First Impressions: PilotWings Resort

PilotWings returns after a billion years

Another long-abandoned fan-favorite series, PilotWings debuted on SNES but hasn't seen the flight of day since the N64 launched way back in the mid-90's with the lovely PilotWings 64. But despite the series' rarity, the third installment, PilotWings Resort, which we were able to go hands-on with in Amsterdam and New York City last week, zips over familiar territory for those who have spent time on Wuhu Island in Wii Sports Resort.

Because, you see, that's the island you fly over and around all stereoscopic-like. Cracked the name, we have!

We took note of a few modes and features when poking around the main menu screen: there are both Mission and Free Flight modes, a Member Card that acts as a sort of stat-tracker (time played, points, your attached Mii and the like), as well as something called Dioramas. This menu item was blanked out, but we presume there will be dioramas of some sort.

Our demo for PilotWings Resort included multiple mission types using three different flight mechanisms: a plane, a glider and a rocket belt (essentially a jetpack). A nice little touch played out behind the mission select screens: when selecting a mission but before confirming your choice, the camera actually flies through the course to show your flight path. Neat.

What was on display was fairly pedestrian in complication: fly through some rings here, pop some balloons there, land with your rocket belt over yonder. Each craft controlled quite well with the Circle Pad, with the odd button for things like controlling direction and power of the rocket belt's thrusters. It was quite relaxing actually, but then again these were fairly stress-free demonstration missions.

If you do fancy a bit of mellow time then the worry-destroying Free Flight mode is where you'll want to point yourself. It's quite neat to soar around Wuhu Island and soak in the sights, and the use of subtle 3D is more than enough to draw you in to the texture of the land. The simplicity, colorful and playful nature of the visual style lends itself very well to the third dimension.

One of the benefits of 3D Nintendo touted upon the system's first proper reveal is the ability to better judge depth and distance, and PilotWings is an excellent example of that. The added depth helped our rocket belt plight to pop balloons, and while it's certainly doable with a 2D screen (like we've been doing for years) we'd certainly rather have the stereoscopic option than not.

PilotWings Resort's art style is lifted straight out of Wii Sports, for better or worse. It's certainly not an ugly, or even thematically inappropriate, approach, but visually the game looks like an off-shoot of the MotionPlus flagship title more than a proper continuation of a cult series. It does no favors to lend the PilotWings series its own identity, and while one might struggle to pinpoint exactly what an explicitly PilotWings game is supposed to look like, Resort fails to carve out its own niche. Then again, propelling the series into wider acclaim is likely the entire point of transplanting the familiar look.

Those who have held their breath for a new PilotWings game likely turned blue around 1998, but hopefully PilotWings Resort has what it takes to resuscitate the love that fans have for the series while drawing in new blood with its pleasing gameplay and innocuous aesthetics. We'll find out once the game is eventually released sometime in the 3DS's launch window.

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