I'd heard of Silpheed before, a side-scrolling shoot-em-up in the same vein as R-Type. I downloaded the Project Sylpheed demo from Xbox Live, expecting the same sort of 2D shooter, perhaps with some enhanced graphics.
Project Sylpheed is an Xbox 360 exclusive, a full-blown 3D space fighter game in the same vein as X-Wing, Wing Commander, Colony Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Star Wars Starfighter. I love these kinds of games - even programmed a simple one in that genre back in 1980 - so I immediately added this title to my "must buy" list.
The game has a mission structure similar to the others I mentioned, with a branching storyline. In flight, the game plays very much like Battlestar Galactica, with various "special moves" triggered by button combos. In the menus and cutscenes the game looks and feels very much like games from the aerial fighter series Ace Combat. In fact, the music and animation seems like it was designed by the same people. The RPG-like fighter customization and upgrade system is also very reminiscent of Ace Combat, as is the mission performance grading, money earning and radio chatter.
Graphically, the game is beautiful, if a little on the busy side during large dogfights. Controls are fairly standard for this sort of game, and pretty responsive. I found the various HUD displays and different weapons fairly easy to master. Situational awareness is easier to come by in the full game than I recall from the demo; I never felt really lost or overwhelmed by the amount of information I had to manage as a pilot.
I don't have a fancy sound system. I use the stereo speakers built into my television. And I'm not really that aware of sound, so the quality has to be exceptionally good or bad for me to notice it. All I can say about the sound in this game is that I didn't notice it.
One area in which this game excels is its flight tutorial; every in-flight control and feature is demonstrated in detail. It's easily the equal of the tutorial in X-Wing, and far superior to the diagrams and text of Battlestar Galactica.
But is the game fun? Oh yes. There's little that's more fun than getting into a serious dogfight against multiple opponents, locking on, and firing your missiles, then watching as the explosions bloom around you. This game, the first of its kind for the Xbox 360 - in fact, for any console in the current generation - is a worthy addition to the collection of any space fighter fan.