"Project Sylpheed's case lists several things that essentially make the game what it is, but it’s far too modest. Not only is the story here far better than most Sci-Fi original series, but the abilities of your ship’s weapon system go beyond simply “locking-on to multiple targets”. Abnormal brevity may be this space opera’s one and only flaw. It only took me four and a half hours to complete it. This isn’t a frenzied attempt to justify buying such a short game at full price, though; this ..."
Project Sylpheed's case lists several things that essentially make the game what it is, but it’s far too modest. Not only is the story here far better than most Sci-Fi original series, but the abilities of your ship’s weapon system go beyond simply “locking-on to multiple targets”. Abnormal brevity may be this space opera’s one and only flaw. It only took me four and a half hours to complete it. This isn’t a frenzied attempt to justify buying such a short game at full price, though; this is an effort to relay an urgent truth.
You'll experience the adventure as a pilot named Katana Faraway who is working for the TCAF (Terra Central Armed Forces). You are a typical lady-boy cadet of the Rhino Squadron. Led by the archetypical Japanese view of the black man, Captain Raymond, your team engages in a test run of the new Delta Saber fighter model. While the vehicles are state-of-the-art in terms of the punch they pack and shield they boast, the inexperienced soldiers at the controls need to further hone their skills if they’re to put the power to full use.
At the end of the training skirmish, as the freshest of the fresh pilots receive a reprimand from their captain, a signal reaches the fleet. It’s the commander of their base – the carrier ACROPOLIS – with an urgent message. At the very edge of the radar, a small disturbance has appeared in the form of an unidentified unit. Raymond and the Rhino are sent to investigate the potential threat and just as the captain is reminding the newbie under his watch to stay alert, the young man’s Saber takes a critical hit and falls fast to the surface of a nearby asteroid.
Katana misses a head-on collision with one of the radar blips by the scrape of his baby face. As the FMV cuts into a slow-motion pan, a bright red (imposing) insignia is shown on the side of the passing plane. “ADAN forces!” he shouts, and grits his teeth. Push has finally come to shove between Terra and the Freedom Alliance, and the small fleet’s preemptive strike on you and your crewmates is but the first step in the war to enslave both the planet Hargenteen and Mother Earth herself.
When speaking strictly of the balance between story and playtime, Project Sylpheed’s length is perfectly fitting. The events of the war are never bloated or preachy and more importantly, never settle down to a simmer from the intensity of the introductory chapter. I found myself wondering if the Rhino family would ever be able to return to the ACROPOLIS – and the few times that they did manage to find refuge for long enough to make the journey, their rest was brief and ill at ease.
Although little time is spent with each individual pilot, they’re given sufficient limelight to shine and break through the triteness of their commonplace roles. Game Arts should be heavily applauded; portraying personalities that you learn to empathize with in short five hours – and on Sylpheed’s hardest difficulty, at that – is an amazing accomplishment. That's especially true when you consider that most titles with the Square-Enix name take closer to three days to finish. Here’s a game that achieves the same affect in what could amount to a single sitting.
That narrative is appreciated, of course, but any space shooter would ultimately be meaningless without combat that can keep your pulse hastened. Enter the Armed Forces’ ace-in-the-hole prototype: Delta Saber. As you’ll discover during the first several missions, it poses no obvious threat to the enemy’s senses. Really, the only distinguishing feature is the craft’s white color. Your adversaries' arrogance will prevent them from seeing (until its too late) the underplayed capabilities of the swift fighter that will so quickly become apparent to you.
First, there's the erratically-beeping console. Green reticules appear all over, too many all at once. At first you can’t even tell where you’re aiming! When the fight is dense, though, the name of the game is mass destruction and the only thing you need to know is that you're targetting and firing at something nasty. Numerous waves of plasmatic blue laser beams burst from the rear of your craft and arc toward the battlefield ahead. Only your wiliest opponents are capable of escaping the weapon’s painstakingly precise tracking system; most ADAN planes are blasted into the silent oblivion of empty space. A few veterans among their ranks may have avoided an untimely death, but they took stray fire to the wing. All that’s left for you is to call your wingmen to the chase and watch the Rhino Squadron’s reapers send the crippled to their graves.
If this is the first time you’ve experienced the sheer, inexplicable thrill of acquiring sixty target locks simultaneously, you’re sure to remember that first instance for one hell of a long time. Even the most stoic aficionados will cherish the sight of smoke wafting from a swarm of multi-purpose missiles. The bulk of your armament will mostly consist of upgrades to previous rigs, but there are several fantastic standalones worth mentioning. They serve as one of Project Sylpheed’s best features; in particular, there's the beast called Grav Cannon. Though it does take precious time to charge, more than you can easily secure, the devastating results make each shot more than worth the effort.
Such destruction brings to mind the game’s very best feature: working with your crewmates to take down behemoth-sized ships. Have them provide support while you swoop in to create holes in the enemy's defense by destroying an engine or, if you’d like, a suppressive turret covering the cruiser's hull. If you somehow manage to maneuver in that close, you may even be able to neutralize the central shield generator. In order to compensate for their size, the truly titanic vessels have several such barriers that you’ll need to search out and destroy. No matter how you decide to consign the ADAN to flames, the feeling is the same: damned fun.
By providing gorgeous cinematics, finger-twitching combat and a story that exceeds the usual presentation of its brethren, Game Arts has outdone itself and crafted a must-have for any Xbox 360 owner (shooter fan or not). Despite its length, Project Sylpheed single-handedly captured my full attention and made me excited for the genre’s future. As if that simple truth weren’t already enough, the entire package is bound together by a godsend of a final thread: New Game +.
Community review by carcinogen_crush (August 22, 2007)
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