Pilotwings Resort Updated Hands-On

We ride the thermals and buzz the tower as Nintendo’s free-flying franchise takes to the skies in 3D.

In Nintendo’s cavernous hangar of recognizable video game franchises, some names get more flight time than others. While Mario tours the systems perpetually like a Cold War-era Air Force One, others languish in development like commercial airliners with ashtrays at every seat. Ever since its Super Nintendo debut and Nintendo 64 follow-up, the Pilotwings series has been often tinkered with but never properly launched. Well, come March 27, the whimsical flight training game will take flight on the Nintendo 3DS and introduce a whole new generation of gamers to the joys of rocket belts, hang gliders, and airplanes. We played a demo of Pilotwings Resort at Nintendo's 3DS press event in NYC and spent time with the three main methods for soaring around Wuhu Island.

The nice use of lens flare makes the sunset seems extra sunset-y.

At the beginning of the demo, we were prompted to choose from one of four member cards, indicating that Pilotwings Resort will feature four separate save slots to allow multiple players to track their progress individually. From the menu screen, we were offered two main choices: Mission Flight mode and Free Flight mode. An option titled "Dioramas" was grayed out, though we speculate this might involve taking three-dimensional in-game screenshots that you can later view and share. We were told that you could take in-game screenshots, but how they will manifest and whether or not you can share them online was unclear.

Mission Flight mode challenges players to fly a variety of missions using the rocket belt, the glider, and the plane. Doing well in mission criteria earns you points, higher point totals earn you a better rating on a three-star scale, and more stars earn you progress toward a medal rank. That may sound like a lengthy waterfall of earning too many different things, but it all comes down to how well you fly. The ranks we saw were training, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum, and each tier featured six missions, two for each vehicle. Keep in mind, though, that this was merely a demo build of the game and the final structure could be different from what we experienced.

All of the missions take place on Wuhu Island, a location that should be familiar to Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort players. Yet the environment is substantially bigger than a single island. You can fly out over the water where you'll see ships, rocky island outcroppings, and (if you're lucky), a breaching whale. During daytime missions, the water is a dazzling blue, while in the evening, it turns a smoldering orange in the light of the sunset. The visual clarity and vibrancy of the 3DS was on full display in Pilotwings Resort, creating an environment that was very enticing to fly around. But if you are tempted to hotdog a little bit and dip your wing in the azure seas (like we were), you'd better be ready to deploy your parachute. Crashing comes with the territory in Pilotwings Resort, whether from being a bit too daring or from botching the ever-tricky glider landing.

That's a Mii strapped into that rocket belt, so you'll have to get creative if you want to play as Goose or Ivy.

Missions start out fairly easy and give you simple tasks to help acquaint you with the controls. Those who remember previous Pilotwings games will find the controls very familiar, and newcomers will find them easily accessible. Locomotion doesn't involve very many inputs, no matter what you are flying, and all the vehicles use the analog circle pad for steering. The rocket belt has strong jets, weak jets, and a hover ability. The plane has a brake and speed boost, but it constantly flies at a steady rate so you never need to worry about falling out of the sky. This leaves you free to use the shoulder buttons to bank left and right, perform barrel rolls, or invert your plane completely (should you feel the need to experiment in foreign relations, Top Gun style). You can also change the view to behind the plane, directly above the plane, or first person. The glider has the simplest controls, but it is also one of the trickiest vehicles to fly, given your reliance on thermal updrafts to give you lift. You can also use the flare button to air brake or land.

While each vehicle's missions are slightly different from each other, they center around similar themes. Precision flying in the rocket belt means landing on pads; in the plane and the glider, it means flying through rings. Target practice in the plane involves missiles, while in the glider it involves photography. To keep you on track of your goals, Pilotwings Resort often includes floating balls that serve as an indicator of the optimal flight path. Tracing these paths is key to achieving perfect scores because some of the balls can be collected for points. Striving for a perfect score can be pretty exciting, but with so many things tracked (guide balls, rings, fuel, overall time, and the like), it can be tough to nail a mission on the first try.

If you prefer to roam around without the pressure of specific goals, then Free Flight mode is the place to go. Here, you can choose your vehicle and your time of day (daytime, evening, or a mystery third option that wasn't revealed in our demo) and head out over Wuhu with the wind at your back and a song in your heart. Pilotwings Resort follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by giving you plenty of appealing places to fly. From stunt runs through narrow canyons and under bridges to terrorizing the locals by flying too low over their boats and places of residence, there's a lot of fun to be had just soaring around. Many places on and around the island have large target circles with a small cursive letter "I" inside them, indicating that they are points of interest. If you fly near them, you'll be treated to a tidbit about Wuhu Island. If you fly through them, they will be checked off as a location visited and contribute to your total tally. There were 75 locations available for tallying in our demo, and two other categories listed under "locations" that could potentially record other feats of free flight. We just hope that we can tweak the time limit of two minutes once we actually get our hands on the full game because we wanted to keep flying longer after our time was up.

