Square Enix is a developer perhaps known best for whoring out its Final Fantasy series, and every so often, doing something outside of the RPG world. Project Sylpheed is their newest attempt, with Square Enix working alongside developer Game Arts, best known for the Grandia and Lunar series.
With such well-known and loved franchises under their belts, this should have been a great game to play. But all of that talent is apparently for RPG games only, because combined together, the Square Enix-Game Arts union has produced a decidedly fun, but flawed gaming experience in Project Sylpheed.
The game is the latest in Game Arts' Silpheed series. The first one was a 3-D rail-shooting gem on the Sega CD, with the second one appearing on the PS2 and co-developed by the shoot 'em up gods at Treasure. However, Project Sylpheed is like neither game, focusing instead on three-dimensional combat. And perhaps, like Nintendo's Star Fox series, it would have been better had they not deviated away from what made the first two games great.
The game’s story will probably sound familiar to any fan of mecha anime, especially any of the many Gundam series, because most of the same clichés and conventions of that genre appear here. You play as Katana Faraway (real creative name there, guys), a cadet in the Terra Central Air Force during the 27th century. The Terran government, ruling from Earth, has helped to spread humanity across the galaxy through exploration and terraforming. Alongside friends and fellow cadets, Katana finds himself flung into a war against rebel forces, and you probably know where it goes from there.
As with any game under Square Enix's watch, Project Sylpheed is a graphical marvel, complete with amazing cut-scenes, impressive graphics and voice acting, and your token lead character that looks way to pretty for their own good. Instead, most of the actual issues deal with the game play and more specifically, the controls.
The game plays pretty straightforward, sending you on a mission-based story across the colonized universe. Players will see many of the standards of space shooters in their missions, from shooting down everything in sight to defending your base from a sneak enemy attack. Objectives will change as each level progresses, usually accompanied with a cut-scene, but I wish that Game Arts and Square Enix had polished this up a bit more and allowed for changing objectives on the fly.
A nice added bonus is the ability to customize your ship with over 50 different weapons in several categories, each having their own advantages and disadvantages. This adds an element of strategy to Project Sylpheed: do I load up with a heavy railgun to take down battle cruisers, or do I go with a lighter weapon to fend off swarms of enemy ships? Which missile battery do I add to my ship? It’s all up to you to figure it out.
The biggest problem with the game is the controls. They are adjustable for a more arcade-style set-up, or for more experienced gamers, there’s a more professional-style set-up. The only problem is that under pretty much any set-up, the game either moves slower or faster than you’d like. Being able to boost across space to reach enemies is pretty fun the first few times you do it, but you don’t really use it as much as I’d hoped. Steering is also a bit slower than I would have liked. Also hurting the game is that they chose to use the triggers for boost and brake as default, rather than for firing your weapons, setting it apart from other games that use the triggers for firing. The controls just feel like they could have been done so much better and more responsive.
Achievements in this game aren’t hard to come by; most of them are simply unlocked by beating the game’s main storyline. The game is single-player only, however, without even the option to play online. Project Sylpheed would have probably benefited from at least having multiplayer capabilities so that players could pick their weapons and go out to battle each other in space, but not even having that option is a pretty big mistake.
Project Sylpheed does some things well and does others poorly. I can’t help but wonder if Square Enix and Game Arts over-stretched themselves here, as the game would have been amazing – and the control issues not so much a problem – had the game continued the Silpheed rail shooter legacy. Those who like flying games might be best advised to wait for Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation this fall, a game that is shaping up to be superior to Project Sylpheed’s mediocrity.
Pros: Graphics and sound are absolutely amazing, but it’s Square Enix; you were expecting differently? Customization of ships is a really nice feature as well.
Cons: No multiplayer or online play capabilities to be found. Very cliché and generic storyline. Game play can sometimes be frustrating, as can the game’s controls.
Project Sylpheed: Arc of Deception is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, and Use of Alcohol.