In anticipation of the release of Pilotwings Resort, Negative World is bringing you reviews of the Pilotwings series. The series continues with Pilotwings 64. If you missed the first review it can be found here
It is really hard to imagine people complaining about a lack of launch games these days, the Nintendo 64 launched with only two games (three in Europe and Japan), one was the much loved and revolutionary Super Mario 64, the other being Pilotwings 64. Pilotwings 64 was a game co-developed by Nintendo and Paradigm Simulation, a company who had previously worked on training programs for the likes of the Department of Defense and NASA, they would later become Paradigm Entertainment making games such as Beetle Adventure Racing, Spyhunter and more recently Stuntman Ignition, the company has since been closed. Paradigm mainly worked on the technical aspects of the game while Nintendo took control of the game design, the aim when developing the game was said to be one of creating an arcade like feeling while keeping the feeling of flight as real as possible.
With any new console comes the need for a proof of concept and this is where Pilotwings 64 came in, much like its predecessor was used to show off the mode 7 capabilities of the Super Nintendo, Pilotwings was meant as a showcase for the Nintendo 64’s 3D capabilities as well as a long list of effects and rendering techniques. The four areas created for traversal in Pilotwings 64 were technical marvels for their time showcasing some impressive graphical effects with very little pop in, the worlds felt alive with other crafts flying above and below or whales and boats dominating the oceans. You can also see other nice little touches throughout the game, such as Mario on Mt. Rushmore who when blown up gets replaced by Wario or Space Shuttles taking off from a launch bay.
I'mma Wario, I'mma gonna ween
All this added flair would mean very little if the already proven gameplay of the original did not translate to the sequel, thankfully little if anything was lost in the transition and everything in Pilotwings 64 feels super tight and responsive. The game features three main vehicle types in this iteration, these are the returning rocketbelt and hang glider along with a new addition the gyrocopter, which takes the place of the light plane from the original game. Skydiving does feature but as an extra game rather than a main mode, the extra games also include the cannonball, free flight birdman and the jumble hopper.
You jokers, you always send me to the launch bay during take off, one of these days I might get seriously hurt
While there are less main vehicles this time around they are certainly more fleshed out offering a larger variety of gameplay modes to keep players on their toes. Each of the vehicles starts off much like their Pilotwings counterparts but as the rank increases, so do the amount of events you have to complete. These start with flying through rings or reaching a certain height before landing but soon start to include popping balloons, pushing a ball to its target, taking photographs of certain landmarks or shooting giant robots with missiles as they destroy small towns, if you thought the birdman and penguin were wacky in the original game just wait to see how far they took things in Pilotwings 64. Each event in split into 100 points meaning by the end there are a total of 300 points for each vehicle by the end of the game. There are certain ranks you can achieve by hitting point milestones which are bronze, silver, gold and perfect score. You can get by just by achieving a bronze score but to unlock everything you have to go for the perfects. Scoring these perfects can be much trickier than in the original game as you now havbe to contend with a totally 3D landscape, weaving in and out or bridges, taking nosedives down cliffs it can all get very dangerous, one wrong move and you could crash and have to start the level again.
Why do all these rings lead straight into a cliff face?
As you progress through the game and gain better scores you will begin to unlock the extra modes, each of these only has one event type but can get just as addicting as the main modes. Cannonball mode has you shooting your character from a giant canon aiming for a target, the further away from the centre you are the less you score. Skydiving is a lot like a combination of the original games skydiving mode and the skydiving mode in Wii Sports resort, allowing you to make formations as you fall before heading below the clouds where you have to open your parachute and land on a target. Jumble hopper attaches spring shoes to your character and the idea is to reach the goal in as short a time as possible, avoiding water. Finally we have the birdman which attaches wings to your character and allows you the ability to really take in the scenery, taking photos if you wish. This mode really allows you the time to check out the four areas and just make them your playground, you truly can just lose time here, swooping under bridges, flying through caverns or checking out some of the landmarks in Little States.
Hey guys, are you sure its safe to be in here?
The music in Pilotwings 64 is just as fitting as the first game in my opinion, it is not to everyones taste but the very jazz inspired soundtrack really fits with game well and a personal favourite of mine is the hang glider theme, it makes a strong mode in the game anyway just that much more perfect. Wind effects are used to a great effect here also, really giving you the sense of speed when taking a big dive in one of the vehicles.
Pilotwings 64 truly is a step above the original in every way, as much as nostalgia fuels every urge to give this a lower score I am just unable to do it. Nintendo and Paradigm Simulation truly knocked it out of the park here, creating a great launch title and a true gem that holds up amazingly well today. It is hard to put into words just how great this game feels to play so I will leave you with a quote -
“It's difficult to explain, but the feeling of the flight simulation is very realistic. You can glide down from the top of a mountain, then turn around and look back up at the peak and say, 'Hey, I was just up there.' It's that real”. Shigeru Miyamoto
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I should have time to write the review for Pilotwings Resort on Sunday. It has been very enjoyable thus far and the controls are spot on, I won't go into anymore detail but fans of the first two should get quite alot out of this one.