Pilotwings Resort

Pilotwings Resort
Pilotwings Resort Cover
Platforms Nintendo 3DS
Genre Point Mii to the sky
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Keep Playing? Yes
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The island from Lost is its own character. It's mysterious, malevolent, and seemingly sentient. It's more than just a setting, interacting with each of the show's characters as much as any other person stranded there.

Nintendo wants WuHu Island to be like that. Well, sort of. Not the evil part, of course. Where the island from Lost is a place full of peril, pitfalls, and plotholes, WuHu Island is familiar, comfortable, and friendly. It is supposed to be like a favorite character, an entity that the player reminisces with every time they meet. That's why it's already shown up in three different casual Nintendo titles (Wii Fit, Wii Sports Resort, and Wii Fit Plus).

Make that four, as Nintendo brings Mii back to WuHu island, this time exclusively for airborne activities in Pilotwings Resort. Pilotwings is no stranger to acting as the "tech demo" launch title for new visual splendor; the original SNES game introduced the world to Mode 7 Mapping while its Nintendo 64 sequel showed off the new system's polygonal graphics from a birds' eye view.

This will be my second visit to WuHu Island, after the WiiMotion+ showcase that was Wii Sports Resort. There was a certain charm to staging the various activities around the island, full of recognizable landmarks and curiosities. However, it could just as easily be argued that this is all laziness on Nintendo's part, recycling assets they created years ago across a number of games. Will a half-hour at WuHu Island rekindle warm memories of jet skis and archery or has this vacation hotspot gone cold?

Minute by Minute

00 - "Welcome to WuHu Sky Club! Please select a Mii character to join." I choose the most handsome Mii ever created, of course. Then I get to sign my name on the member card. Now it's official!

01 - To start things off, I get to take a quick trial flight. I'll try the plane first. I control my direction with the circle pad. The A button is a boost, and B is brake. I take off from the water and soar into the skies. The music sounds really familiar...where is that from?

02 - The 3D effect works really well, even at its lowest setting. On higher settings, however, I just see double vision. I continue to fly around the island, checking out the scenery that's surprisingly familiar to me from Wii Sports Resort.

03 - I can change the camera view with X, getting an overhead view or a first person camera. The controls require some subtlety to maneuver effectively, and the circle pad is up to to the task. I end the trial flight period from the pause menu.

04 - I've got a choice between Mission Flight Mode and Free Flight Mode. I'll start with Mission Flight. The first six missions are training.

Pilotwings Resort Rocket Belt05 - Let's try the rocket belt first, I remember having some fun with that in Pilotwings 64. It's exactly the same from what I remember: A button controls jets, B button has low-power jets. I fly through some balloons and finish the mission with a 3-star rating.

06 - Hang-glider training: flying through some rings. Easy as pie. I earned a perfect score! Apparently I can earn higher than perfect next time I try it. How?

07 - Plane training: flying through some rings...again. I use the A button boost to get through rings faster. Another perfect score!

08 - Plane landing training: I fly down into the landing zone in the water, skidding across the sea to a stop. Not a perfect landing, apparently, but still a 3-star rating.

09 - Rocket belt landing training: I have to land on a bulls eye target in the distance. I use the B button to slow my descent...my Mii's knees buckle a bit as I land, not quite perfect. Still 3 stars.

10 - Hang-glider landing training: similar to the plane, I have to approach the ground at a parallel and then stop with a few steps. Bit of a rough landing. 3 stars anyway.

11 - Finished all the training missions! I've unlocked the Bronze class, with six more missions. Let's do Pad Jumping with the rocket belt. It's as it sound: I have to fly from one bulls eye target to the next with the rocket belt, landing as close to the center on each one as possible.

12 - I get more points by flying through balloons between each pad. Landing on a pad also refuels my rocket belt jets. Rough landing again...this is going to require some practice to get perfect landings, I guess. Three stars anyway!

13 - Let's try this plane mission, Ring Around the Island. Flying along guide lines through rings, it seems. It's pretty easy to over-steer in this plane, so I'm avoiding the outer range of the circle pad with my thumb.

14 - Still flying through rings...

15 - There some kind of frame here...oh, it's like a speed booster! Wasn't expecting that. It launched me through several point balloons. Time to land in the water...Great landing, but not perfect. I'm not sure how I could make it better...three star rating.

16 - Next mission, Into The Thermals with the hang-glider. Flying through rings...and there's a thermal draft ahead, which lifts my glider higher into the air. Good thing, I was about to hit the water.

