Colorwind Reviews Pilotwings 64–Tech Demo Mediocrity

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It’s 1996. Nintendo is preparing to release the Nintendo 64 and are choosing which titles will be the games launch with the system. Hardware is only as good as its software. For the United States, they have only two games. One brought a loveable character into the third dimension and is one of the greatest games ever created. The other is Pilotwings 64.

When Pilotwings 64 came out with the N64, it was given strong reviews from many gaming publications. However, I was never interested in it. A game about flying tests never seemed appealing to me. So I passed on it when the N64 came out and I got Super Mario 64. Now I’m older, and although I had a rather pessimistic view of the N64 back when it was out (I was a rabid Playstation fan), I’ve grown to appreciate it for what it is and have been able to go back and enjoy games I previously brushed off, such as Goldeneye 007, Turok, and Yoshi’s Story. Now I’m going to try Pilotwings 64. Was I right to ignore this launch title or did I miss out on a lost gem?

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Pilotwings 64 is a sequel to Pilotwings for the Super Nintendo. The objective of the game is to complete a series of tests regarding different flight mechanisms, such as hang gliders, gyrocopters and jet packs. Each objective is usually somewhat different and each mechanism have different controls, giving the game variety.

Pilotwings 64 has pretty good graphics. The island feels thought out and the clouds and sky are sublimely presented. The water in particular is especially breathtaking, even today. However, the graphics don’t save this game from the fact that the game’s visuals just don’t look that good today. This problem is due not to the graphic quality of the visuals but to the design of them, as they just feel blocky and uninspired. The characters look like they have pasted on faces and everything is giant polygons. Many games from the N64 suffer this fate today. Sound is good but nothing stands out and leaves an impression. It’s merely competent.

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However, the biggest problem is that this game relied on its graphics for the time. Today, you may realize that Pilotwings 64 (and really all the Pilotwings games) are merely tech demos for their respective consoles. There’s no story to speak of, the presentation is basic and all you’re doing is attempting to pass tests so you can get to the next tests. The problem is that they’re just that, tests. Not fun objectives. I’m reminded of the license test for Gran Turismo. However, the difference is there’s nothing after passing these tests in Pilotwings 64, as that’s the whole game. Why is that all I’m doing is going through rings and landing on targets. The rings remind me of Superman 64. However, it’s not nearly as bad as that game. Not even close but it is unsettling that I can make that kind of correlation between these two games.

Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy Pilotwings 64 and  I don’t see the appeal. I can see that this was an attempt at a solid game but it’s just nothing more than a showcase for the N64. Nowadays, that’s no longer relevant and the game suffers because of it. Some might enjoy the challenge of getting the perfect score and Nintendo fanatics will tout this game as a landmark but I don’t see it. I can’t recommend this game. I was right to pass it up.

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