Jarrod Mawson
14 Apr, 2011

Pilotwings Resort Review

3DS Review | And I think it’s been a long, long time.
History shows that Nintendo system launches have at least somewhat of a strong software presence by the company. Even in cases where the line-up leaves much to be desired, Nintendo usually deliver with two or so major games, ports or otherwise, and are quick to follow up with even stronger games. This is not the case with the Nintendo 3DS. With the intention of directing attention to third party software, Nintendo's support for their own system has been surprisingly debilitated, especially in Australia, where the only Nintendo developed and published title was the casual market focused Nintendogs + Cats, with the addition of publishing Capcom's Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition.

Finally, after not too long of a wait, we all have something new to play; Pilotwings Resort. Developed for Nintendo by Monster Games, best known for the brilliant Excite Truck and Excite Bots, the latter of which was sadly never localised, Pilotwings Resort revives the long thought dead franchise of the same name under the same premise of taking to the skies in the cockpit of a variety of aircraft, either for a relaxing scenic flight or challenge focused missions. Yet with around fourteen years since the last Pilotwings, the question of how the franchise would shape up in today's market remained. Would it soar high above the clouds, or sink below the murky depths of Wuhu bay? The answer is 'neither'. Instead, it's locked on cruise control somewhere in between.

It's not the Bat Plane no matter how hard you wish.

It's not the Bat Plane no matter how hard you wish.
The experience of Pilotwings Resort is be split between two modes: mission and free flight. The former pits the player against numerous ranked and aircraft specific challenges, while the latter opens the map to unlocked aircraft for timed exploration and secret hunting, with completed challenges and unlocks making way for more difficult missions and other extras, such as the diorama gallery. This is the single basis of the game; manipulating the flight of aircraft in the above two scenarios, with both taking place exclusively on Wuhu Island. Nintendo has mainly marketed three aircraft, the plane, glider and rocket pack, though there are a few other aircraft with their own properties to unlock and play with too. Each vehicle has a specific set of controls built around it's unique method of flight, and though learning curves between them will vary, each handles intuitively while developing a strong sense of individuality. Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, Pilotwings Resort sucumbs to the condition of launch-title-itis, in that it lacks a truly wide variety of content. Sure, Wuhu Island is a more than appropriate set piece, but past Pilotwing titles featured other locations to explore as well, and while Wuhu Island certainly has it's attractions, the lack of any kind of alternative location has the potential to cause the single setting to grow quite tiresome as the various challenges and free flight are exhausted, especially if players are already familiar with the island from Wii Sports Resort.

Moreover, simplistic mission design is hinged on a handful of fundamentals shared between the various flight models, usually flying through rings and staying on course, as well as basic vehicle exclusive challenges such as photography while flying and firing projectiles at targets. While the difficulty ramps up in later missions, the repetition of concepts and formula throughout the game, as well as the short length of each mission, allows for a large portion of the game's content to be 'seen' in a very short span of time. Gamers hungry for hours worth of fresh and varied content will likely find themselves disappointed.

Life's a beach when your hanging ten. What?

Life's a beach when your hanging ten. What?
However, the perception of minimal content is largely missing the point of Pilotwings. The goal isn't to progress from stage to stage, chewing through as much content as possible, but to perfect the art of flight, and it is here that the staples found in other titles by Monster Games, especially both of their Excite titles, become most apparent. Simply completing most challenges and missions is easy, but perfecting them is not. For every mission there are numerous tracked parameters to dictate the final score, including accuracy of flight path, speed, targets hit, quality of landing and more. Once a mission is completed all values are added up for a final score, along with a star ranking out of three.

The addictive quality of pursuing the perfect flight is fueled by the statistical information given at the end of each mission, along with the score benchmarks to reach. This information will tell you exactly which areas of your flight are in need of improvement, the individual performance points you missed, as well as the total score you could theoretically achieve from a perfect flight. Additionally, while the game is happy to award a comforting three stars for meeting one particular score standard, there is a second standard that can only be met through exceptional mission performance in all areas.

It would be one thing if these scores were tied to nothing more than an arbitrary high scores list, but by setting real, visible score standards Pilotwings Resort creates meaningful goals to work towards. Knowing that you could chew two extra points out of a better landing, or hit those targets a little more accurately, develops a compelling drive to better your skills. Though it might not be as wild or competitive, the addictive scoring system is strikingly similar to the Excite series, where fine tuning performance and maximising scores takes a far higher priority over just racing to the finish.

