Amidst middling reviews of quick-fire ports and lazy launch titles, Nintendo’s own Pilotwings Resort is a breath of fresh air. Taking the core principles from both the SNES original and the Nintendo 64 day one fan favourite, Resort offers up simple gameplay mechanics set against a strict set of increasingly difficult missions as you move up the ranks, split across three core disciplines: planes, gliders and jetpacks.[boxout]They start off easy: the first round of missions tasking you with little more than following a set of floating rings, or successfully landing on the water – but soon incorporate tricky flying scenarios, photography and pinpoint accuracy and control, each rewarded with a ranking based on your score over a few key areas which range from one star to three, and then moving up to a ‘perfect’ score which features red rings around the stars.
These so-called ‘perfect’ scores can be topped up further with skillful flying by way of bonuses, but it’s the collection of the red ringed stars that forms the ultimate goal for Pilotwings. Yes, you can rush through the game grabbing one, two or even three gold stars as you go (which will take little more than a few hours) but perfection will soak up much more time and present the greatest challenge, as you’d expect.[drop]The controls, which use the Circle Pad for analog accuracy, are nigh-on perfect. Each method of flight has slightly different setups (and feel distinctly different to fly, too) but they’re consistent enough throughout to ensure that skills gained in one discipline can be carried over to the others; that said, the plane is obviously the quickest but least nimble at turning, the glider is unpowered so relies on thermals for height, and the jetpack is hugely quick at gaining height and navigating tight spaces, but comes with limited fuel.
You don’t get the choice of vehicle for each mission, that’s all pre-determined, but they’re mixed up enough so that the game always feels fresh. There’s a few other treats hidden within, too, including a free diving squirrel suit for one mission which makes the most of Wuhu Island’s huge volcano as a stunning backdrop. It’s also a shining example of how to use the 3DS’ 3D technology, the vertiginous height really showing off the new console’s visual grunt.
The game looks great throughout, mind, the rich primary colours really popping on the 3DS, and the sharp, detailed textures a delight. Running the 3D slider at full might be a brave move, but if you can handle it Pilotwings Resort looks the business, and for the first time on the handheld the 3D actually helps you play the game – it’s easier to line up landings, for example, or gauge distances between yourself and any targets in the mission.[drop2]Likewise, the ability to use your own Miis in the game picks up on one of the 3DS’ clever little features, and although there’s no online it’s nice to see at least one game that uses some of the console’s selling points. There’s no loss in characterisation by doing so, either, in effect it places the player more in the game that it would if it was a pre-built ‘winger, and we hope that future 3DS games carry this forward as so many games have done on the Wii.
The music’s great too, pure Nintendo goodness, and despite a lack of obvious fan service and given that some players will have already explored the entire location via Wii Sports Resort, there’s more than enough ‘game’ here to justify the purchase. Sure, it’s a tad light on content, but if you’re prepared to invest in attaining a full rack of perfect scores expect to be spending quite a lot of time with Pilotwings Resort. We just hope it’s not another decade and a half before the next one.
- Beautiful graphics
- Calming, serene atmosphere
- Grabbing three red stars will take some time
- Amazing use of 3D
- Actual island isn’t that big
Pilotwings Resort is easily the best launch game for the new 3DS, in our humble opinion. It’s a beautiful, expertly produced title with a difficulty curve so perfect the whole thing just flows from start to finish. Of course, if you pile through and just bag the minimum requirements you’ll be done in an afternoon, but aim high, attempt the perfect scores (and beyond) and you’ll find hidden intricacies and depth way beyond what’s immediately obvious. Pilotwings Resort is the first must have 3DS title, and it’s superb.