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Pilotwings 64 (Nintendo 64) Review
Review by 
8.75/10 from 24 user ratings
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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 Excellent  9.8 / 10
03/19/11, 16:38   Edited:  03/19/11, 17:54
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Holy cow, awesome score. I'm not quite up that high, but I 9.5ed it. Such an amazing launch game for N64, really made good use of their new 3D console (could Pilotwings Resort ever live up?)

Posted by 
 on: 03/19/11, 17:40
I had to really play the hell out of it this morning to decide if I really wanted to go that high, it really does deserve to be up there imo.

Posted by 
 on: 03/19/11, 17:48
After playing Piltwings Resort yesterday I want more! This game sounds like a blast and it should be on the VC.

Posted by 
 on: 03/19/11, 18:02
Pilotwings 64 might have been a launch title however it was one of my favorite 64 games, certainly in the top ten. For a game 15 years old it's held up surprisingly well... something maybe 1% of 3D games from the 90's (1996, lol) and early 2000's can say.

Waverace is another one that held up brilliantly. They physics model in that one is still great which is fucking incredible given how old it is.

Posted by 
 on: 03/19/11, 18:32
Oldmanwinter said:
Waverace is another one that held up brilliantly. They physics model in that one is still great which is fucking incredible given how old it is.
It's funny you mention that here...I played both Pilotwings 64 and Wave Race 64 near the N64's launch and wasn't especially thrilled with either. But a few months ago, I purchased WR64 from the VC and had a great time 100%ing it and really appreciated how the wave physics affected the game. I've been waiting for Pilotwings 64 to hit the VC ever since to see if I like it more this time around as well. It certainly seems like something I would appreciate more now.

Posted by 
 on: 03/19/11, 18:52   Edited:  03/19/11, 18:53
I wonder if they are waiting until next week, seems perfect timing what with the release of resort and all.

Posted by 
 on: 03/19/11, 18:54
You'd think they would want to release it at least a couple weeks beforehand so that it would build hype. If they release it the same week, some people might see Pilotwings 64 as a cheap alternative to buying a 3DS and Pilotwings Resort

Posted by 
 on: 03/19/11, 22:18   Edited:  03/19/11, 22:18
Excellent review Warerare!

I see you gave it the same score that I gave it! It's pretty amazing how well Pilotwings 64 holds up, in fact it looks great on my HDTV(I use S-video cables). The controls are still spot on and the music is just beautiful as it's always been.

It baffles me Nintendo hasn't released this on the VC yet. Hopefully they do release it on VC soon as some are suggesting.

Posted by 
 on: 03/19/11, 22:24
Great review!

I never owned an N64 but I did rent it a couple of times along with this game. I simply loved it, it was unlike anything I had ever played before. The feeling of flying was unparalleled. I would love for the game to make it on the Virtual Console, to see if it holds up (and apparently it does...).

Posted by 
 on: 03/20/11, 06:50
Thanks for the praise guys, I have had so much fun replaying these two games over the past few weeks, it has been a pleasure. Now I have to put nostalgia aside and review Pilotwings Resort next week, I have no idea how I am going to score this one but I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by 
 on: 03/20/11, 20:37
Nice review, man.

A couple of years ago, I finally bought Pilotwings and Blast Corps used after renting them numerous times during the N64's life. But I never played them again.

Posted by 
 on: 03/21/11, 03:03
I have been considering doing a Wii Sports Resort review as a bit of a bonus, mainly due to its setting and the Air Sports stuff but that is going to be such a huge undertaking. Perhaps I should start with the Air Sports and slowly add the other sports over time.

Posted by 
 on: 03/21/11, 09:28
PilotWings 64... I just loved it. The Birdman Free Flight mode is sooo perfect and zen... I still can't understand WHY in the name of Blerdurgarethzaramarnalostos, in PilotWings Resort the Free Flight mode is TIME LIMITED !

AVGN Mode on

What were they thinking ?!

AVGN Mode off

Posted by 
 on: 03/23/11, 11:25

As you find more collectibles in free flight mode you unlock extra time. I wonder if you get unlimited time if you collect everything?

Posted by 
 on: 03/23/11, 12:12
When you destroy 20 ballons, you get +30 seconds. But, it seems that the already destroyed ballons don't get time anymore. Plus, there's different ballons to get with each vehicles and at each moment of the day (morning, evening, night).

I don't get it. I really liked the Flight game in Wii Sports Resort but I had to cheat with GeckoOS to get infinite time, I can't stand to have "Free flight" with a time limit. The free flight birdman was one of the best game mode in History.

Posted by 
 on: 03/23/11, 12:41
I think there is a way to extend your flight limit by getting a certain amount of the targets. I'm not sure if there's a way to extend it indefinitely, but there SHOULD be. With custom soundtracks.

Posted by 
 on: 03/23/11, 17:32   Edited:  03/23/11, 17:33

Who needs custom soundtracks with music like this.

Posted by 
 on: 03/23/11, 17:40
But I want to play ironically by flying to thrashcore!

Posted by 
 on: 03/23/11, 17:53
I remember renting the game back in the day. Or maybe I borrowed it. Whatever. At first I found it frustrating, but the frustration is what kept me playing. I found the game challenging, and it was cool as hell to just fly around.

Posted by 
 on: 03/24/11, 01:59
I fully agree they destroyed 95% of the appeal of the flight mode is WSR by having a time limit. Idiotic move.

Posted by 
 on: 03/24/11, 03:11
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