Genre: Flying/Simulation| Developer: Nintendo EAD | Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS | Players: 1 | Rating: E (Everyone) | Release: TBC March
I’m not much a Pilotwings aficionado – I was always more of a Starfox guy in the SNES and N64 eras. Without Starfox 64 3D available for hands-on play and with the flight in Kid Icarus leaving me hungering for some more flying action, I turned to Pilotwings Resort for my fix out at the Nintendo 3DS Press Launch out in Amsterdam last week.
Pilotwings Resort actually sees players return to Wuhu island, the locale that players visited in Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort over on the Wii. The island appears to be pretty much identical in overall layout to how it was on the Wii, now retooled with the necessary changes needed to make the island a flight paradise.
Still populated by Miis, which are now a part of the Nintendo 3DS system, the demo I got to play gave people the chance to test out three of the methods that players will be able to use to fly about in the final title – Hang Gliding, a Biplane and the Rocket Belt, which is basically a great big jetpack you strap to your Mii to fly around with.
The game is split down the middle into Free Flight and Mission Flight. Free Flight just lets you explore the whole of Wuhu Island with no restraints, while Mission Flight provides you with a progression of missions that will train you up from an amateur pilot to the “Platinum” level where challenges will become quite difficult and tasking.
Free Flight is great fun if you just want to get a hang of the different modes of flight in the game, and there are also secrets to be found on the island, but Mission mode is where it’s at and where the series earned its stripes on the N64 and SNES.
Some of the challenges on offer included the obvious – flying through floating rings to follow a preset path and landing as close to the middle of a bullring target as you can pull off while also managing to keep the landing smooth – all things that should sound familiar to Pilotwings fans. Even my limited experience with the franchise told me that all this was familiar.
Some people might be wondering why now – why, after a hiatus of 15 years, the series has returned. Nintendo’s answer seems to be that the 3D effect that the 3DS can offer adds to the sensation of flight in the game more than any fancy upgraded graphics.
I’m still not so sure about that prospect; while the depth the 3D effect adds to the game makes it a lot easier to tell your exact positioning in relation to, say, the floating ring you’re set to navigate through next, I’m not entirely certain that it really adds much to the overall experience. It’s fun, but not revolutionary, and what is most exciting about Pilotwings is the return of that precision flight gameplay over what the 3D visuals bring to the table.
A special mention has to go to the controls, though. Nintendo’s Circle Pad – or slider, or analog nub – whatever they want to call it – performs incredibly well here, and while I couldn’t try out any of the harder missions on difficulties like Gold or Platinum, I feel that in a game that’ll require high levels of precision on higher difficulties the circle pad won’t be frustrating or annoying. While Pilotwings may not be a convincing argument for the 3D features of the system, it sure is a convincing argument for that circle pad. Long live the circle pad! Already.
Pilotwings is a game that’ll live or die by the amount of variety on offer in terms of missions, transport modes and locations. While the entire game appears to be set on Wuhu island, that’s just fine as long as there’s plenty to do there. My hope is that Nintendo has a lot more hidden away in the final version of the game – if there is, this could be one of the more memorable titles of the launch line-up.
Pilotwings Resort doesn’t have a final release date yet, but indications suggest the game will launch on or very close to the Nintendo 3DS launch in March.