The lead up to the 3DS launch has been long and anticipated, but gamers are now running to stores as Nintendo’s latest handheld console is on the shelves. To mark this next generation in handheld gaming, Nintendo has seen fit to release a new Pilotwings game to go along with the launch of their 3D enabled handheld console. We have had some extended time with this game, aptly titled Pilotwings Resort, and after flying around the skies of Wuhu Island for and extended period of time I am left with an impression that the game is enjoyable, but it could be so much more.
Pilotwings Resort takes place in the skies above Wuhu Island, which is the same island that Wii Sports Resort took place in. So, if you played Wii Sports Resort you’ll clearly recognize the environment you are playing in. There is no story to Pilotwings as it is simply a game that is broken into two groups of challenges: Free Flight and Mission Flight. These modes allow you to take control of various flying vehicles such as a jet pack, propeller sea plane, jet fighter, and a hang glider to name a few.
Mission Flight Mode is a major part of the game. Here you are tasked with completing certain tasks/goals that have strict criteria for you to follow. There are ascending levels of challenges ranging from Training, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. As one would expect, the more valuable the metal, the harder the challenges are in these classes. For each class you are graded on a star system (1 to 3 stars) for your effort. To open up new levels in the Mission Flight Mode you must complete the missions in each group and accumulate a certain amount of stars. I have to say that the higher challenges definitely put your skills to the test and there are times you need to be pretty much perfect to get the minimum amount of stars to move on. In the end though this is very rewarding and you’ll want a pat on the back for your efforts.
Free Flight Mode is pretty much what it says, a mode that lets you explore Wuhu Island in any vehicle you have open, at any time of the day that you have opened up, for a specific amount of time (starts at 2 minutes). Here you will explore and collect various items (rings, balloons, etc.) as the clock ticks down. These collectibles can be found in the most obvious of places, but they can also be well hidden. You will find that you need to explore every nook and cranny of Wuhu Island in order to find everything around it. As you find more collectibles you will open up new items (e.g. evening, night, vehicles, and even more time). I found that I was strangely addicted to flying around the island in a jet pack as it allowed me the ability to hover and go into the harder to reach areas.
Controlling your flying vehicles is pretty good, as the analog thumb stick is comfortable to use and pretty accurate most of the time. You may find those occasions where it could have been that more accurate then you hoped for, but in the end it’s not that bad at all. Each aircraft that you are tasked to control does have specific controls to fly around (e.g. Jet Pack versus Hang Glider) and you do need to spend the time to learn the nuances of each. That being said, you should be able to grasp each one in a matter of no time.
As I played the game there were two things that bothered me. The first was that I had seen most of it before, given that I played Wii Sports Resort quite a lot when it came out. When playing Pilotwings I had seen most of where I was exploring previously, making this outing somewhat repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, those who have not played Wii Sports Resort will love it, but those who have played the Wii title may feel a bit ‘ripped off’ given that it is all recycled. I wish there was a whole new island to explore so I felt like some off it was new again.
The other area I had issues with was the lack of any multiplayer. Given the online abilities of the 3DS, as well as local Wi-Fi, this is disappointing to say the least. The omission of being able to explore Wuhu Island either cooperatively or competitively is truly a missed opportunity. I don’t know why this is the case, but I can only assume it is due to the fact that they ported over a lot of the Wii code of Wuhu Island to the 3DS, and there was no multiplayer support like this on the Wii.
Visually, Pilotwings Resort is truly a Nintendo game, and it emulates the look and feel of Wii’s Sports Resort quite well. What I noticed was how bright and vibrant the colors were. The graphics are pretty clean as there are minimal jaggies to be seen. What I was really impressed with is how there was not a lot of clipping or tearing to be seen on the handheld’. For instance, when I jet packed into a volcano, or hidden tunnel, I found that the camera was quite intuitive and I did not find my character going through walls and I did not experience walls disappearing and showing the environment outside. Pretty impressive for this newly released machine.
As for the 3D effects, they are truly noticeable. Given that there is some precision needed for some of the challenges, I found that playing in a 3D environment allowed me to judge my next move on some of challenges. To see some sort of visual clue to how far along the next target or objective was, in 3D, allowed me to properly adjust my flight trajectory in order to stand a better chance at hitting it. You can play this game in 2D as well, but you’ll find that the 3D mode is very important in the gameplay of this title.
In terms of the audio, again, if you have played Wii Sports Resort,a lot of the music will sound familiar. All the music definitely suits the theme of game, and it can make for some relaxing flight sessions. As for the sound effects, they are pretty basic, but they do manage to bring the world of Wuhu Island to life. From waterfalls to other planes flying in the air, all manage to convey the imaginary world found in the game. At the end of the day the sound manages to get the job done quite adequately.
At the end of the day I would have to say that Pilotwings Resort for the 3DS is a pretty good game, but given the use of Wii Sports Resorts locale, it seems way too familiar for those who have played it. That being said, there is more depth than I expected, given the number of challenges and the skill that is involved to get past some of the harder ones. As well, the exclusion of any multiplayer seems like a missed opportunity to me. At the end of the day Pilotwings Resort isn’t a bad game, especially for a launch title, it is just that it definitely could been a lot more than it was.