The game takes place in the 27th century. Earth, better known as Terra since their colonial expansion movement, has terraformed and colonized over a dozen systems across a vast reach of space. However, because of the distance between Terra and her colony worlds, their is a strong movement in the outer colonies towards independence from the Terra centralized government.
Tensions reach an all time high after the Acheron incident, during which Terra sterilized a rogue colony and disguised the event as a terraforming accident. This event caused several other colony worlds to band together in a coalition dedicated to securing their freedom from Terra (naming themselves ADAN, after the first letter of each member colony).
Players take on the role of Katana Faraway, a cadet training to be a pilot in the Terra Central Armed Forces. During a routine training exercise his flight wing is attacked by ADAN fighters, which inadvertently spoils the ADAN surprise attack on Schlos Base, the in-system defense platform of the colony world Lebendorf. The carrier Acropolis is deployed with Katana's fighter squad to fend off the encroaching ADAN forces.
Project Sylpheed suffered mixed reviews, with critics citing cliche characters and predictable combat as detriments, as well as the fact that there is a hidden time limit on missions and that the persistently hard to see targets took away from the dogfighting experience by forcing the player to rely on instruments. Alternately, people praised it for being an accurate representation of a space shooter, containing distinctive characters, voice actors, a deeper integration of gameplay and story, and an extremely colourful design ethic. While critically average, it did enough things right for enough people that it went platinum November 1st, 2007.
Game Arts released a similar space-combat game, Silpheed Alternative, some three years later for Android mobile phones. It is apparently a prequel to Project Sylpheed.
Please note that there is no project in which a "Sylpheed" appears in this game. Game Arts produced their own space shooter named Silpheed in 1989 for the PC, and the name remains as a reference to the company's earlier productions. The fighter you pilot in this game is called the Delta Saber.
Project Sylpheed provides examples of:
- Ace Pilot:
- Katana's training squad destroys an entire fighter wing. And that's only the first level.
- Also Margras Mason, whose piloting skill is even better than that of Katana.
- Alpha Strike: the level one Charge Attack fires all three weapons systems all at once.
- Anime - Plainly (sometimes painfully) apparent in the art direction, characterization, plot, and combat. Pretend you're in a Shōnen action series and you'll be okay.
- Anime Hair - Surprisingly averted, for the most part. Played straight with Sandra, whose blond-with-blue-streaks-plus-spikes would make Yugi Moto nervous.
- Authority Equals Asskicking - Subverted: Vice-Admiral Vieira, commander of the flagship Caliban. Responsible for the defense of Schlos Base and Operation Nebula Blaze. Bravely runs away at the first sign of real trouble. Handled quite reasonably: the good Admiral is demoted and transferred to the farthest and coldest reaches of space by the end of the game.
- Asskicking Equals Authority - Played straight with the rest of the cast.
- Katana Faraway, space cadet. Singlehandedly destroys half the invading fleet. Is promoted to Lieutenant and becomes flight leader of the White Griffons.
- Commodore Higgins, commander of Schlos Base. Left holding the bag after Admiral Viera bravely runs away; survives. Is promoted to Admiral and charged with the defense of Earth.
- The Atoner - Margras Mason, after he witnesses the Moral Event Horizon crossed by ADAN.
- Bittersweet Ending
- Black-and-Gray Morality - Both sides commit serious atrocities; the TCAF only come out as the good guys because you're playing as one.
- Boring, but Practical - You can do some amazing flight maneuvers in this game, involving high speed turns and power cuts. However, the secret to finishing missions quickly is to equip your missiles and fire them at all of your enemies.
- Bullet Time: The level three Charge Attack gives the illusion of slowing down time by overclocking your ship's control systems and sensors.
- Charge Attack: Three levels, an Alpha Strike, a ram, and bullet time.
- Cutscene Power to the Max - Averted. Every awesome maneuver Katana and his squad mates execute can be done in game.
- Energy Weapon - Usable weapon. This is the future, after all.
- Escort Mission - Every single mission in the game requires that you keep certain capital ships alive, along with offering bonus upgrade points for keeping other ones alive. Considering that your capital ships are apparently devoid of any point defences and the other friendly fighters focus on destroying enemy fighters instead of the attackers and bombers like they should this becomes even more of a annoyance than it usually is.
- Margras is Char Aznable the Red Comet and Athrun Zala, obviously!! The whole story is basically a miniature version of Gundam SEED, and the gameplay is Macross!!
