Project Sylpheed: Arc of DeceptionESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer – Gamearts
Publisher - Square Enix/Microsoft
In game Dolby Digital
More than 500 years have passed since humans left Earth’s solar system and started exploring and colonizing other planets. The relentless terra forming of planets to make them inhabitable has lead to the colonization of 11 different star systems. To help protect and equally police them all, Earth formed The Terra Central Armed Forces (TCAF). Even though Earth’s rule benefited the entire galaxy, civil unrest brewed from some of the colonies, and as history has taught us everyone would love their own independence. Four systems have banded together and became the ADAN Freedom Alliance and they declared war on the TCAF. This is the story to the recently released Project Sylpheed: Arc of Deception, developed by Gamearts and published by Square Enix and Microsoft. As I delved into the game I started to wonder could the visuals and gameplay match? Being a shooter fan since my early gaming days I really looked forward to finding out.
The visuals in Project Sylpheed hold up quite nicely for the most part. The space backdrops are quite pretty to look at but this is somewhat of a moot point because unless you are just an observer watching someone play you really won’t get a chance to tell how good it all really looks as you will be too focused on the tasks at hand.
The ships themselves are a sight to behold, from multiple fighter squadrons to space cruisers, frigates, and enormous battleships. I should note that I did notice a bit of pixelization on some of the ships as they moved, but it was nothing really to be concerned about.
During gameplay the frame rate did drop below the 60 FPS that this game targets, and it also stuttered for a bit but, this is somewhat understandable when you factor in 50 to 60 spacecraft and you own hud that can be on screen all at once. The cut scenes in Project Sylpheed are also done with amazing flair and style, kind of typical of Square games. The CGI sequences, although cheesy at times, are highly detailed and very colourful. They are also quite important in developing and moving Project Sylpheed’s story along too. And on a side note the odd bit of up skirt angles and womanly breasts isn’t a bad thing either.
The game has a relatively impressive sound design. Any gamer with access to a multi-channel sound system should take advantage of the Dolby Digital splendour. The sound of ships can be clearly heard throughout any speaker as they fly past from front to back or side to side. Explosions and laser blasts sound appropriately meaty and full of bass too. While the voice-dub cast actually put up an enjoyable enough performance, the writing was a bit over the top at times, and came across contrived or cheesy. Although this was the case I never felt the need to shut off the voices or look for the Japanese language option. Yes, you heard me right there is a Japanese language option for those purists out there.
The combat system in the game is actually very well done, but it certainly can be a complicated matter. I recommend any gamer to go through the game’s tutorial mode as it will help one later on. Project Sylpheed has you learning to match speeds with an opponent, cycle through a myriad of weapons, and even perform tough manoeuvres in the heat of battle. For some this may difficult as the fluid motion of the game, when it didn’t stutter, may cause you to feel a bit on the queasy side (I know I did). After completing the training and getting through a few missions all of the available controls will feel like second nature. Project Sylpheed is definitely not a quick pick up and play title. All of the above makes for quite a steep learning curve learning curve and a lot of people, myself included, may find themself losing interest after some time.
As you progress through the game you’ll be able to earn upgrades on all your weapons. I eventually found a combo of weapons I felt somewhat comfortable with but given the amount of weapons and enemies trial and error may be self-defeating for some. During gamplay you also have wingmen that by design are supposed to do your bidding. Giving them orders such as attacking your currently targeted enemy or ordering them to get a specific enemy off of your tail accomplishes this. The system works manages to work somewhat well but as I played through the game I found myself just letting them do what they wanted as it seemed they had a mind of their own anyway. They would rarely get involved in a fight without specific instructions and having to manage them was way to tedious to continue throughout the whole game.
Unfortunately the games liner approach to missions becomes pretty standard fair after a while: cut scene, briefing, mission, repeat.
A little to repetitious for myself as it just got a little boring over and over. Some of the missions were very large and really felt like they had no bearing to the task at hand. Bottom-line, I was really hoping for some great meat on this story, but I found that it seemed to have a little too much gristle. Mind you the story is well driven when certain cut scenes were introduced but over it seemed over too quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I liked what was there, but it was just too quick for my liking, hence the missing meat analogy.
Being that this game is a shooter, one would expect a multiplayer option. But much to my surprise, when I looked for one it was absent. This was somewhat disappointing as there was no single system or online multiplayer component. I do not know why there was this omission, but alas there was and it really does hurt this game.
Knowing Square’s pedigree and Project Sylpheed’s promising storyline, I was somewhat let down with the overall game. The control scheme is very confusing and comes with a very tough learning curve. Slowdown at key points in game play was also a reoccurring problem. On the plus side the cut scenes are well done, but they aren’t game play. If the gamer is willing to conquer the unwieldy controls, the game does present some fun times, as some of the battles are epic in nature and finishing a long mission is defiantly rewarding. Unfortunately the casual gamer will probably not be able to just pick up and play this game as it is just too complicated. I would say that most should give this a rent as only the diehard gamer may appreciate this title.