17 - The glider turns much slower than the plane, making it easier to steer but requiring more forethought. The landing zone is ahead...Great landing, but not perfect. This game is going to require perfection for perfect landings, it seems. Completionists are either going to get very frustrated or very good at the game.

18 - Let's do another glider mission, Photo Op. I have to snap a photo of the lighthouse, then land the hang-glider. I hold R to look through the camera lens, then release it to take a photo. Got the lighthouse!

19 - I recognize the path I'm being led through: parts of it were used a jet ski course in Wii Sports Resort. I soar onto the landing zone for another imperfect landing, this time only earning two stars. How shameful! Looks like I lost some points for taking too long. How do you speed up a hang glider?

20 - Ha, I can save that picture of the lighthouse to the SD card. Check it out!

Pilotwings Resort Lighthouse

21 - Next mission: Rocket Ring Challenge with the rocket belt. Flying through balloons...the rocket belt can't turn well, so I have to keep adjusting my turns to keep from overshooting the path.

22 - And there's the landing bulls eye. Perfect! And that earns me another three star rating.

23 - Let's finish up the Bronze missions: Target Practice time, in the plane. I take off from the pond near the castle. Holding Y brings up the targeting reticule, and releasing it fires a shot. I have to shoot bulls eyes floating in the air along my balloon path.

24 - More targets, then it's time to land. Perfect landing! I don't know what made that better than my previous landings...but it earns me a perfect score! Again, I can come back to this mission and earn BETTER than perfect somehow.

25 - And that's it for the Bronze missions! I've unlocked the Silver class missions, and can also now collect balloons in Free Flight Mode. Let's check that mode out now.

26 - In Free Flight Mode, I get to fly wherever I want, but the objective is to collect all the information icons scattered around the island. I can pop all the balloons, as well, since I unlocked those. Looks like this mode isn't endless, like I expected: I have two minutes before the mode ends.

27 - Collected some landmark info icons: The Red Iron Bridge, Palm Boulevard, Cocoba Hotel, and the Tennis Courts. I also pop some balloons between each.

28 - I crashed into the bridge! My Mii parachutes out of the plane, and I reset near the hotel. And time's up! I found four information icons and five balloons. The game apparently keeps a high score for each.

29 - Let's go back to Mission Mode and try some silver missions. Ooh, I've unlocked a Jet Plane and a Squirrel Suit. The latter sounds too fun to pass up.

30 - The Squirrel Suit mission has me falling through rings, controlling my fall speed and steering with the circle pad. I end the first half hour by plummeting towards the earth in a Squirrel Suit.

Half-hour summary

Minutes to Action: 1

What I liked

Precision Perfection: Pilotwings Resort seems to be as much a showcase for the system's analog circle pad as it is the stereoscopic 3D visuals. The airborne vehicles are prone to over-steering and the landing process is quite demanding, requiring subtlety to the controls that most games ignore. The 3DS' circle pad is up to the task, providing an input that compares very well to standard control sticks.

Hey, that's the bridge where we dueled! And the volcano that we had our archery contest inside! And the tennis courts where we...well, I guess we never played tennis there, did we? I've fallen right into Nintendo's trap, recognizing so many little pieces of the island that hosted the activities of Wii Sports Resort and letting nostalgia wash over me.

Just as pretty in your pocket: The copypasta setting provides an opportunity to make easy comparisons to Nintendo's current console hardware, and the results are quite good. This 3DS WuHu Island clone doesn't seem to have as much activity going on as its Wii parent, but I think I'd have a hard time telling the difference between the two. The 3D effect is put to good use as well, emphasizing the vertigo when climbing to maximum altitude and the claustrophobia when strafing through the town streets.

What I didn't like

Same ol' same ol': It's fun seeing the old bowling alley and tracing the jet ski path through the caves, but I've done this all before in Wii Sports Resort's Island Flyover mode. I just hope the nostalgia keeps flowing. If it doesn't, I'm going to start wondering what's left to explore, and the answer seems to be "nothing."

Other thoughts

Audio: Now I remember where I heard that tune! The song that plays while you're flying the plane has a melody like the Millennial Fair from Chrono Trigger.

Would I keep playing? Yes. Flying is cool, and I'm curious to see what other vehicles they can cook up after the squirrel suit.

In 3D? Probably. I have to keep the effect at a very low setting to make it work, but it does make the experience feel a little more grand. Some have claimed that it aides distance judgment, but I'm not sure I would say that just yet.

Pilotwings Resort Bike