- And we have Doris Egan as Haman Karn and Gihren Zabi.
- Katana is Kira "Jesus" Yamato, in that both have the quality of Messianic Archetype.
- Guide Dang It! - The sub-objectives. The game barely tells you about them via hints, as you need a guide to find them all. Some of these sub-objectives are so obtuse that, even after five years of this game being released, some objectives are still missing.
- Heroic Sacrifice - Margras throwing his own life and his fighter ahead of Katana inside the core of the superweapon, kamikazeing the core itself.
- Hot Librarian - Captain May Crichton is fiiine.
- Idiot Ball - In how many ways...
- It's really hard to see a small fighter in space. Wouldn't it be a great idea to try to cover up those HUGE glowing exhaust trails?
- There's a frigate in the Lebendorf missions who comes under fire from bombers. After you save it, it deploys its fighters to assist the main fleet. Why did you not use said fighters to repel the bombers?
- In Name Only - Has nothing to do with the Silpheed Shoot 'em Up games.
- It's Up to You - After pulling the Acropolis and TCAF fleets out of trouble the first time, the White Griffons are called upon to solve every problem in the war. It's starts relatively small: "we're going to destroy this space station, so you fighter pilots destroy their cruiser defense line", but rapidly escalates beyond control.
- Macross Missile Massacre:
- You can track down individual fighter planes and shoot them with nose cone gatling guns. Or you could simply lock on to all of them and shoot them with missiles.
- Some missiles shoot other missiles.
- More Dakka - You can mount railguns designed for warships on your fighter.
- No Kill Like Overkill - There is a gun that shoots gravity wells. It is twice the length of your fighter.
- Old-School Dogfight - Played straight sometimes, averted at others. You yaw, pitch, bank, and stuff, but some maneuvers allow you to do things that just wouldn't be possible on a planet. Like flying sideways.
- Point Defenseless:
- Averted. Point defense systems can kill both you and your ship killing missiles.
- Also played straight. Point defence systems on friendly capital ships can't seem to take down a single one of the attackers that are quite rapidly tearing them apart, forcing you to save them.
- Ramming Always Works: The level two Charge Attack focuses your shields over your nose cone and supercharges your afterburners.
- Rule of Cool/Rule of Drama - The cast are slaves to these rules. Half of the idiocies and deaths in this game are due to these rules. Half of the visuals and cutscenes are due to these rules.
- Scenery Porn - To its credit, when the game is busy ignoring the fact that space is really big, it fills that space with colourful and beautiful nebulas, clouds, and starscapes. And for some reason, fighter engines leave glowing exhaust trails behind them for hundreds of meters.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale - At times both averted and played straight. In most engagements that involve ship to ship combat you can barely see the enemy warships, and computer guided targeting systems are a requirement to engage the enemy. However, during the defense of Hargenteen (in which the enemy's goal is presumably to occupy the planet), the Terra fleet decides that the best defense against ADAN is to line up in a row across a tiny area of the planet and wait for them to show up. ADAN in return decides that the best way of taking the planet is to charge the defenders head on.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism - unlike its expy anime series, Gundam, Project Sylpheed lies firmly on the idealistic end in spite of being as dark as Gundam.
- Space Is an Ocean - Cruisers, Destroyers, Carriers, Battleships, Commodores, and Admirals are all present here. Friction is apparent (targeting ships engines reduces their speed to zero). Very little of any ship to ship engagements involve exploiting the Z-plane. And by turning off your engines and hiding behind an asteroid you are effectively invisible. This is subverted in Mission 11, during which an enemy carrier surprises the Acropolis by flying above it and shooting down at its vulnerable profile. However, this mission takes place in atmosphere.
- Space Opera - Insomuch that the Gundam and Macross series' are also space operas. Project Sylpheed bears a remarkable resemblance to those two series'.
- Standard Sci-Fi Fleet - Fighters, Attackers, frigates, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, carriers, super battleships, horrific doomsday device.
- Stupid Sacrifice - Raymond. You were obscured by a dust cloud, and your opponent was oblivious to your presence. Why not use your advanced targeting computer to shoot him, rather than charging into him at full speed kamikaze style?
- Suicide by Cop: Once the Moral Event Horizon occurs, [[spoiler:Margras realizes he has made a horrific mistake and becomes notably depressed.
- Wave-Motion Gun - Present in many of the warships in both fleets, but most notable on the planet destroying Kill Sat.