Reviewed by Scott McCall
Pilotwings 64 is the 64-bit sequel to Miyamoto's classic Super
NES flight sim. The original Pilotwings was an event-based
flight sim. Using different vehicles, you had to reach a certain
goal before the instructors would let you move on. That same
basic gameplay premise is still the backbone of Pilotwings 64.
But it has been updated and refined in the sequel.
You have three main vehicles and four bonus vehicles at your
command in Pilotwings 64. The Hang Glider, Rocket Belt and
Gyrocopter are the three main vehicles at your disposal in the
game. There are also four bonus vehicles: Human Cannonball,
Sky Diving, Jumble Hopper and Bird Man. The Light Plane from
the original game has been replaced with the Gyrocopter. But,
disappointingly, the Sky Diving portion has been reduced to
just a bonus vehicle and is no longer a main event.
A new addition to this sequel is the ability to pick from
six different pilots. Each pilot has different attributes that
affect the way your vehicle controls. The pilots are grouped
into three different weight categories represented by a male
and a female in each group. Lark and Kiwi are the light pilots.
Goose and Ibis are the medium pilots. Finally, Hawk and Hooter
(can you guess why she's in the heavy class?) are the heavy
pilots. To maintain a wholesome image, Hooter will be renamed
to Robin in the U.S. version. The other five pilots will have
their same name.
Some pilots are better than others at certain events. For the
Hang Glider, you want the lightest possible pilots. Rocket
Belt would be best with a medium weight pilot. Gyrocopter
would be OK with any of the pilots, really. But using heavy
pilots as a Human Cannonball would definitely be your best
bet. Sky Diving would be the best with a medium pilot. And
Jumble hopper would be OK with any of them. As you can see,
you can adjust the difficulty of the events by using a pilot
who isn't as good in a certain event.
Like usual, Nintendo-made games don't present many options,
and Pilotwings 64 is really no exception. In the options menu,
you listen to the 31 pieces of background music. You can also
change the music and sound effects volume. There's also a
Stereo/Mono/Headphones option. In addition to this, the EEPROM
chip will let you save up to two games onto the cart (the Controller
Pak is neither needed nor is supported). It saves your current
progress, the medal you got in each class, all the pictures you
took and your point total for every one of the vehicles for
everyone of the classes. Very nice indeed.
Control in Pilotwings 64 is seamless and realistic. The analog
Control Stick makes for a realistic flight yolk with all the
vehicles. Almost all the vehicles take advantage of the C group
to let you look slightly more left, right, up or down while you're
flying. The R button will also let you switch views, depending
on the vehicle.
While I pretty much hated the Hang Glider in the original
Pilotwings, I found that this Hang Glider has never felt more
realistic. Press forward on the Control Stick and you'll glide
down with increasing speed. Press back on the Control Stick
to try to bring yourself back up in the air. If you press the R
button, you'll switch between a behind the hang glider view
and a view almost on the back of the hang glider. The Z trigger
lets you take pictures of your surroundings. On certain levels
you are required to get a picture of a particular object as your
main task. In addition to this, you can also take some pictures
of places you've been for your photo album. Who knows, maybe
you'll get to see all the pictures you took at the end of the game?
Last, but not least, you can use either the A or B button to "flare,"
which basically slows you down. Once you get real close to the
target, hold down either button so you can almost run onto the target.
My second favorite vehicle in the original game was the Rocket
Belt (my favorite was skydiving, which is why I'm so disappointed
it's only a bonus vehicle now). Fortunately, as good as it controlled
before, it's even more realistic in the sequel. Press forward
on the Control Stick and you'll go forward with the rocket belt.
Hold backward and you can go backwards. Well, actually, you can't
go anywhere unless you hold down one the rocket throttles. The A
button is fast rockets. This is the one you'll be using most of time.
The B button is slow rockets. You might want to use this to perfect
your landing on a target. A new addition to the Rocket Belt
gameplay is with the Z trigger. By holding down the Z trigger
and holding left or right on the Control Stick, you can make a quick
turn. You can also use the Z trigger to just hover in the air.
Finally, there is the R button, which will let you switch between
a behind and overhead view.
The third vehicle, the Gyrocopter, is essentially the same as the
Light Plane from the original game. Press forward to dive and
backward to climb. The A button increases the throttle speed and
the B button decreases the throttle speed. You can use the R button
to choose between a behind 'copter view and an inside 'copter view.
The inside view is completely inside. You don't see any part of the
Gyrocopter except the gun aimer. Speaking of gun aimer, if you hold
down the Z trigger, an aimer comes onto the screen. Release the Z
trigger and a missile goes flying. You can also just press the Z
trigger to shoot missiles relentlessly. You'll find that you'll need to
hold down the Z trigger and release it at the right time to take out
some targets in a few of the Gyrocopter levels. Disappointingly,
the missiles do no damage to the game's surroundings. It will
only take out designated targets that you're supposed to hit.
