There don't seem to be that many variants of Pong out there, at least, the kind that put a twist or two on that pioneering game. But I have saved the best for last. Windjammers was a game for the Neo-Geo in the mid 90's; I remember having it for a brief time when I bought a Neo-Geo CD a long time ago. Regretfully, I ended up selling it and the games that came with it. I remember playing it a few times and enjoying it, but did not really appreciate how great it really is until I tried it again in my journey to play all these games as part of the blog.
It certainly has a Neo-Geo flavor; like the other two games I reviewed, Bang Bead and Battle Flip Shot, it's kind of a meld between Pong and a fighting game (the latter in terms of presentation) but Windjammers pulls it off much more successfully than the other two, and it's incredible considering the other two were released years after Windjammers.
You use a flying disc and can throw it in 8 different directions; the disc can either fly directly towards your opponent or it will bounce and ricochet off the walls surrounding the field. Some stages will have barriers in the middle of the field, adding an extra element of challenge. The disc will continously increase in speed until a goal is scored, causing the loser to throw the next disc. There are yellow and pink zones; the yellow is worth 3 points and the pink is worth 5. Also, letting a disc fall to the ground is worth 2 points to your opponent.
There are many kinds of throws you can do. In addition to a normal throw, you can curve it, toss it up in the air, power throw, special throw (these two require a power charge) and counter. The special moves require SF 2 type moves to execute, but they add some spice to the proceedings (for example, setting the disc on fire). There are 2 sets that last around 30 seconds each, making for fast-paced contests. There are six players to choose from, and six courts available for play
Incredibly, I thought the graphics were more colorful and had more variety than either BFS or Bang Bead, which is impressive given that the latter were released in the late 90's. The sound is nothing to write home about, but you'll probably like it if you like Neo Geo games (or arcade games from the 90's). The high point for me was the gameplay. Windjammers is a very easy game to just pick up and play, and I never felt overwhelmed by what was going on. You can actually defeat the AI opponent pretty easily, unlike in Battle Flip Shot. But it still poses a challenge.
I am pretty envious at those who have a good friend who they could potentially play this with, as it has been certified by numerous reviewers that the game absolutely shines in two-player mode. But I found going solo was really fun as well. I would not only recommend this game, but would go as far as to say that the compilers of the "1,001 Video Games..." dropped the ball by not including this on the list. The only Neo-Geo games I noticed on the list were some of the fighting games, but they did a lot more than that.
It's a real shame that outside of emulators and actually owning a Neo-Geo console (or the arcade hardware), it's really difficult to be able to experience Windjammers. It's available on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, but only in Japan. One would think it would be a relatively simple matter to make it available to American users of the Wii via download; the only thing I could think stopping that would be rights issues. But if you can find a copy, by all means pick it up.