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Pilotwings (Nintendo SNES) Review
Review by 
8.37/10 from 21 user ratings
 
In anticipation of the release of Pilotwings Resort, Negative World is bringing you reviews of the Pilotwings series, starting with a look back at the title that started it all.

Pilotwings is best described as a flight simulator with Nintendo charm. Launching alongside the SNES in all major territories, the game impressed most critics with its great graphics, catchy music, and varied gameplay mechanics. Pilotwings was originally meant as a tech demo for the SNES, but truly surpassed all expectations, providing an array of flight vehicles, each with very unique gameplay styles.

You start the game as a new recruit in Flight Club, a training facility meant to whip you into shape, earning Pilot licences ranging from Bronze all the way up to the coveted Pilotwings.


At first, you have a choice of two gameplay options, the light plane and skydiving. While piloting the light plane, the game has you follow a path of floating spheres leading to a runway where you have to make your landing. Initially you begin in the air, but you later have control from take-off. Skydiving begins from the moment you leave the plane, allowing you to free fall through rings for points before allowing you to open your parachute There is a risk reward element here, as opening your parachute makes your character harder to control, but waiting longer to open it makes you more likely to crash through the floor. Later in the game, you will be able to pilot the hang glider and experimental rocket belt (jetpack). Hang gliding has the added element of thermal currents, which provide lift in place of an engine, allowing you the ability to reach a specified altitude, which is a requirement before making a landing. The rocket belt offers high or low speeds of movement and a top down camera view, which is needed to help achieve a more accurate landing.

I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar

The difficulty curve here is very good, offering little in the way of hindrance early on, but ramping up to markers that bounce, rings that spin, and obstacles such as ice patches on the runway. All of this serves to make you feel that you are improving and that lessons are truly being learnt with each passing stage.

All modes are scored on a point system which is separated into categories such as speed, accuracy, rings passed, etc. The maximum score you can receive by perfecting each category is 100 points overall. However, you can also gain more by accessing secret bonus stages unlocked by landing on special moving platforms in certain stages. Landing on these platforms is especially tricky, requiring perfect timing and/or a lot of luck. These bonus stages are where a great deal of that Nintendo charm comes in. Whether itís the penguins on diving boards, the flying birdman, or the bouncing wingman, each of these levels is a blast to play and shows some of that wacky, fun spirit that was taken even further in the games sequel on N64.


A penguin jumping of a diving board, what sort of flight club is this?

The Flight Club instructors also deserve a mention here, from their oftentimes funny comments to their hilarious expressions that bookend each level, these guys are chock full of personality and, for me, became instantly memorable.


She wasnít crazy about my looks, but then she saw the size of my cockpit

In a bit of an unexpected twist, it turns out that not only have you become quite the accomplished pilot, but you are also ready for helicopter stealth missions against the never before mentioned Evil syndicate who have kidnapped the instructors. There are two of these levels in all and, while difficult, they offer another fun and silly addition to the game. These levels can become frustrating at times while you try and shoot anti-aircraft turrets to create a path to your destination, ultimately landing on an unmanned enemy heliport to provide safe passage for the hostages.

I guess all that hang gliding and skydiving training really came in handy

I always go by the mantra 'gameplay over graphics', but a great deal of the gameplay Pilotwings has to offer is thanks to its graphical style. I wonít go into it in depth here, but the Mode 7 graphics utilized in this game allowed the ability to scale and rotate 2D sprites, helping provide a 3D effect which was essential in providing a true flight simulation experience. The only downside really is that everything remains flat - even trees and buildings, which, despite looking great from a distance, appear as flat textures when you get up close. The game does feature some great effects though. The progression through day, evening, and night time levels is fantastic and crashing through the ground when skydiving and crashing in the plane look great. It is a testament to the team, especially given that this was a launch title.

I donít have a great deal to say about the audio other than it is superb. What do you expect with Koji Kondo in charge right? Each vehicle has its own theme music, which, in my opinion, perfectly complements its style of flight.

I would say that Pilotwings was and still is a must play title for any game fan. The very accessible but deceptively deep gameplay offers enough challenge to keep hardened game players interested, while not scaring off the more casual gamer. The pleasing visuals and music really help to create a wonderful flight game that comes highly recommended.

Pilotwings is currently available on the Wii Virtual Console for 800 points, check back next week for our review of Pilotwings 64.

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Posted: 03/12/11, 15:17:09  - Edited by 
 on: 03/13/11, 00:36:19    
 
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
 
@warerare Kind of, but Nintendo rarely made any Virtual Boy games period, so I think the theory still stands.


Posted by 
 on: 03/13/11, 22:15:34
@Zero

I suppose you're right but they wouldn't have know how little support they would provide pre-launch. I bet they thought that thing was going to be huge.


Posted by 
 on: 03/14/11, 13:13:02
I dunno I mean... you do kind of know how much support is coming pre-launch, right? Like 3DS right now already has way more games announced than Virtual Boy received. Either way Virtual Boy is kind of an anomaly.


Posted by 
 on: 03/14/11, 15:21:14
@Zero

I agree, hope I don't seem like I am arguing, just trying to think about it. It is a shame they didn't think about Pilotwings for the Wii launch, although lord knows how long Factor 5 were working on their version.


Posted by 
 on: 03/14/11, 15:33:54
I downloaded Pilotwings yesterday. It's a game I've been meaning to buy for a long time, and after watching the live Game Center CX stream last week it got me in the mood.

I had rented Pilotwings back in the day, so it's been nearly 20 years since I last played it. I was afraid that the graphics and controls would seem primitive next to newer games, but they don't! And the game is a lot tougher than I was anticipating -- right now I'm on the 3rd set of lessons, and I always manage to screw up one of the events. This game will take me a while to finish.


Posted by 
 on: 02/27/12, 17:47:32
Glad your enjoying it, just wait until Expert Mode. Maybe I should Dungeon Master a Pilotwings club


Posted by 
 on: 02/27/12, 17:57:11
I'm hoping this is a DL for Club Nintendo next month. Canonj is probably NOT hoping for that, lol.


Posted by 
 on: 02/27/12, 19:52:19
@warerare

Expert mode? Oh man...

@anon_mastermind

Damn...I didn't think of that. It would've been smart to wait a couple days to see what next month's selection is. On the other hand, I have a bunch of Wii points just sitting there and I need to spend them on something.


Posted by 
 on: 02/27/12, 21:26:26
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