Lots of missions and collectibles, excellent use of 3D, leisurely atmosphere
No new islands, may not appeal to those who have already played Wii Sports Resort
I must admit to being a little apprehensive when I purchased Pilotwings Resort. My impressions of the title at Nintendo’s 3DS media event this past January were not particularly favorable, but something about the game still compelled me enough to overlook my reservations and give it a second chance. It may have been its premise– I have always had a penchant for leisurely games, and the bustle of a showroom floor was admittedly not the most suitable place to test such an experience. Whatever the reason, I am thankful I did: Pilotwings Resort is a pleasantly surprising game, one that easily stands among the best of 3DS’s launch offerings.
As its name would suggest, Pilotwings Resort is an expansion of Wii Sports Resort’s flight mode into a full Pilotwings game. This is not altogether surprising: comparisons between the two have been drawn since Sports‘ release, and it seemed only logical to use the Wii title as a template to resurrect the aerial series in time for 3DS’s launch. As is to be expected, the titles look remarkably similar because of this, but there is enough new content beneath its disconcerting exterior to make Pilotwings Resort a game wholly its own.
Gameplay is divided up into two modes. The first, Mission Flight, serves as the title’s backbone and provides the bulk of its content. Here players must pilot the game’s three primary vehicles (and a handful of others on specific occasions) and complete a variety of different objectives, ranging from simple tasks like landing within the time limit to more complex aerial routines. Each mission need only be cleared with two stars to unlock subsequent classes, but the real joy of the game comes from trying to attain a perfect score in every challenge. Some of the later missions can actually get quite difficult, but none ever cross the line into frustrating despite how precariously they may straddle it. This is in large part due to their relative brevity: each mission takes only a couple of minutes to complete, and it is very tempting to replay one when your initial run isn’t particularly good.
The game’s second mode, Free Flight, should be immediately familiar to anyone who has played Wii Sports Resort. It begins almost identically to the one found in the Wii title: players select a vehicle and must collect as many landmark icons as possible within the scant two-minute time limit. Amassing a certain amount will unlock different times of the day, but these are little more than cosmetic changes to the scenery and have no bearing on the items available or their locations around the island.
This is where the title drew the most ire from me in my initial time with it, as its blatant similarity to Wii Sports led me to believe this was the extent of what the mode had to offer. Thankfully, this is not the case, and dozens of new collectibles are introduced with every class you complete in Mission Flight. By the end of the game there will be literally hundreds of items for you to find, many of which will be deviously hidden in remote corners of the island, and actually obtaining them all will require a good several hours of serious playtime.
The Pilotwings series is often criticized as being little more than a visual showcase, and this generalization does to an extent hold true: the original was conceived to illustrate the potential of Super NES’s Mode 7 capability, and its Nintendo 64 followup effectively displayed the graphical prowess of the then-nascent console. Resort may not push the same technological boundaries its forerunners did, but it does serve as an excellent demonstration of 3DS’s stereoscopic effects, aligning it with the philosophy that has thus far guided the series.
The graphics themselves are very pleasant: Resort’s Wuhu Island compares remarkably well to its Wii counterpart, and you would be hard-pressed to find any visual discrepancies between the two. Where the title truly excels, however, is in its aforementioned use of 3D. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the effects add an almost IMAX-like quality to the game: the scenery is much more panoramic because of them, and it is easy to get swept up in your surroundings as you soar over the island. The leap in visuals may not be as significant as this comparison might imply, but it is certainly noticeable– I have, on several occasions (most notably during the skydiving mission), actually felt the sensation of falling as my virtual avatar plummeted through the air. Not everyone, of course, will have the same experience, but it goes to show just how immersive a game can become thanks to the console’s stereoscopic capability.
The effects also have a noticeable bearing on the gameplay, and judging spatial distance becomes generally easier because of them. This is particularly helpful when trying to land with the rocket belt as you can more easily gauge your distance above and away from the landing platform. While this may not seem all that significant on paper, it is certainly noticeable in the midst of play and should be enough to illustrate the tangible benefits of stereoscopic visuals.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Pilotwings Resort is that it doesn’t stray too far from its foundation. Wuhu is the only real landmass in the game to explore, and those who have already exhausted its every crevice in Wii Sports Resort may not find a second trip to the island all that compelling. Still, it remains a very charming locale, and those who are fond of or especially have yet to experience it will find the absence of other islands almost a nonissue– there is enough to see and do on Wuhu that it is hard to fault the game for lacking other settings. While it certainly would have been nice to see some new locations, that there are none is not a significant strike against the game.
My biggest concern regarding Pilotwings Resort was that the title would be little more than a slightly-expanded port to fill out 3DS’s launch lineup, an opinion only strengthened by the lackluster demo on display at Nintendo’s media event earlier this year. Having now spent a good dozen hours with the final product, I can safely say I have been wholly proven wrong: Monster Games did an excellent job building upon the template established by Wii Sports Resort, and the end result is a title that very much feels like a true Pilotwings game. While this may not be enough to change the minds of those who do not already like the series, fans and newcomers alike will find a lot of leisurely, varied, and occasionally challenging content to enjoy, making Pilotwings Resort one of the safest additions to your 3DS library.