It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… a dude in a squirrel suit?
Nothing serves as a reminder of your age than the revival of a franchise you vividly remember playing back in the dark ages, before we had all this fancy wi-fi and gamertags and social networking and get off my lawn, you damn kids! *Ahem*… Pilotwings is a special case, however, now having accompanied two Nintendo launches to demonstrate the new system’s jaw-dropping abilities (relatively speaking, of course), 15 years apart. I take some solace in the fact that, just as I know the vast majority of the kids clamoring for a new 3DS have no recollection of Pilotwings 64, in 15 years they’ll know the same feeling when a sequel comes out alongside the Super WiiDS Plus and the kids of that generation will give blank stares when you mention Pilotwings Resort.
[image1]But back in the here and now, Pilotwings, like the rest of us, is starting to show its age. No longer the spry showcase of fantastical flights of fancy, this game feels like an old codger who just wants to relax on the titular resort and get swept up in the memories of the good old days. If you played Pilotwings 64, it’s remarkable how much of the style and mechanics of that game were neutered for this one. 15 years later and Pilotwings Resort is lacking much of what its predecessor had – which wasn’t a whole lot to begin with.
Instead of choosing a character from the roster of pilots, you’re now simply given your Mii with whom to fly. Makes sense, perhaps, given the state of modern Nintendo, but the different weight classes of the old pilots had an impact on the game’s physics; part of the gameplay was picking the right character for the right job. Couple that with the removal of wind direction and velocity to affect your flight, and traveling around Wuhu Island is just…bland. Easier, yes, and more accessible, I suppose, but simply less interesting when you get right down to it.
You’ve still got a stable of three vehicles (six, really, if you count the modified versions that you unlock through missions). The kooky old gyrocopter has been replaced by a simple plane, which shoots little pellets instead of explosive rockets. The best vehicle by far remains the rocket belt, while the hang-glider is still… just kind of there.
[image2]One improvement, though, is in the controls. Flying around dodging that looming mountainside was always much more difficult in the past, due partly to the N64’s crappy analog stick, as well as the aforementioned factors that have since been removed affecting the physics. While flight may be nice and effortless, however, landing the plane and the hang-glider is a chore that seems more akin to playing roulette than actual aviation. The scoring system is just way too finicky in docking you points for accuracy and impact – a few pixels can mean the difference between a perfect score and a retry.
So what is there to actually do in Pilotwings Resort? The whole game is split up into Mission mode and Free Flight. Missions are straightforward – there’ll be a few missions per vehicle in each class (bronze, silver, gold, and platinum), and the goals range from the standard “fly through the rings” approach to more interesting ones in the later levels, like dousing fires with your water plane or guiding lost UFO’s back to the mothership. For the most part, the missions strike a good balance between quirky and conventional. I just thank all the gods in the universe that they didn’t bring back that horrible “push the beach ball into the goal” mission from Pilotwings 64.
Free Flight mode is actually a bit deceptive, as you’re only allowed to fly around Wuhu Island for a short limited time. During that time you can explore the whole island that the game has to offer, which isn’t much and doesn’t have nearly the amount of nooks and crannies that were hidden away on the N64. It does get to be kind of addictive, though – the goal in Free Flight is to find as many locations, white orbs, rings, and statues as you can on the map. Each outing will save any new discoveries, and over many trips you’ll earn rewards like time extensions and 3D dioramas to view.
[image3]The 3D may actually be the worthiest part of the game. It’s probably best to avoid the potential dizziness that can come with setting the 3D at full in this game, but it’s more than just a gimmick here. Enabling the 3D makes it noticeably easier to judge distances and guide your approaches. And while the graphics are nothing to write home about, some of the 3D vistas are breathtaking. There’s nothing like dive bombing towards a volcano in a flying squirrel suit and seeing that mountain steadily rushing up at you.
The problem with Pilotwings Resort is that there just isn’t much to do. Sweeping through the missions is a three or four hour job, although collecting perfect scores for each one will take significantly longer (if you’re into that kind of thing at all, that is). Free Flight has its addictive qualities, but it still won’t hold the average player’s interest for more than a handful of hours. With no multi-player and no StreetPass support, you’ll have pretty much exhausted everything this resort has to offer in a couple days. If you still want more after that – well, you whippersnappers are going to have to wait a good 15 years, I reckon.