Pilotwings Resort Review

Nintendo has a wealth of older IPs that deserve another chance. From Fire Emblem to Punch Out, multiple series have been resurrected in recent years to critical and commercial success. Next up on their list of old games with a zombie-like lust for gamers’ attention is Pilotwings.

Pilotwings debuted as one of the most cutting edge games with its visuals on the SNES. This continued on the N64 a few years later. Then it all stopped. The series made a small cameo in Wii Sports Resort in the form of a mini-game. That didn’t stop the cries for another full fledged entry in the series, and now we’ve got it.

Game play in Pilotwings has always been about exploration at your own pace. Pilotwings Resort is no different. There are objectives in the mission mode, as well as unlockables to be found by completing certain criteria in free play mode.

Nothing in the game forces you to do anything particularly linear outside of some missions. You’re free to take things at whatever pace you desire.

The island is huge, but it is the only one.

You fly in various airborne devices (like a plane, a jet pack, and a glider) around Wuhu island from Wii Sports Resort. You can pop balloons, perform aerial tricks. At no moment does the game get very hard but you do have to pay attention to what you’re doing as one slip up can ruin that descent through the gold ring you were trying to collect.

Collectables is the main thing you will be pursuing here. There are different types of items to collect, and by collect I mean find. You find a balloon and you pop it. There are dozens of them surrounding the island. The same goes for stunt rings, Mii trophies, and gold rings. Collecting these unlock more time in free play mode (which oddly enough has a time limit) or dioramas.

Since Pilotwings was originally praised for its cutting edge graphics over a decade ago, it would seem appropiate that this entry looks very good for a launch game on Nintendo’s new handheld. While the graphics are impressive, and the 3D does give a great sense of depth between you and where you’re going, it does feel very recycled.

No original characters in this game, just your Mii.

That brings us to the big flaw in the game. I enjoyed its relaxing pace. I loved the lack of a real “game” and it being more of “do whatever” flight simulator without being overly realistic. But a lot of the content, including the island itself , is borrowed from the previously mentioned Wii Sports Resort. This is probably due to the 3DS being powerful enough to replicate visuals commonly seen on the Wii.

Aside from that, there is no other island to explore. You can explore Wuhu island during different times of the day, but this does little other than change the lighting around the island. It would’ve been nice to have different locales to explore, and that would certainly extend the value of this game.

Value is another issue. While I couldn’t put the game down for long periods due to the addicting nature of its calm game play (something it shares with another Nintendo series, Animal Crossing) the whole experience is pretty much over in about 6-8 hours if you’re trying to unlock everything. Mission mode is over within 2 hours unless you want to perfect every mission. At the launch price of $40, this is pushing it.

Another missing feature is multiplayer. There are hints of dog fighting in the game during particular missions, but they never materialize into much more than popping balloons. If this title had a few cooperative or competitive modes it would make for a stellar launch title. As a big fan of Snoopy: Flying Ace, I can’t help but wish there was some sort of competitive or cooperative mode for local or online play, even if that goes against the calm nature of the game.

I’m not asking for kill streaks or anti-air turrets, but some sort of “pop the most balloons before time runs out” mode would’ve extended the longevity of a good game.

As it stands at the normal $40 asking price, it is hard to justify the title. Taking into consideration that many people may not be comfortable with the game’s slow pace makes it trickier to recommend as other 3DS launch titles.

However, the game will make a great pick up when it hits a lower price, preferably half of the initial price. There are plenty of unlockables, and the game’s visuals are unheard of for Nintendo handhelds even if it is mostly a carbon copy of a mini-game from a two year old Wii game.

Gameplay 80%
Visuals 85%
Entertainment 85%
Intangibles 75%
Value 60%
Final Thoughts

Pilotwings Resort is a really nice tech demo of what the 3DS can do, and I want to like it more but its shortcomings simply can't be overlooked.

Overall Score 77%