Tell me if this sounds familiar: as the pilot of a spaceship, you’re on a mission (many missions, actually) to shoot down multiple waves of enemy ships with varying sizes and strengths, and on occasion, this action is broken up by timed objectives and escort missions. This core gameplay could be ripped from TIE Fighter, Starfox, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek Legacy, or at least two dozen more 3D space shooters. But we’re not reflecting on games of the past. We’re talking about Square Enix’s “new” Xbox 360 title, Project Sylpheed.
On one hand, it’s easy to get comfortable with the controls and gameplay of Project Sylpheed, because it will feel immediately familiar to anyone who’s played a space-based dogfighting game any time since the 1990s. On the other, after just a few levels you’ll be ready to turn the game off. Project Sylpheed doesn’t do anything wrong, per se, but it also fails to offer anything new or innovative. And that’s why we suggest you avoid this Square Enix game entirely.
The ability to customize your ship and weapons are probably the most compelling things in Project Sylpheed’s repertoire, but that’s not exactly a resounding endorsement for the game as a whole. You’re awarded points at the conclusion of each mission based on the number of enemy ships you destroy, your completion time and your achievement of various secondary objectives in each mission. These points accumulate throughout the game, but not for the purpose of comparing scores on a leaderboard. Instead, the points can be amassed and spent on various ship upgrades, from relatively inexpensive railguns and missiles to “special” abilities that cost tens of thousands of points.
As you’d expect from a Square Enix title, the graphics are great, and the steady frame-rate is particularly impressive considering the sheer amount of on-screen action (lasers, ships, missiles, slipstreams, explosions, etc.). The audio, too, is good, with ambient noises and battle chatter between ships really helping to immerse you in the game. But good multimedia doesn’t necessarily make a good game, or at least not a game that’s compelling enough to stand out from the competition.
And that, unfortunately, is the great irony of Project Sylpheed: its competition. Not only are there plenty of recent aerial-combat games that are comparably entertaining, but Square Enix’s latest game is going up against the same basic (and arguably now-boring) formula we’ve played since TIE Fighter on Windows 3.14. Does the game do anything wrong? Not in the least. But to really bowl us over, it needed to do something compelling and fresh, and it was far from doing either. What more can we say, really? We’ve played this game a thousand times already, and just we’re not excited any more.
– Jonas Allen