Lookin’ Back #16 – Pilotwings

Lookin’ Back’s unofficial ‘N64 Month’ has been changed to ‘Nintendo Month’.

Sorry if you came here expecting another N64 article for Lookin’ Back, but I found out on Friday that Pilotwings was out for the Wii Virtual Console.  This was one of my favourite SNES games, and I’ve decided that I just had to write about it.  There was an N64 version as well, but I’m going to talk about the original, and in my view better, game.

My first exposure to Pilotwings was actually when I saw the game played on the Sky One video game show Games World.  The show had a tournament style contest, and Pilotwings was one of the games that frequently popped up in the challenges.  Ah, who could forget Big Boy Barry and Mr Mathers, the Megabyte Millionaire.  Anyone?  Just me?

Anyway, back to Pilotwings.  In this, you are a trainee pilot and you are aiming to get your licenses.  In order to do this, you have to complete a series of tests in various ‘disciplines’.  Each license has a set number of points you need to progress to the next level.  Each discipline has a possible maximum of 100 points which are graded in various categories, depending on how you performed.

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There are 4 main disciplines in the game.  The first is Skydiving, in which you have to freefall through a series of rings, after which you then open your parachute and have to land on a target area.  If you do well enough, you can access a bonus level where you control a penguin who jumps off a diving board into a pool below.  Any points you get in these bonus levels are added to your score for that discipline.  This can make it possible to complete a license without actually playing all the disciplines at that level.

Next up is the Rocket Belt, where your guy has a jet pack attached to him, and you have to either fly through rings or touch light bars and then land on a target area.  You can control the speed of your movement, but you have a limited amount of fuel.  Although if you are somewhat competent, the fuel level shouldn’t be much of an issue.  There is also a bonus level available for this as well, which involves bouncing a winged man across a series of trampolines.

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Probably my favourite mode is the Light Plane.  This mode involves you flying through a set of rings or following a path of orbs, and then landing on a runway.  Sometimes you start in mid-air, but sometimes you actually have to take off in the plane first, which basically requires you to get the throttle up to full speed as soon as possible.  Also, if you land too quickly or come in at a strange angle, you can destroy your plane.

The fourth main discipline, and arguably the most difficult, is the Hang Glider.  In this mode, you have to use a series of thermal currents to rise to a certain height, and then land on a target.  Getting the height was a real pain, especially on the final license.

In addition to this, once you complete all of the 4 license levels, you open up a special secret bonus mission to play.  In this mission, you fly a helicopter and have to rescue your instructors from an enemy base.  Your new helicopter has the ability to shoot as well, but there are anti air weapons and if you get hit once, it’s game over.

So that’s a Pilotwings, a somewhat overlooked SNES game, I feel.  If you own a Wii and are in the EU, you can actually now get Pilotwings from the Virtual Console for 800 Nintendo Points, which is £5.60 in real money.  For that price, you really can’t go wrong.

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Mike is Brutal Gamer's Indie Editor. He has been playing video games since the early 90s and is fond of racing games, puzzlers and MMOs. Typing /played while in WoW makes him cry, but not enough to stop him playing some more.
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