Those big blue circles on the minimap are thermal updrafts that will help you keep your glider dry.

Pilotwings Resort made good use of the 3DS's unique capabilities to create a nice sense of depth as we flew around the island. It seemed to make it a bit easier to line up rings and landing pads, though as our numerous crash landings can attest, it's not a terribly easy game. But it is a very welcoming one, and the large and vibrantly detailed Wuhu Island looks to be a great place for exploration. Pilotwings Resort will be available in Nintendo's designated launch window, which runs from the system's launch on March 27 to the start of the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo on June 7, for an unannounced price.

Written By

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

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Discussion

32 comments
diggyman
diggyman

Yeah what about The Cannon and Gyrocopter? I hope they add those in the final. I also hope they add more maps. Wuhu Island should be fine, but man it'd be cool to fly over a mini US again.

aoneone
aoneone

hands up if you familiar with the ORIGINAL pilotwings on SNES haha how frustrating was that? that helicopter mission LOL

RazorBlankGiga
RazorBlankGiga

I found the N64 pilot wings very boring. Then again I was spoiled on so many other great games by the time I tried it on the N64. As for flying games I'll stick to Rouge Squadron, and Star Fox.

zenverak
zenverak

I have some fond memories of the N64 game, shooting out of that cannon.

makryu
makryu

The wii should get a version of this too

cbeck002
cbeck002

I hope they include some throwback stages from the N64 haha, some of my favorite gaming memories ever!

brok
brok

Good to hear about free flight- The only thing about the N64 version that didn't seem right to me was that you could ONLY fly the vehicles if it was a test- once you earned your wings you'd think there'd be a free roam option but there wasn't.

Koi-Neon-X
Koi-Neon-X

I love Pilotwings!:) I remember playing it on the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64. Good memories! I'm glad to see it's coming to the 3DS. Enjoy!;)

NiteX
NiteX

No Gyro Chopper no buy!

nini200
nini200

Is Kiwi playable, thats all I wanna know.

JD2995
JD2995

I already decided, will be one of my first 3DS games.

coop36
coop36

Pilotwings 64 is another one of those fond game memories. I only wish they gave you a few more flying options in the DS one like the wing suit, cannonball, and gyro copter. Oh well.. maybe theyre just holding out on that info?

amensvalves
amensvalves

only island level? more levels please!

Gamingclone
Gamingclone

how are there 14 coments and 15 new? Anyway... Sweet, I cant wait to get my hands onto this!

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

FFS, I want the Wii version! Pilotwings was one of my favourite games ever, and I want a version that can be played on a full screen! *********!

gavd12
gavd12

I miss "little states"

Superlink517
Superlink517

For nostalgia's sake I wish it still had Goose and Iris and Robin and Kiwi and all them :(

fool_man_dude
fool_man_dude

Daytime, Evening, and a Mystery 3rd option. Hmmm what could it possibly be...

namdar
namdar

man PW was the best for snes helicopter mission :D OH YA!

MasterTheHero
MasterTheHero

The original SNES pilotwings was still the best in my book. The style of graphics, music, and the apache helicopter missions were all very memorable to me. Impressing your flight instructors by scoring high points never got old. I tried out the N64 version and I have to be honest, I didn't like it. I didn't like the new direction they took with the graphics and I didn't like the vehicles at all. I doubt I will ever get another pilotwings game that captures the magic of the original.

charlie_bm
charlie_bm

I remember playing the N64 one for hours, randomly flying and enjoying the scenery... My favorite map was the scale-down version of the US. I'm looking forward to this one if it has more than just the wii sports island.

homegirl2180
homegirl2180

I'm very eager to see how this plays out because I was a big fan of the N64 installment.

shafe-man
shafe-man

Pretty much looks like a fleshed out version of the Wii Sports Island Flyover/Dogfight. Which is fantastic because that was my favorite part of the game, although I was pretty pro with the motion controls (one of the few places motion control felt like a perfect fit and made analog sticks look downright painful to use). It's shaping up to be pretty awesome, but since you can use a "Rocket Belt", does that mean when you land you can run around? Or do you restart? That would be cool.... And landing with a plane/glider would be cool too. I used to test out my skills by landing on water, and a ground land would be even harder and much cooler. :D

mariostar0001
mariostar0001

I've never played any of the games, but really enjoy good looking flight games, so I'm looking forward to this.

mariokart64fan
mariokart64fan

yes yes yes next they should do fzero and stunt race !! kemco get back here and give us top gear 1 remake as well u gh

MrHatnClogs
MrHatnClogs

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Tha_DRP
Tha_DRP

This game is on my "to-do" list, not "to-get" list, because me and this game are lovers from yesteryear and it'll be a passionate revival of the love we once had!