Blue skies, beautiful sunshine and a colourful landscape. There’s plenty to enjoy across Wuhu Island, the setting previously used for Wii Sports Resort that now finds itself adapted as the locale for Nintendo 3DS launch title, Pilotwings Resort.
The series, which encompasses both Pilotwings on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Pilotwings 64 on the Nintendo 64, has previously been used by the publisher to demonstrate the technical prowess of each console, with each iteration having been released alongside the launch of their respective systems. The precedent of Pilotwings Resort fares no different, once again aiming to set a benchmark for the Nintendo 3DS’ graphical capabilities whilst also utilising the glasses-free 3D effect to its full extent in a concerted effort to introduce the technology to its audience.
Those that are familiar with previous Pilotwings instalments will find the premise doesn’t differentiate from what you’re probably expecting. You’ll primarily find yourself making your way through Mission Mode, which will undoubtedly occupy the majority of your time with the game. Here, you’ll aim to progress through varying ranks of the Wuhu Sky Club, ranging from Novice right through to Platinum, as you seek to achieve increasingly elusive three-star ratings for each mission as the difficulty continues to ramp up. Seemingly becoming a staple of Nintendo’s first-party software, Pilotwings Resort will also utilise your Mii creations, placing them in the pilot’s seat.
Three core modes of aerial transport are available to you, encompassing the Plane, Rocket Belt and Glider, and each receives their own specific missions. This is further expanded later, when individual missions will place you in control of the Turbo Jet, Super Rocket Belt, Pedal Glider and even a custom-made Flying Squirrel Suit that sees you skydiving down a mountain. This quartet of additions provides some of the most enjoyable missions within the game, although the Pedal Glider is annoying, requiring you to continually press A to maintain momentum by pedalling whilst having to keep a watchful eye on your stamina meter to ensure you don’t tire yourself out.
The missions themselves also become increasingly more inventive as you progress through the game, with earlier missions tasking you with simpler goals such as flying through rings, popping balloons and practising your landing skills. Later on, when the player is more used to the navigational controls, you’ll find yourself tailing cars, boats and planes as you pop balloons, or even collecting stray mini-UFO’s before returning them to their colossal mothership.
As touched on before, during each mission you’ll be aiming to rack up as many points to achieve a three-star rating, or improve upon previous high scores, that are affected by specific factors including Guide Dots, Rings and Speed Panels you collect/ use, or the Impact and Accuracy of your landing.
You’ll progress through the Wuhu Flying Club by completing all missions for each rank and obtaining a minimum number of stars on each. Once you’ve made your way through to the dizzy heights of Platinum status, much of the game’s replayability is offered through returning to previous missions and aiming to achieve a three-star rating on them all. It’ll take the average player around five hours to blast through the missions, but alongside this, you’ll also be able to spend some time in Free Flight mode.
Here, you’ll be able to choose between any aircraft – including the Turbo Jet, Super Rocket Belt and Pedal Glider – and then explore the island at your leisure during the Day, Evening or Night. To make such an experience more interesting you’ll find a number of collectables scattered everywhere, for which you can unlock additional items to collect by completing Mission Mode. Gathering information rings will allow you to unlock different times of day, whereas utilising Stunt Rings will allow you to unlock 3D Dioramas that are able to be viewed from the main menu.
A downfall of the Free Flight mode is that you are placed under a time limit, although you’ll find white balloons on your travels that will allow you to extend such a limit permanently by +30 seconds per 20 that you find, yet even so it would’ve been nice to have been able to explore freely. Regardless, there are still 75 Locations, 120 Balloons and 60 Stunt Rings to find, adding a lengthy portion of gameplay on top of that offered by the Mission mode. These accumulate, so don’t worry that you have to get them all at once!
You’re sure to not only be impressed by the scale of Wuhu Island, but also of the quality and detail of the visuals. There is a particularly impressive draw distance demonstrated here, with no noticeable pop-up occurring. Environmental detail is also joyful to behold, with yachts and boats sailing across the sea and whales splashing the water with their tails.
In terms of controls, even those unfamiliar with arcade-flight simulators will easily adjust to the setup after a short while playing the game, which in most part is due to the introduction of the Circle Pad on the Nintendo 3DS. Each aircraft differ in control setup, with the Rocket Belt being the one that will take most getting used to. The player not only the power of the thrust but the angle in which you direct your Mii, and it takes some getting used to.
Similarly, the Biplane, which flies at a continuous speed, incorporates the use of a multitude of buttons – each shoulder button is used to bank left or right alongside performing barrel rolls, and the player may also employ a brake or speed boost. Finally, the Glider is the most simplistic yet also maintains a certain level of challenge. You’ll have to use thermal updrafts to allow you to gain altitude, whilst pivoting yourself downward occasionally to ensure you maintain a necessary speed.
Pilotwings Resort delivers the fun, engaging, family-orientated experience that Nintendo has continually been able to provide, whilst still being able to offer a distinct level of challenge. Whilst a little light on content, it marks a welcome return for the series and one that you shouldn’t be wary of missing out on.