Feature: A Virtual Tour of Pilotwings 64

Come fly with me

When it was released in 1996, Pilotwings 64 was praised for its incredible visuals and vast, open landscapes. Even now, the attention to detail is astonishing — as we pointed out in our recent Pilotwings 64 review so much so that we felt compelled to explore it. To save you the effort of having to dust off that old N64 and unlock all the pilot classes again, we've been on location for you, taking snapshots of all the best scenic moments that this classic game has to offer. Try to hold back the tears of nostalgia as you revisit some of your favourite virtual places.

Location: Little States Island

It goes without saying that Mario is the most recognisable video-game character in the world. For decades, the moustachioed mascot has entertained millions of gamers. So it's only fair that he be forever immortalised in his own mountainside sculpture, right?

Mario has made a habit out of making guest cameos in games, although none are quite as extravagant as this appearance on Mount Rushmore. While we can't say with certainty that Mario has been a more important influence on the modern world than George Washington, we're sure it's something that historians will be debating for years to come.

Location: Holiday Island

Holiday Island does a good job of living up to its name. There's a beach, a castle and plenty of sun to help top up that tan. But the real attraction is its fun fair, which comes complete with carousel and big wheel. It's a little disappointing that there isn't a rollercoaster ride or dodgems, but it's better than nothing. You are, after all, on an island in the middle of nowhere.

The colourful rides and stalls really catch your eye, adding the colour and vibrancy you'd expect from a holiday resort. The only downside is that you can't actually go on any of the rides. But hey, at least there isn't an admission fee.

Location: Ever-Frost Island

This next spot of scenery features in one of Pilotwings 64's most-daring stages, Chicken Dive. For this particular challenge, you must fly your hang glider down the mountain gorge through a series of rings and then land. It's an exhilarating experience as a result of the speed and how close you come to hitting the rocky wall that confronts you when you reach the bottom.

This particular section of Everfrost Island stands out because it's so massive, yet so detailed. The flowing water makes for a nice finishing touch to what essentially feels like an island in its own right.

Location: Little States Island

Wind power isn't anything new. In fact, windmills have been around since ancient times. Nevertheless, it's refreshing to see this delightful little wind farm make its way in Pilotwings 64.

Some people claim that these towering propellers are a blight on the countryside, but in Pilotwings 64 they're most certainly of visual interest. What they power exactly is anyone's guess. A nearby city? Little States Island's undisclosed Area 51 installation? Meca Hawk? Are these wind turbines actually the cause of so much wanton destruction? Now there's a worrying thought.

Regardless of their purpose, just be careful you don't fly too close to one of these — your poor pilot probably suffers enough as it is without being lopped in half, too.

Location: Little States Island

What better a beacon for freedom and independence than the Statue of Liberty? Even in Little States Island's considerably scaled-down rendition of New York, the good lady Libertas stands tall and proud. Her trademark torch burns brightly, gloriously welcoming immigrants to the land of the free — well, that's if Pilotwings 64 actually had any people in it.

The detailing on this particular model is impressive. Given that most of the textures in the game are stretched out across vast areas, it's incredible how the designers were able to capture all the intricate features of this iconic American monument.

Location: Ever-Frost Island

We can't help but think that Pilotwings 64's Ever-Frost Island is making a subtle jab at the USA's obsession with oil. Not only is the frosty map covered in oil rigs, but there's also a pretty sizeable American oil refinery planted on one of its coasts. Is it a strange coincidence that this just so happens to be near where Meca Hawk also makes an appearance? Just what is the US government up to?

Conspiracy theories aside, the main attraction of this installation, oddly enough, is the gas flare that sits at the top of it; players can exact revenge on their poor, helpless pilots for failing other tasks by flying them right through it. The end result is an excruciating scream and one crispy aviator.

Location: Crescent Island

You might think it odd that a flight simulator (even an amateur one) would feature underground sections. But this is Pilotwings 64, the game where Nintendo has hijacked Mount Rushmore for its own evil deeds and giant mechanised pilots throw rocks at you.

You come across this particular underground cavern in one of the last Rocket Belt stages. The journey there is a treacherous one, and navigating your pilot through the tight tunnels that lead to this subterranean paradise is akin to Lando Calrissian flying the Millennium Falcon into the second Death Star. Despite this, it's extremely worth it when you get there, as your eyes are greeted with an impressively detailed formation of stalactites and stalagmites.

Location: Little States Island

NASA may have retired the Space Shuttle in 2011, but that doesn't mean that you can't still enjoy seeing it launch at Cape Canaveral. The Space Shuttle appears in a couple of stages throughout the game, and the launch sequence is usually triggered when you get close to it. It's a novel, yet pretty cool addition that pays homage to one of America's greatest achievements. It's just a great shame that you can't pilot one of these wonderful vehicles yourself. It may have about as much to do with aviation as jumble hopping, but a mission to the Moon or Mars would be too epic to pass up on. Knowing our luck, it would probably all end in catastrophe anyway.

Location: Little States Island

If there's anyone who hates seeing Mario getting all the attention, it's Wario. Luckily for this devious miscreant, he too gets a cameo appearance on Little States Island. By firing a gyrocopter missile directly at Mario's nose, the portly plumber's cheery face is instantly transformed into Wario, sporting his trademark menacing look. It's a nice little Easter egg, even if it does contrast somewhat with Thomas Jefferson's rather serious gaze.

What are your favourite gaming locations? Let us know in the comments section below!

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