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Pilotwings – SNES

Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Developer: Nintendo EAD

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: Japan: December 21, 1990; North America: August 23, 1992

Genre: Amateur Flight Simulator

Reviewed by Flagostomos

Pilotwings Box

Have you ever played Microsoft’s Flight Simulator? It’s one of those games that people either love it or hate it; in fact I don’t know if you could call it a game. It’s legitimately supposed to be a simulator of real life flying. However when I say Pilotwings for the SNES is a flight simulator, don’t get the two confused. They have absolutely nothing in common. Pilotwings for the SNES is addictive and fun.

There are four main types of “flying” that you must master on your way to your “Pilot’s License”. They are the light plane, skydiving, hang gliding, and a rocket belt, which is essentially a jetpack. There are different levels as you progress through the game, with the challenges getting more and more difficult the further you progress.

The light plane is pretty straight forward. You gather up enough speed to take off, and then the objective usually has you flying through rings or on a particular path. Then you land the plane as close to the center of the runway that you can. You gain points based upon how many rings you touch, how much fuel you don’t waste, and how good of a landing job you do. This is probably the second easiest mode as you have a lot of control over your speed and altitude, but the steering can get a little sticky.

Pilotwings light plane

The rocket belt is probably the easiest to control and is, in my opinion, the most fun. You use the A button for a strong burst of speed, B for a not as powerful burst of speed, and the D-pad to steer. The objectives for the rocketbelt are also straight forward, having you take off and fly through some rings, and then land on the target as close to the bull’s eye as you can. The rings usually aren’t what give you the issue. Most of the problems you will experience are with fuel consumption and landing. There’s also an extra landing pad that is usually moving that garners you most of the points necessary if you are skilled enough to land on it.

The hang glider is the most difficult to control in my opinion. You are let off at a certain altitude and again must fly through wings. However, unlike with the rocket belt and plane, you don’t have direct control over your altitude and speed. You must rely on wind currents to gain altitude, and carefully steer your character so as not to lose too much altitude. There is one mission when you have to get to a certain altitude and then land, and landing poses the biggest issue. You again want to hit the center of the bull’s eye, but with the lack of control over speed and altitude, this can get quite messy. Fortunately, if you are good at the other challenges, you don’t always have to score a perfect score on hang gliding to proceed.

The last challenge is sky diving, and it again is pretty straight forward. You fly up to a certain altitude and then must drop through various rings, and land on the bull’s eye below. There is a special platform you can land on, like in the rocket belt challenge. However, if you successfully land on the extra platform, you are awarded with a Penguin Diving mini-game for extra fun.

After you master your first few levels of training, all of the instructors are kidnapped, and you must pilot an attack helicopter to rescue them. The helicopter is slow and doesn’t maneuver well, but it has missiles that you can fire at the enemies firing at you. You land at the end and save the instructors.

The game then repeats itself, issuing harder and harder challenges until you finally again have to rescue the instructors, this time flying the chopper at night.

There isn’t really much of a story here. You have joined a “Flight Club” to work your way to a pilot’s license. That is about all the story that is provided, other than having to rescue your instructors from the “Evil Syndicate”, gaining your first Pilot’s Wings and allowing you to attack challenges, this time in weather conditions.

The controls can be somewhat finicky. However, this is mostly due to the fact that it is trying to mimic real-life controlling of various aircraft. A light plane will not turn on a dime and reflects this in game play. Hangliding doesn’t allow you to go up as you please, instead having to use the wind to gain altitude. The rocket belt affords you the most control, but seems as this level of jetpacking is non-existent in the real world (at least in commercial applications) it’s what you would expect. Sky diving has you move your character to move through the wind currents, much as real skydiving does. The controls work for what the game is.

I must admit that I love popping in this game every now and again and playing through it. However, subsequent playthroughs become increasingly easier to the point that you can beat all of the levels with 100%, even the most challenging ones. Much like real world skills, playing Pilotwings becomes second nature and that’s when you lose interest in the game.

There’s not a lot to tell here. The music is ambient and fits the scene well. It has a very 90s SNES sound to it, but in a good way. I remember as a kid that the music brought back dreams I had, of flying through the air with my own rocket belt. It very much defines the game, and it does so very well. The graphics heavily utilize the Mode 7 capabilities of the SNES, being able to render draw distances. Seems how you are playing as a character in forward velocity, and some times at high speeds, the game does this very well for being a SNES title.

Gameplay: 8
Story: Nonexistent, it doesn’t detract from the game though.
Controls: 8. It’s a matter of understanding that the controls mimic their real-life counterparts.
Replayability: 7
Graphics/Audio: 8
Overall: A Solid 8

I highly recommend picking this title up by anyone who is interested in flight simulator type games. It has such a simple charm that it is really a must play for any fan of the SNES.

Written by Nerd Bacon

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  1. Pingback: Pilotwings 64 - Nintendo 64 - Nerd Bacon Reviews

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