|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Game Arts / Seta Corporation||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 10, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Nimer
Before we get to the final verdict on Project Sylpheed: Arc of Destruction, I feel I need to get this out of the way: reviewing a Square-Enix game is always a dangerous situation. If you fall in love, you're labeled a fanboy. Even worse, if you have something negative to say, a swarm of red-eyed teenage RPG addicts will hunt you down in the streets like a dog. I think I heard somewhere that the infamous "cabin scene" with Luis in Resident Evil 4 was inspired by a reviewer's tragic end after giving a Final Fantasy game a less-than-stellar score. With that out of the way, it can be said that Project Sylpheed: Arc of Destruction, the Square-Enix space shooter/simulator for the Xbox 360, is a pretty good game.
Project Sylpheed is loose remake of the arcade classic, Sylpheed. In the original, your goals were simple: shoot stuff, don't get shot yourself, and reclaim the universe for the good guys. The remake has a bit loftier goals in mind for the player. Now Square-Enix has attached a story that nearly every gamer has heard thousands of times before. There is a space empire, a new recruit, a love interest, and some bad guys involved. I'll let you connect the dots yourself. Thankfully, the story takes a backseat to the action and its inability to be even close to interesting won't matter to you at all.
We'll get to that action in a minute. First, we need to go over the game's graphics and sound. Overall, Project Sylpheed looks and sounds fairly good, but we've seen and heard much better this generation. The actual in-game action looks and sounds fantastic. The missions you'll be flying through convey a very convincing feeling of realism. The vastness of outer space is excellently captured, which has been a problem with a good number of the available intergalactic action titles. While most games treat the universe as a flat, star-dotted paintjob, Project Sylpheed's 3D battlefields and superb sound effects make the player actually feel as if they are piloting their starship through the emptiness of space. Surround sound is a must with this game, as hearing the lasers and missiles from every conceivable angle really serves to draw the player into the action.
Project Sylpheed's graphics and sound seem to take a nosedive in Square-Enix's area of expertise: cutscenes and CG movies. The game's cutscenes look like the work of a lazy and inexperienced developer from the height of the PS2 era. If Square-Enix can work beautiful CG into Nintendo DS games, there is no excuse for the lack of quality in an Xbox 360 game. Also, the voice actors sound bored with their roles and desperate for a paycheck. You'll only hear a few spoken lines that don't sound like they are delivered in the same a way a distant uncle would read a boring story to a nephew they don't much care for. Being that this is a Square-Enix game, this is twice as disappointing as it would be in any other developer's work.
So, how is the game itself? That entirely depends on the player's disposition and preferences. Project Sylpheed's gameplay falls somewhere in between an arcade space shooting game and a ridiculously complicated flight simulator. Even for the most experienced gamers, the tutorial is an absolute MUST. The HUD displays no less than ten different readouts at all times and simply getting your ship from point a to point b can be a baffling ordeal. Once you manage to get the hang of things, the game has a lot to offer. Near endless customization options for your ship and its weapons, quite a few story missions - each with its own set of submissions and a ton of unlockables and achievements will keep anyone busy for at least a couple of weeks. That is, anyone with the patience to learn the ins and outs of playing the game. Fans of fast paced shooters will have to grit their teeth through the learning curve, while flight simulator fans will quickly tire of blasting wave after wave of enemies. In today's gaming market, players usually have two main choices: an attention deficit-inspired twitchfest of fast fingers and even faster gunfire or a slow, methodical game with lots of options, planning and time for the player to mull it all over. Project Sylpheed can't decide which category it wants to fall into, and the game's mixed bag will turn off a lot of players. For those willing to give it a try and see the game through, Project Sylpheed has a lot to offer and at twenty dollars less than most Xbox 360 games ($39.99).
It is safe to say that Project Sylpheed: Arc of Destruction for the Xbox 360 isn't for everyone, and Square-Enix fans usually aren't very receptive to new ideas (We want an androgynous anti-hero, crystals, airships, and the same plot over and over again and we want it to be pretty!). For those willing to plod through the unforgiving learning curve and often odd-feeling mismatch of genres, Project Sylpheed has a lot to offer and could become this year's biggest sleeper hit. So if you're looking for something that is at the same time both totally similar and wildly different, strap yourself in and blast off but make sure to sign up for the training course first.
CCC Freelance Writer