The goal in Pilotwings 64 is to get a bronze or better for all
three vehicles in each class. For each flight you take, you are
rated on a scale of 1 to 100. Depending on the vehicle, you are
rated in different categories such as Accuracy, Time, Angle
and Beam (or Ring, etc.). Accuracy is the accuracy of your
landing on the bullseye or landing pad. Time is based on how
fast you completed your task. Angle is how you came to the
target. Did you just plop down from above, or did you get
closer and closer to the target from an angle? If you get
between 70 and 79, you'll get a bronze. If you get between
80 and 89, you'll get a silver. And if you get between 90 and
100, you'll get the gold. Anything lower than 70 will require
you to do the board over again.
There can also be a negative effect against your score in
Pilotwings 64. If you miss the target with the Rocket Belt
(you will bounce back up in the air), then they will take two
points off your total score. If you hit the target too hard,
you'll also lose two points. If you accidentally touch a
building in the city, then you'll lost two points, also. If you
come into contact with a mountain, you'll lose five points
in the Gyrocopter -- that is, if you it doesn't kill you first.
You can miss rings or balls, too, but for each one you miss,
you might lose two, five or ten points (depending on how
many there are) off of your total score for each one you miss.
Sometimes if you smack a solid structure too hard, or if you
fall into the water, then you die.
Pilotwings 64 has four different classes that get progressively
more difficult. There's the Training class, A class, B class and P
(professional) class. Inside the Training class, there is only one
event to complete for each vehicle. The A class will require you
to complete two events for each vehicle. The B class will require
you to complete three events for each vehicle, and so on. For example,
in the A class you'd need a minimum of 140 points to get a bronze
in Rocket Belt. Fortunately, the game keeps track of your best
score in each event. So if you got a 75 in the first task of A class
Rocket Belt, but got a 50 the next time when you tried to better
that score, the game will still keep the 75 score. Also, the game
only goes by total score, which determines if you can move on or
not. Therefore, you can get a 60 in the first task of A class Rocket
Belt, and an 80 in the second task of A class Rocket Belt. That
would give you the minimum of 140 and you could move on.
Depending on how good you do in the class, you may get the opportunity
to open up a bonus vehicle. If you get three silvers (or better) in A class,
then you can play Human Cannonball. Human Cannonball requires you
shoot your pilot out of a cannon into a target. You have three opportunities
to shoot each target. There are a total of four targets to shoot at for
a total of 100 points. If you get a bronze or better, then you can move
on to more difficult Human Cannonball targets. Get three silvers (or
better) in B and P class and you can open up the other two bonus vehicles.
In the Sky Diving bonus vehicle, you have to position yourself onto a
marked position. This enables you to do tricks with your skydiving
crew on the way down. After pulling a few maneuvers in the air,
you have to land on a target. The Jumble Hopper bonus stage
requires you to jump to a target in the least amount of jumps
possible. Finally, there is Bird Man. The point of Bird Man is that
there really is no point. If you get all golds on a class, then you
can use Bird Man. It basically just lets you fly around and enjoy
the level without any time or fuel constraints.
The flight areas in Pilotwings 64 are much more realistic and
larger than the ones in the original game. The game starts out
in the Training class known as Holiday Island. Here you'll find
carnivals, beaches, resorts and golf courses. The Training class
is the only time you're here, so you better enjoy it. The rest of
the game (the A, B and P classes) takes place across three other
different islands. There's the snowy, icy and cold Ever Frost
Island. There's the tropical Crescent Island. And there's the
now-famous representation of the United States of America.
This is known as Little States. Throughout the A, B and P
classes, you will have to complete different tasks on these
islands depending on the class and vehicle. For Hang Glider, you
might be on Ever Frost Island. But when you pick Gyrocopter on
the same class, you might be flying across the Little States.
The basis of the original Pilotwings is still the basis behind
Pilotwings 64, but it has been updated to include much more
fun and variety. Your job in the original game was basically to
either fly through rings in the sky or touch beams and then
land on the target or launch pad. While you still fly through
a lot of rings in Pilotwings 64, there are also now targets
in the air to land on one at a time, balls to smack into (which
might turn into more balls which you have to hit), targets
to blow-up, and a huge bouncing ball you have to push into
a marked area.
In the Hang Gliding level, you might have to fly through a
series of rings and then land. You might have to use the
wind to get you across a bay to the target. You might have
to fly down through a snowy valley through a series of rings
and then turn sharply to the left so you don't crash into the
mountain. Another task you might to complete is to take a
picture of an item, which the game will show you, and then land.
Donning the Rocket Belt may require you to go touch a ball
above a building and then land. It may require you to fly through
rings scattered throughout downtown Los Angeles. It may require
you to land on a series of a targets on your way to the final
target. You may be required to knock this huge bouncing ball
into a designated area.
