Review: Pilotwings Resort for Nintendo 3DS

Your 3DS-tination for relaxation.

The following was originally posted on the Canada Nintendo Examiner on March 24th, 2011. Some changes may have been made to fit the format of Mario’s Hat.

Coming away from my initial hands-on with the Nintendo 3DS in February, I knew one thing was certain: Pilotwings Resort was one of the launch titles I was looking forward to most. So naturally, I was delighted to see that it was one of the three games Nintendo of Canada had included when they sent a Nintendo 3DS for me to review last week.

So far, of the three games — nintendogs + cats, Pilotwings Resort, and Steel DiverPilotwings Resort is the one I have spent the most time with. In fact, I still need to get started on Steel Diver, which means putting Pilotwings aside for the time being, which disappoints me a little.

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A Relaxing Retreat

There is a lot of question about whether or not Pilotwings Resort is worth the $40 price the game will cost at retailers such as Best Buy, and it really depends on what you are looking for out of a game, or this game in particular.

On the one hand, if you’re the type of gamer who likes to do everything there is to be done in a game and get on with the next one as quickly as possible, then this is probably not going to be a very good Day 1 purchase for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a game which can provide a fun, calming atmosphere that you can pull out and play to relax after a hard day of work, then Pilotwings Resort may prove to be a good investment — more so, if you have four different people to fill out each of the game’s four save slots, making the cost essentially $10 per person.

I hesitate to call the game a casual title, given the largely negative connotations people have taken from Facebook games such as Farmville, or even the Wii– titles from which Resort clearly takes a strong influence, but it’s difficult to describe the atmosphere in any other way.

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Pilotwings: Then and Now

For those unfamiliar with the brand (which would be understandable, as Nintendo has left it in mothballs for the past 15 years), Pilotwings is a game about flying, and one often used to demonstrate the capabilities of new hardware. To wit: The original game was released alongside the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to demonstrate its Mode 7 feature, while Pilotwings 64 was one of the two games available when the Nintendo 64 was released (the other being Super Mario 64), and was used to help show off the sizable 3D worlds they were then able to create.

However, it’s not really a flight simulator, instead providing a more arcade-like flying experience. The original game provided quite a challenge for experienced gamers as they took various forms of aircraft, from planes to jetpacks to hang gliders through various obstacles and missions. Pilotwings 64 felt comparatively laid-back, though it had its own challenges as players piloted vehicles both new and familiar through a miniaturized United States.

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Miis Take Flight

Pilotwings Resort seems to take its cues more from the latter title, but shifts the setting to Wuhu Island, which is a familiar sight to those who have played Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit/Plus. There, you will get to take control of the Mii of your choice as you get to explore the island and its surrounding regions with a prop plane, a jetpack, or a hang glider.

On a side note: For those familiar with Pilotwings 64, there is no sign of any return of that game’s distinct cast members. I attempted to re-create Nester/Lark as a Mii, but met with mixed results. Check it out above, judge for yourself, and use the QR Code to download it if you like.

After you’ve chosen your Mii, you’ll fill out a “form” (i.e. sign you name on the touch screen), and be given the opportunity to take each of the three vehicles on a trip around the island, for as long as you wish. Once that is done, you’ll be given two modes to choose from: Mission Mode and Free Flight Mode.

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Miis on a Mission

In Mission Mode, you progress through a series of classes (Training, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum) which contain a number of missions to be accomplished, such as flying through all the rings set up around the island before landing. Your score will be converted to stars, and with enough stars, you can proceed to the next class. And as you advance to higher classes, the challenges become a little more difficult to complete.

So far, I have just reached Gold, and the missions have not taken more than a few tries to finish. However, finishing with enough stars to proceed is a bit trickier, and to get three stars (or more, as it suggests) in every mission will require some real skill.

As you proceed through the missions, you also unlock more things to do (and hidden vehicles to use) in Free Flight Mode. In this mode, you are allowed to go where you please, with the option of collecting “iRings” placed across the island’s many hot spots. However, there is an unfortunate catch: You only have two minutes at a time.

This limit can be extended by popping certain incremental amounts of balloons, which appear after reaching a certain level in Mission Mode. Further Mission Mode unlockables give the different craft different items to collect or obstacles to conquer, including rings, statues, and “stunt rings,” which are only collected when you pass through them while performing certain tricks in the plane.

What those unlock is currently unknown, but collecting 25 and then 50 iRings will allow you to play Free Flight in the evening and at night, respectively. These are more than just a change in the skyline, however; each time of day has its own different starting point for each vehicle, with some collectibles only appearing at certain times as well. The different starting points are especially easy to appreciate when your time limit is at the initial two minutes.

On a related note, approaching each iRing brings up a bit of text with some information about that spot on the island. Even after being familiar with the setting from past titles, these tidbits help flesh Wuhu Island out and give it some character.

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Woo-hoo for Wuhu?

Coupled with the 3D effect of the system (I tend to keep the 3D slider just below the halfway mark on this game for the most desirable effect, while using it full-blast on nintendogs + cats), players get to enjoy a beautiful island with relaxing tunes. So far, I have spent most of my time in Free Flight Mode, and sometimes I don’t even attempt any of the objectives — I just sit back, relax, and fly until I have to begin again. Hopefully one unlockable will be an unlimited time limit.

The game is not without its faults, though. One complaint is that the entirety of Wuhu Island (and its surrounding islands, including the golf course from past Wii titles) is simply not enough, though there are enough nooks and crannies to keep one exploring for a little while, at least.

In addition to that, mastering all the missions may require a bit of time, practice, and skill. Even then, I felt that something seemed off in the missions which equipped the prop plane with a blaster, making some missions (such as popping balloons emerging from a car in front of you) seem more inaccurate than they should be. Fortunately, those seem to be the exception, rather than the rule.

The last thing which bothered me was that the island seemed unusually empty. I’ve seen Wii Sports Resort and played a bit of Wii Fit Plus, and in those games, Wuhu was typically bustling with activity as Miis and even Mii dogs and cats populated the island. But in Pilotwings Resort, you’ll see cars parked along cliffs, boats out on the water, and the fountain flowing in the town square, with not a single Mii in sight (save for moving vehicles in certain missions).

The feeling this gives off is a strange one, sort of like being in a school during Summer vacation. I will confess that I do have many more Miis on my Wii than on my 3DS, who I have seen populate the island in Wii Sports Resort, and am open to the possibility that acquiring more through the system’s StreetPass feature will help populate the island again. But as I have not seen any sign of the Miis of my wife, Reggie Fils-A-Mii, or Nester, I’m not especially hopeful.

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Prepare for Landing (Please Make Sure Your Seats and Tray-Tables are in the Upright Position…)

To sum up, Pilotwings Resort is a great game, and is one of my favorites so far. But, like any game, it is probably not for everyone, particularly if you are looking for a game that will get the blood flowing, the adrenaline rushing, and fill you with excitement. And yet, even if that sounds like you, it may be worth a try anyway, should you have the chance. After all, who doesn’t like to kick back and relax a little now and then?

One other note is that the pictures used throughout this article (not counting the gallery below) actually came from some of the missions, thanks to the ability to take in-game pictures and save them to your SD card (included with the system). The only downside is that the pictures move into first-person, so you’re not getting to see the vehicles or displays.

pilotwingsresortboxartPilotwings Resort was released for the Nintendo 3DS on Sunday, March 27th, 2011 at a price of $39.99.

A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.