bad those missiles are homing.
There’s something else that might distract you from your foes: the horribly clustered HUD. This thing screams bright, neon colors at you, giving you details like your ship’s temperature, ammo reserves, shield gauge, enemy ships remaining, time until your Playboy subscription runs out, income from your snow-shoveling business in hell, and other things. Many of the numbers are horribly small, and arrows pointing out targets, tankers, and other things disappear with the cluttered mess that is the game screen. Not only that, but sometimes a friendly ship might ask for your help. It’s too bad you don’t know where it is! There are several bonus objectives throughout all of the maps, but the game gives you little to no prompting, and even then, it doesn’t point out where the objective takes place, forcing you to waste time finding the area you were asked to protect.
Oh, and don’t even think that your wingmates are going to be much help to you. Although you can give orders to your squadmates, you’ll be lucky get anything done.
And let me tell you, time in Project Sylpheed will prove to be a more obnoxious opponent than any enemy battleship could be. At seemingly random points in the mission, a countdown appears on screen with the message “IN 3 MINUTES IT WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTINUE WITH COMBAT.” Yeah, that’s it. Nine times out of 10, there’s no reasoning. There’s no super weapon ready to fire, the ship isn’t about to explode, there’s no mention of enemy reinforcements, or low supplies, nothing. You run out of time, and it’s game over. Start over, fool. This game doesn’t allow you to mess around and gawk at how beautiful faraway galaxies are. You’ve got to be on task, or fail for letting your mind wander. Maybe this was added to make things seem more intense or exciting, but since the battlefield is so big with all the targets scattered all over the place and entering to fight at seemingly random points, this only hinders the game to the point of frustration.
Your ship’s weaponry is vast but mostly useless once you find the right combo. New weapons and upgrades are unlocked by investing money rewarded in missions to researching a new weapon or upgrade. Weapon types range from completely useless machine guns and rail guns that don’t lock on and really can’t hit anything (I played through an entire campaign without using them once, and it was a lot easier than wasting time trying to use them) to missiles dedicated to taking out smaller ships, and larger ships that lock on to their targets. Weapons are interchangeable mid-flight with a tap of the B button. You can only have three equipped at a time, and each one will only fit in one of three slots.
There are also upgrades for things like a regenerating shield. The issue with upgrades is that they take up a slot that your Missiles and Rockets need. Apparently, each weapon adds weight to your craft, but it seems like no matter what, your ship will be in the very heavy class. If you equip smaller, more useless guns onto your craft, your ship will be lighter, and faster. What an awesome trade off. Once you find a group of guns to your liking, you’ll just be buying new ones to unlock the achievement that goes with unlocking all weapons.
Your ship has three extremely useless special moves. Holding down the Y button charges a meter. Depending on how long you charge it, a different attack happens, in exchange for some of your armor. The first sends all your guns blazing. Woo-hoo. The second is a ramming attack that you’ll never use because it lasts two seconds. If you actually manage to hit something in those two seconds, then by the gods, you were meant to play this game. The third one slows down time by “processing information faster.” However, unlike normal slow-down moves, your craft is slowed down as well. What?! Yeah, because the game is so intense, slowing it down will give you a HUGE ADVANTAGE. It does nothing to help you at all, and you’ll forget about it just as soon as you realize it’s there.
The highest point of value this game has to offer is its graphics. The game is visually impressive. Cutscenes are easily something any Square Enix fan will love (even though the company had no hand in making them), and the characters, ships, and backgrounds are all brilliantly detailed to a T. The sound, however, leaves something to be desired. The music is all fast techno beats that I usually replaced with the Star Fox 64 soundtrack on my computer. The voice acting is atrocious. I mean, it’s BAD.5 I haven’t heard voice acting this bad since Star Ocean: Till the End of Time on the PS2, and that game still had plenty of redeeming features.6 This game is simply pretty, and a nice demonstration of the 360’s power.
If you’re looking for bonus features beyond the main campaign, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Once viewed, cutscenes can be viewed at any time, and there is a tutorial that all players should visit first. And in the initial pack-in, that’s about it. No online multiplayer. Not even leaderboards. And that’s something that’s featured in almost EVERY 360 title. A little while after the game’s launch, a side pack was added to the game adding six new missions, all featuring leaderboards. This expansion is free, so you may as well download it. You need to beat the game to access any of this bonus content, and it’s really just six more levels of the same thing, a bit harder. Like the rest of this game, it’s nothing extraordinary.
My last gripe with the game has to do with achievements.7 There are 24 achievements in the game, all represented in the game by medals. Every stage has its own medal to unlock; however, the description of each makes you think you only need to beat the stage to get the achievement. Yeah, that’s not how it works. Apparently there’s usually a required bonus objective you need to complete to unlock the achievement, which is really annoying when you have no idea what you’re not doing to earn it. One of the achievements, “Warrior’s Amulet,” is rewarded “as proof for receiving Raymond’s trust.” Well, he gives it to you in a CUTSCENE, but I get no achievement. It makes no sense, and for a guy like me who loves his achievements, it drives me up the wall, to the ceiling, and back down again.
Project Sylpheed is the victim of simply being a poorly designed game that lacks in content and is nothing more than a very pretty picture of futuristic warfare where everyone has a spunky attitude, crazy ships, and short attention spans. If you need some achievement points, give it a rental. One play through should get you a few hundred points. But skip out on buying on this title. It’s just a boring game built on advertising LIES.
CURSE YOU SQUARE ENIX. CURSE YOU TO HEEEEEEEEELL.8