Japanese games love their dull, heroic cutscenes. It’s not enough to be fighting on the frontline of an interstellar war, defending the united peoples of Earth against an irrepressible enemy. Oh no. You have to find your long-lost brother, or discover your true self through the death of a teammate, or learn that your Dad is the leader of the baddies and your Mom was a robot made from car parts.
We’ll chalk this one up to the quirks of Japanese narrative - the insistence upon personalizing every massive conflict is just the way things are done in their fiction. Every mission is rammed with unrelenting chatter between your wingmen about their issues, and when they’re not arguing amongst themselves in the midst of a dogfight, Sylpheed weaves its seemingly endless tale in a trademark Square Enix movie show. Go make a sandwich, you’ll be here for a while. It’s unfortunate that it need be so intrusive because the story gets in the way of some decent shooting action.
While not exactly a sim, Sylpheed sure does use a lot of buttons, and holding, double-tapping or mashing two together will have further effects. Once mastered, you’ll have a lot of control over your space plane and since you’re usually taking on two or three dozen ships at once, its control you’ll need.
You’re given the tools for the job, though. Each ship carries four weapons, but with so many upgrades to spend mission points researching you need to make choices. Lasers or bullets? Rockets or railguns? Do you want a light and fast ship or a heavy one with more bang than an inflated packet of crisps? Being able to tart up your plane with an array of toys makes those missions all the more satisfying.
Alas, this is as far as variety goes. The missions are so similar that they could easily merge into one were it not for the nice quiet hours you get to enjoy while the cutscenes are on. The trouble with space is there’s no ground, and thus no ground targets to deal with. It denies developers a lot of extra options to mix things up. It’s always “kill this squadron” or “defend this whazit,” and they all amount to the same sequence of events - fly, shoot, rearm, shoot more.
Shooting things is fun; shooting things with a custom set of weapons even more so, but three hours in and you’re still shooting the same baddies in the same formations and chasing the same elite squadrons around in circles. Sylpheed is never bad; it just never offers anything fresh.