The Gyrocopter level might make you fly through a series of
rings and land. It might make you target out a series of targets
with your gun before you land. It might make you fly through rings
underneath bridges down the Mississippi River before you can
land by a space shuttle taking off at Cape Canaveral.
One of the very cool and useful features of this game is a
demo of each of the three main vehicles in the Training course.
If you find it difficult to figure out what to do and how to control
the vehicles, you can pick an option on the Training levels to
show you how to complete the board. It throws up a nifty little
controller on the screen to show you which button you should use,
Gameplay in this game is definitely on the difficult side, though.
It takes quite a bit of practice, skill and patience to get even a
bronze on the later courses. Fortunately, if you should ever get
lost during any of these levels, then you might want to press
start and look at the handy map. The map will show you all the
rings, balls, etc., you might have to touch or go through as yellow
items. It then shows you a red area with a word above it for
where you're supposed to finish. The map is fully scaleable and
can be rotated in any direction if you hold down the Z trigger
while you move the Control Stick.
It should be no surprise that Pilotwings 64 looks incredible.
After all, Paradigm Simulation, Inc., the leader in realistic
flight sims, is responsible for the game's stunning visuals
and realistic flight physics. The world is completely 3-D, as
you can fly anywhere you want around the island. With four
completely different islands, including an incredible rendition
of the USA, one has to wonder how they fit all of this onto a
64 megabit cart?
Flying around Holiday Island, you'll notice golf courses,
carnivals, resorts, sandy beaches, waterfalls and more. Ever
Frost Island has oil refineries, ice caves, waterfalls, icebergs,
whales and tons of beautiful water. Crescent Island is populated
with palm tress, beaches, power boats, caves, vegetation and
little villages. In the Little States, you'll see the Statue of Liberty,
the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space
Needle in Seattle, the White House in Washington D.C., Mt.
Rushmore in South Dakota and so much more. The attention to
detail in this game is downright incredible. The various
monuments throughout the Little States all look very realistic
compared to their real-life counterparts. You just have to
remember that this is a very small scale of the USA. One second
you're at Mt. Rushmore and 5-10 seconds later you're in Seattle.
Even though you might think this world would be static because
of all the detail, you're wrong. Go down for a closer view and you'll
see the world busy with activity.
With all the incredible detail, variety of textures and colorful
areas, there is still a few minor pop-up and clipping problems
here and there (mostly pop-up, though; there's very little clipping).
Overall, however, it doesn't seem as bad as Mario 64, which wasn't
that bad to begin with. How's the frame rate in Pilotwings 64?
Although I'm sure you've heard that the frame rate is quite
inconsistent, I tend to disagree. Obviously, if you're in a wind
drift, it will then seem slower. And the frame rate does drop
quite low when the space shuttle does take off. But as far as
I can tell -- and I'm not an expert -- it seems quite smooth
throughout the entire game.
The sound portion of Pilotwings 64 is almost like Jekyll and
Hyde. The music in the game sounds relatively generic and
synthesized. The music in the Hang Glider and Bird Man stages is
generally mellow and laid-back. The music in the Rocket Pack
stage is some sort of weird concoction with horns and a lot of
twang. Meanwhile, the Gyrocopter music has a lot of bass
guitar and drums in the beginning with some horns eventually
coming in. For the most part, the music is just average. Not
really anything good to listen to.
Fortunately, sound is composed of both music and sound
effects. And Pilotwings 64 really excels in the sound effects
department. Incredibly realistic wind and helicopter sounds are
accompanied by tons of sounds down below -- that is, if you
can close enough. You can hear the bell of a church. You can
hear the crowd clap on a golf course. You can hear the sounds
of a carnival. You can hear the sounds of a river. You can hear
the crashing of the water at the waterfall. You can even hear
boats down on the water.
If there ever shall be a sequel to Pilotwings 64, there are a
few helpful improvements that can be made. First of all,
how about some more vehicles! Skydiving should become a
regular vehicle along with maybe Jumble Hopper. Then there
could always be Bungie Jumping as a new bonus vehicle. Second,
let the missiles from the Gyrocopter do damage to the
surroundings! Finally, get some better music in here!
When it's all said and done, Pilotwings 64 is a beautiful,
fascinating, thrilling and fun flight simulation. Hard-core flight
simulation fans be forewarned: This is not a real flight simulation
in the sense of what you're used to seeing on the PC; it's more
of an event-based game with emphasis on adventure and fun.
There is no doubt this game will go down in history as one of
the classic Nintendo 64 games. Now let's hope Nintendo lets
Paradigm work its magic on a realistic, dog-fighting, flight simulator.
Graphics: 4.7 out of 5
Sound: 3.5 out of 5
Control: 4.3 out of 5
Gameplay: 3.9 out of 5
Lastability: 4.2 out of 5
Overall: 4.0 out of 5