Icarus shows off his flash new set of 'wings'.

Icarus shows off his flash new set of 'wings'.
One of the most obvious departures from the original Pilotwings is in the presentation, with Pilotwings Resort choosing to adopt Nintendo's Mii system for profiles and characters, as well as more colourfull palette than seen in previous games, leading to clean and easily distinguished visual display. As mentioned earlier, the game uses the Wii Sports Resort setting of Wuhu Island, which rendered on the 3DS is a mix of looking a little worse and a little better than it's console counterpart. On one hand the island is far less populated by civilian Miis as well as other attractions, pointing to obvious polygonal and texture weaknesses, while on the other hand bump mapping, bloom, and other special effects absent from the Wii release go a long way in sprucing up the island's rendering.

Best of all, Pilotwings Resort represents the most effective use of stereoscopic 3D of all the Nintendo 3DS games we've played so far. The long draw distances of Wuhu island, coupled with complete freedom of movement in all directions, makes for an impressive sense of scale and world depth. Unlike most other 3DS games that have so far shown 3D to be little more than a gimmick, 3D here aids in accurately perceiving the exact position of your character relative to the surrounding environment, making for easier landings as well as navigation through complex obstacles. The powerful 3D effect may prove somewhat problematic for those still adjusting to the stereo display, and we also noticed minor framerate inconsistencies, but as it stands Pilotwings Resort is without a doubt the premiere 3DS game for demonstrating the gameplay benefits and visual splendor of stereo 3D.

Like a moth to a flame.

Like a moth to a flame.
The fluctuation of our review between the good and bad is likely to echo itself in the reactions from players. Some are going to love it, others are going to be disappointed, and while both stances are valid it ultimately comes down to the kind of player you are. In the case of the latter, it is the gamers who rate product value on content substance who will be most underwhelmed, experiencing most of the game's content in only a couple of hours. That isn't to say the experience itself isn't fun, nor impressive, just exceptionally short.

Others however, will find that Pilotwings Resort has plenty to offer, specifically in it's addictive score focused gameplay and emphasis on flight performance. This is really where Pilotwings Resort hits the ground running, as perfecting a flight requires a notable investment of skill and time, and established score goals as well as performance evaluations give the player something specific to aim for. For the players out there who loved the Excite series for the same reasons, the length of Pilotwings Resort will extend into double digits as they take their time master skills across all vehicles, achieve perfect mission scores, and uncover every secret and unlock in free flight. There is absolutely room for improvement, particularly in variety and substance, but the package as it is still manages to deliver an enjoyable and polished flight experience, as well as an exemplary demonstration of stereoscopic 3D, best suited to those who enjoy spending time on skill and control mastery.
The Score
More content and substance would have made for a better package, but it's hard to deny the polish and potential for addiction that exists regardless. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 years ago
I loved Pilotwings so much on SNES and N64 that, yep, picked this up at 9am. Can hardly wait, if this is fun to play for a few hours I will be over the moon. Finally a Nintendo game on my new Nintendo handheld!
3 years ago
Definitely picking this up tomorrow. Can't wait!
3 years ago
ManeKast wrote
I loved Pilotwings so much on SNES and N64 that, yep, picked this up at 9am. Can hardly wait, if this is fun to play for a few hours I will be over the moon. Finally a Nintendo game on my new Nintendo handheld!
My sentiments exactly.
3 years ago
Perfect timing with the release coniciding with JB's 20% sale, got it for just over $47!
3 years ago
Yes, it was an awesome bargin. Picked it up for the same price today too.

I can't play the game on full 3D. It's WAYYY to strong. When I first played it, I couldn't even adjust at all (at full). I have it at roughly 30-40%. I find this setting best for me as it's not overpowering but still gives a nice 3D effect.

Unlike SSFIV this game actually looks MUCH better in 3D which was a nice surprise. Switching it to 2D reveals a bunch of jaggies and the island looks less crisp.

I'm pretty impressed with visials. It's certainly shows it's a massive set up from the DS and on par with the Wii.
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Australian Release Date:
  14/04/2011 (Confirmed)
Year Made:

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