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Pilotwings – SNES

Pilotwings – SNES

2364535-snes_pilotwingsPlatform: Super Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo EAD

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): August 23rd, 1991

Genre: Flight Simulator

Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…

Cats and dogs, why not?

Today, tonight…whatever time it might be, we are going to take flight with one of Super Nintendo’s prime launch titles: Pilotwings. What? You haven’t played this game? You never got to soar through the air by way of plane, hang glider, jet pack, and the like? Well fret not, because neither did I…up until a few months ago.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 6.56.07 PM

Super Nintendo is not a system I grew up with. As such, most of my experience with this console has been fairly shallow. I missed out on many of its key offerings, such as Pilotwings. But in my travels, it has been bagged and catalogued into my abounding collection, making this the perfect opportunity to give you, the reader, a modest rundown.

I had tinkered with this game once or twice since I bought it, and at first I could barely make a dent in it. But I skimmed the instructions and gave Pilotwings a moderately sincere go. Once I really gave it a chance, I found this title to be quite fun and, dare I say, very gratifying. But let’s discuss why…

If you’re like me, the moment you hear “flight simulator,” your excitement shrivels like George Costanza in a cold pool. However, don’t abandon your enthusiasm just yet, as gaming powerhouse Nintendo gives us something that instills the notion of flight training while adding fun gameplay elements capable of entertaining even the most Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 6.08.59 PMRitalin-addled tykes out there.

As I mentioned before, Pilotwings takes some getting used to. Perhaps if you’re versed in flying mechanics you may know what you’re doing. But if you’re a layperson, you’ll have to get your feet wet. Don’t go into this expecting to ace your first test. And if you do…

…well, aren’t you special.

While there is some trial and error in learning the various handling schemes of aerodynamic stunts and vessels, once you get a feel for it, the controls will make sense. At a certain point, piloting will become intuitive…second nature. But not easy…ohhh, definitely not easy. I myself am still not sure I have fully grasped what I’m doing, but I’m getting there.

The controls are difficult, yes, but not because they are by any means “bad.” Quite the opposite, in fact. Each Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 6.59.29 PMcourse’s handling is unique and, to my estimation, a fairly accurate representation of how it would be to pull off these stunts. At the very least, Pilotwings has fantastic physics. You can really feel what you’re doing without any hiccups along the way. For a game such as this one, the slightest hitch in the control scheme could send it plummeting into the nether regions of the $1 game bin. Because the physics are spot on, you are able to instinctively grasp what you are doing, even if you haven’t the slightest idea how to fly.

The controls are so good that difficulty ought to be expected, as you are learning to be a pilot. Learning to command various aircrafts, along with other skills and techniques, not an easy feat. A strong challenge is vital to your immersion in this flight training experience. It’s the engine by which the game runs. Success requires precision, timing, and really learning/acquiring these skills. Pilotwings is in no way a blunt title – it is all about dexterity and your ability to honor the minutiae involved in executing a proper landing.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 7.03.42 PM

You will feel like you’re really going through certification.

Now I’m not saying it’s so real you’ll start to question reality in what would be the beginning of a complete and total existential breakdown.

No, it’s fun! It’s for kids!

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 6.07.49 PM

Lance is a no-nonsense kinda guy. Boy, I sure hope he’s okay though. Looks like he’s having problems at home

But still…using your imagination, you get to live the experience. Each time you pass a course you’ll feel as if you learned a new skill.

Preceding every lesson is a briefing from your instructor, who appears before you in vague anime form. He or she presents you with your objectives, scores your progress, and is fueled by the appropriate emotion depending on your performance. Each instructor has a different personality, which is reflected in their dialogue. It’s subtle, but it makes a difference.

Passwords are revealed as certification numbers. In order to receive a certificate (i.e. pass the level/course) you must exceed a certain number of points. While we could have been presented with a standard password system, Pilotwings goes an extra step to further the verisimilitude of this experience.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 5.38.37 PM

Ooooh yeah! Look out world, ZB’s got himself a piloting license! Nothing can stop me now!

The instructors will sometimes give you tips and advice if you did not do well. And I’m just going to tell you this right now, you will often not do well.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 5.40.30 PMI will say the difficulty is fair, but this doesn’t mean it ain’t frustrating. Pilotwings without a doubt offers the aggravating, vein-popping, eye-reddening frustration that’ll lend you the impulse to deem this a terrible game. Don’t fall into this trap, because it is good! But having to repeat a trial over and over again because you haven’t yet figured out how to land your plane from such great heights/speed can be tedious. Hair follicles might become scarce from a sudden grasping and yanking motion you won’t even see coming from your own rage-pulsating hands. And while the game is merciful enough to grant us a password system, it is still unforgiving enough to force you to retake the entire course again if your performance is really poor on one exam. So definitely hit up the most trying section first.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 5.45.38 PM

What??? 18 points away?? You mean to tell me I gotta do all this over again just because I can’t land a plane?

The music. Ohhhh, just listen to it. It’s soothing. It’s relaxing. It wraps you snuggly into the blanket that was the 90s, easing you back into this carefree time. You remember the 90s, right? The decade with that certain feeling? That indescribable feeling? That…alright, it’s nostalgia. But either way, this is how you would describe the music. It’s wonderful. Although, conceivably, some might find it to be a little too mellow. But if such is the case, you’re wrong. Plain and simple.

Pilotwings is an involved yet fun game, and it’s accessible enough for anyone to pick up after a few tries. It gives you plenty of variety, and once the simmering agitation wears off, you’ll find yourself wanting to go back for more. It’s addicting. In fact, what the hell am I doing wasting my time writing this review?? I should go back and play it now!

Oh, wait, before I go…this isn’t a very expensive title. So go! What are you waiting for? Your local retro game shop is summoning you (or eBay…if you swing that way).


Written by ZB


Since the tender age of four, I have been playing video games to occupy my free time. Raised on Nintendo and Sega Genesis, I have an extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the classics. Also an avid collector, I have accrued such consoles as the Atari Jaguar, Super Famicom, Odyssey 2, Sega Nomad, just to name a few.

Got any questions, comments, concerns, or threats? Feel free to email me at I am happy to hear your feedback!


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  1. I’ve played the N64 iteration, but never the SNES. Glad to know that they’re both frustrating, yet great experiences. If the SNES OST is anywhere near as good as the 64’s then it helps keep controller cracking urges as bay a bit.

    • Hahaha, yes indeed. I highly recommend you give this one a shot. I myself have never played the one for N64. I didn’t think it was supposed to be good, but I may be thinking of something else entirely.

      Always good to hear from you Chrono, I appreciate your enthusiasm for the 16-bit generation.

  2. jdmsilver says:

    I remember renting this game when I was a kid and spending hours on it over a weekend. Once you get the hang of it, the difficulty is manageable, but it took many hours.

    There are some “special” missions as you get further in the game to add to the variety. Very fond of this game!

    • It is a great game, isn’t it? My level of skill always puts me at a disadvantage whenever I play video games, so I don’t think I’ll ever quite get the hang of it.

      Thank you for reading my review, always appreciated!


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