Square Enix and Microsoft take a chance releasing the 3D space shooter Project Sylpheed: Arc of Deception for the Xbox 360. It’s a tough call bringing back a gaming genre that has disappeared from the main front over the years. The combined efforts of Square Enix, Microsoft and Game Arts hope the North American audience can bite into the high action and space drama of Project Sylpheed: Arc of Deception.
Project Sylpheed: Arc of Deception was a total surprise for me and I was interested to see how a return to the 3D space shooter would turn out on a next generation platform. Project Sylpheed will have a small core audience that already loves this dead and buried genre of gaming, but the real goal here is to capture the hearts of new gamers and hopefully bring the "space shooter" back to life. Square Enix along with the developer Game Arts have the means to pull this off and right from the get go we are set up to see some excellent graphics, face paced shooting action with underlined drama and a complex space drama. If a revival of the space shooter is about to be reborn, Project Sylpheed has a good chance of being the mother.
The look of Sylpheed is strongly inspired from science fiction anime flicks and carries the classic Japanese trademark look with a fine comb over of detail. Besides the game being a shooter they have included many elaborate cut scenes that help push the story along, along with character dialog boxes in the midst of the action. Project Sylpheed does a great job pretending to be an interactive anime flick with a high level of character animation and design. The story on the other hand isn’t as gripping, however if you enjoy space sci-fi plots you might just dig in. For particulars the Terra Central Armed Forces (TCAF) which is earth’s space military is in a war with rebel forces known as the Freedom Alliance. The drama then unfolds as the TCAF pilots Katana, Margras and Ellen deal with internal problems, defecting friends, and situations dealing with the struggle. You wouldn’t expect this deep of a plot in an action shooter; however Game Arts does their best to tug at your heart strings even if you’re just blowing up space ships.
When placed into the action Project Sylpheed sticks to a pure action formula with fast paced battles with clusters of enemies and outnumbering odds. Sylpheed is a lot different from the classic shooter Wing Commander or the GameCube hit Rouge Squadron. Project Sylpheed feels less like a flying game and more like an arcade shooter. For depth Project Sylpheed offers upgradable weapons for your space craft and the ability to command your allies as a squadron leader, but that’s about it. Initially Project Sylpheed can be a little confusing given the tricky navigational system used to deal with the 3D space; it’s definitely a sore point of the games production and makes it hard to get a feel for the open space.
For the commands you are limited to the typical four basic orders, attack a specific target, spread out, or provide support. Like other games you team will help you reach your objectives, but they’re not going to do all the work. To be a space ace you’re going to need to refuel your basic instincts and grasp the helm of your own fighter. In command of your own ship you should prepare yourself and spend some times with the optional tutorials. This will help you learn the games controls preparing you for the battles. I first jumped right into the game and did alright for a while, and then I started to slip. Since I didn’t start with the tutorial, I sucked up my ego and returned to pilot school before I went back in the mix. Project Sylpheed is fairly simple to control with some extra touches beyond the trigger like speed boosts, slowing time and shields. Once you learn the button mapping and get a feel for this outer space dynamics you should have no problems mastering your ship. It’s not all easy and Project Sylpheed brings the fire, more so in the later missions, so even though you might be Han Solo in the first few missions, the lean will be on and soon you’ll be fighting by your teeth to hold on.
Thus far Project Sylpheed provides an interesting dramatised story wrapped around blasting enemies in a space fighter. The slip in the stream comes up when you discuss the games missions and overall lasting appeal to what turns out to be a straight ahead and rather boring game structure. Even with the glamorous graphics and fast action, Project Sylpheed turns out to be a repetitive shooter without too much variation with a shoot this and that formula. It’s not like you can argue too much in its favour because even games like the above mentioned Rouge Squadron gave players three versions of the game with enough variety to keep you glued to the pilot’s seat until the end. If you really love what Project Sylpheed mechanics you might be along for the long hall, however a majority of the pilots will bow out earlier then expected.
The graphics in Project Sylpheed are impressive and bring up the quality of the game considerability. From the 90 minutes provided as full cut scenes to the glowing effects of the hectic space battles, Project Sylpheed impresses. The characters might be generic and a little too young to be leading earth’s army, but it all works when the gameplay of the space battles is woven into the storyline. The adequate voice acting also helps keep the cut scenes enjoyable. The characters are a little cliché in their trendy looks and voices, but it all seems to work.
When Project Sylpheed isn’t showcasing excellent movie quality dialog sequences you’re in battle. In battle the lack of backgrounds lets all the horsepower focus on quick frame rates and excellent extra effects. This includes so believable weapon noises which can make you forget this is a fantasy world. The music is quietly layered and really doesn’t play an outstanding part in the games overall feeling. In close inspection Project Sylpheed might not be as impressive, so it’s a good thing the action is fast and if there are flaws Sylpheed runs too fast to notice.
Microsoft’s gamble to bring the space shooter Project Sylpheed: Arc of Deception over to North America is a worthy bet. As far as straight ahead spacecraft shooters go, Project Sylpheed is everything you would expect with some top notch visuals along with some nice movie sequences added to the mix. Project Sylpheed isn’t going to appeal to the mass market and the straight forward nature of the missions won’t mark it up with the other classics in its genre. For what its worth, Project Sylpheed is a satisfying experience that should make fans of outer space gunplay happy.
Gameplay: 6.5, Graphics/Sound:8, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 7 Final: 7 / 10