Posted April 7th 2011 by Adam Grayson.
It's about time! After 15 years, we finally get another Pilotwings game. And this time it's in three-dee!
Pilotwings Resort is the third installation in the Pilotwings series. As a reminder, both previous Pilotwings games, Pilotwings and Pilotwings 64, were launch titles for the SNES and N64 respectively, and both aimed to demonstrate the 3D capabilities of the systems. Funnily enough, Pilotwings Resort does exactly that, only this time it's a new definition of "3D."
The 3D is definitely one of the (if not the) main drawing points (as is the case with all 3DS titles right now), so it must be good, right? Eh, it's alright. The game's 3D is certainly a different way to play Pilotwings, but it really isn't all that impressive when you compare it to some of the other 3DS launch titles or even the 3DS's own menu system. Players will definitely notice a difference when playing in 3D versus playing in 2D, but the effect of seeing depth isn't really all that pronounced. So if 3D is the only thing you're looking for in your 3DS games, you may want to look elsewhere. However, keep in mind that the 3D doesn't have any effect on the gameplay itself (not yet, at least).
In this mission, players must follow a car while shooting balloons attached to it.
Now with all of the 3D talk out of the way, let's discuss the actual game. At first when I saw that Pilotwings Resort both used Miis as characters and reused Wuhu Island (the island from Wii Sports Resort), I was pretty unhappy. I had been looking forward to exploring some awesome new environments with Hawk, Goose, and the rest of the 64 gang for years. "Not so," said Nintendo, "not so." Admittedly, this wasn't a very valid complaint on my part since the series has yet to have any recurring characters. Even so, I didn't especially like (and still don't) that Nintendo decided to recycle Wuhu Island for this game. It's just another example of Nintendo seeming lazy. Why not just spend a little extra time and make some new environments? Don't get me wrong, I spent hours exploring every little nook and cranny of Wuhu Island in Wii Sports Resort and loved every minute of it, but I had my fun and didn't feel too excited about doing it all over again. Even though Nintendo's thought process probably involved both creating a visual similarity between this and the Wii's famous launch title, Wii Sports, and bringing some of their new causal audience to the 3DS by using the oh-so-lovable Miis (reasonable decisions), it still seems like a bit of a cop-out.
Often times players will find themselves running low on fuel. Thankfully, these targets refill the tank.
Questionable character and environment choices aside, Pilotwings Resort still does its predecessors proud, and it's a fun game. In fact, it's incredibly true to the past two games. In addition to using many of the same sound effects and musical influences as Pilotwings 64, players are presented with a series of missions using a variety of flight-based vehicles. Missions involve flying through rings around the island, shooting targets, popping balloons, and landing on targets/runways through the use of a plane, a rocket belt, and a hang glider. Missions are divided into classes (bronze, silver, gold, etc.) with each class increasing the difficulty of missions. The game also features a Free Flight Mode that allows players to freely explore Wuhu Island using their choice of vehicle. There is a time limit to this mode though. However, as players collect various items scattered around the island in Free Flight Mode, they earn more and more time for the mode's time limit (up to five minutes).
The simple controls of the game help its relaxing nature. On top of that, the controls just feel good. The majority of the controls rely on the 3DS's new circle pad, so in addition to demoing the 3D aspect of the system, Pilotwings Resort also presents a fantastic example of how the circle pad should be used and how natural it feels to play with. It would have been a much different game had players only been able to use the digital D-pad as opposed to the analog circle pad that allows for very slight movements required for accuracy.
However, I did run into a few 3D-related issues because of the controls... Often while I was playing, I found myself inadvertently moving the system due to me moving my thumb on the circle pad back and forth. Obviously this happens with all players, especially on handhelds, but it hasn't really mattered until now. So what if the system moves a quarter of an inch one way or another? Player's eyes can just follow the screen, no big deal. Well with the 3DS it is actually a pretty big deal. Because I was moving the system, the 3D effect would essentially break, leaving me with two out of sync images, making it very hard to tell where I was in relation to goals or the environment. Many times, I would try to correct the subconscious movement by getting back into the screen's sweet spot, but moving the system around while trying not to crash and trying to fly through rings is no easy task. Needless to say, when this happened, I ultimately had to pause or even abort the mission, move back into the sweet spot, and start again. Fortunately, Pilotwings isn't the type of game where starting over means replaying another grueling two-hour sequence, so it really wasn't that bad. Annoying though? Absolutely.
The bottom screen shows the map, the player's position, the locations of goals/paths, and, in hang gliding, the location of thermals.
As players progress through the game, they will find that there are also quite a few unlockables, including new missions, new vehicles, and dioramas (which are a new feature to the Pilotwings series). Dioramas are small 3D models of players' Miis in different vehicles around the island that players are able to zoom, pan, and rotate around. It's the same concept as Super Smash Bros.' trophies -- they're just little prizes for completing certain in-game achievements.
Perhaps the only two things players should be worried about are the game's length and its price. Many people think that the game only lasts a couple of hours. This is true only if you're going to play until the credits roll. For example, I "beat" the game in a little under three hours; however, there were still plenty of things that I hadn't done yet (collecting all of the Free Flight Mode items, unlocking new missions, getting perfects on all of the missions, etc.). As of right now, the only thing left I need to do is get perfects on all of the missions (I've perfected about 45% so far), and I'm just shy of six hours of gameplay. I'm getting more playtime out of it than I thought I would, but, for many, this may not be enough. In addition, remember that the game is $40. While I'm certainly enjoying the game, the $40 price tag seems pretty overpriced for what players are getting.
Just like the in Pilotwings 64, there are some hang gliding missions where players must snap photos of various structures.
All in all, it's just what one would expect from the next Pilotwings game -- a fun, almost carefree simulated flight experience. As far as 3D goes, it's very noticeable, and many may be wowed by it, but it's a bit lacking when comparing to some other 3DS games. Players, like myself, who have been waiting nearly two decades for another Pilotwings game, will most likely thoroughly enjoy the title, warranting a buy. But for everyone else, maybe try it before you go out and drop the $40 on it.
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