From: Square Enix
For: Xbox 360
Genre: Combat, Sci-fi, Space
ESRB Rating: Teen (13+)
A partially tremendous space-based dog fighting game, Project Sylpheed has a few glaring shortcomings keeping it from the upper echelon of great Xbox 360 titles.
First, it's too short and can be played through in just a few hours -- less than a day, anyway. Sadly missing, too, is an online multiplayer component, which could have made Sylpheed one of those great, long-running sleeper games favored but the cult of the mighty Xbox Live.
Of course, the game is priced below average, appropriately reflecting its comparative lack of longevity -- below the top-tier of premium Xbox 360 games (including the shameless junk pretending at "premium"). And though you can ramp up the difficulty setting to extend gameplay time by way of extended effort required to finish it, the real difficulty is found in the game controls, which are just plain difficult no matter what the setting.
Not that the actually flying parts are hard. Indeed, these are some seriously tricked-out futuristic fighter craft, and ripping them through and around some seriously colorful space scenery is a genuine joy -- yes, yes, space is a void and therefore devoid of color, but nearby nebula, armadas and alien planets loom large and lovely. The fact that missiles leave contrails in space, well, chalk that up to artistic license. The cut scenes that move the (hopelessly cliché) story along are genuinely movie-esque in their renderings, too, which is bonus eye-candy. Meanwhile, back in the game, slamming through the spectacularly exploding enemies -- or just the shockwave of explosions -- brings genuine catharsis.
That said, the amount of color in this apparent void of space can actually be too much, as plastered on top of all that is your heads-up display (HUD), itself teaming with enough colorful icons, bars, graphs and directional smears that even a black hole would think twice about taking it all in.
Sadly, most of that HUD is suppose to help you keep and eye on targets, plus objectives, plus status, plus friendlies... it's overwhelming.
Meanwhile, getting a handle of the multitude of other controls (other than the basic x, y, z of flight) is a different, joyless ballgame. There's like two dozen things that can be done, activated or deployed yet only a dozen buttons/sticks on the 360 controller to do it, so some functions are doubled up -- tap it once, tap it twice, tap and hold --, while other invocations of similar duplicity (triplicity?) are just hard to reach in the heat of it all.
Plus, none of the advanced controls are properly explained, just try it and see what it does and hope the context means it does something useful, so you'll know what it's worth the next time -- if you manage to live through the this time. Basically, too many buttons doing too many things, very few of them intuitive, few of them easy to reach in the button/stick/trigger combo of maneuver/attack. Too bad.
Looks great, plays harrowing, just not necessarily harrowing the space-based dog fighting sense. But it's all over pretty quickly regardless.
TIP: Because it won't take you all that long to complete a game of Project Sylpheed, once you do so, save the completed game and you can start a new one except with all the weapons and stats you earned in the last one, which makes things much easier and more fun.