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Pilotwings 64

Rated KA for Kids to Adults


Nintendo 64 (N64)




Paradigm Simulation


September 1996

ROM Size:

64 megabits




Sky Sports Simulation


Cartridge (2 slots)





> Final Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0


Pilotwings 64 is the 64-bit sequel to Miyamoto's classic Super NES flight simulation game. The original Pilotwings was an event-based flight simulation, however. Using different vehicles, you had to reach a certain goal before the instructors would let you move on. That same basic gameplay premise is still the backbone of Pilotwings 64, but it has been updated and refined in the sequel.

Gameplay & Control

You have three main vehicles and four bonus vehicles at your command in Pilotwings 64. The Hang Glider, Rocket Belt, and Gyrocopter are the three main vehicles at your disposal in the game. There are also four bonus vehicles: Human Cannonball, Sky Diving, Jumble Hopper, and Bird Man. The Light Plane from the original game has been replaced with the Gyrocopter. But, disappointingly, the Sky Diving portion has been reduced to just a bonus vehicle and is no longer a main event.


A new addition to this sequel is the ability to pick from six different pilots. Each pilot has different attributes that affect the way your vehicle controls. The pilots are grouped into three different weight categories represented by a male and a female in each group. Lark and Kiwi are the light pilots. Goose and Ibis are the medium pilots. Finally, Hawk and Robin are the heavy pilots.


Some pilots are better than others at certain events. For the Hang Glider, you want the lightest possible pilots. Rocket Belt would be best with a medium weight pilot. Gyrocopter would be OK with any of the pilots, really. But using heavy pilots as a Human Cannonball would definitely be your best bet. Sky Diving would be the best with a medium pilot. And Jumble hopper would be OK with any of them. As you can see, you can adjust the difficulty of the events by using a pilot who isn't as good in a certain event.


Like usual, Nintendo-made games don't present many options, and Pilotwings 64 is really no exception. In the options menu, you listen to the 31 pieces of background music. You can also change the music and sound effects volume. There's a Stereo/Mono/Headphones option. In addition to this, the EEPROM chip will let you save up to two games onto the cart (the Controller Pak is neither needed nor is supported). The cartridge saves your current progress, the medal you got in each class, all the pictures you took, and your point total for every one of the vehicles for everyone of the classes. Very nice, indeed.


Control in Pilotwings 64 is seamless and realistic. The analog Control Stick makes for a realistic flight yolk with all the vehicles. Almost all the vehicles take advantage of the C group to let you look slightly more left, right, up, or down while you're flying. The R button will also let you switch views, depending on the vehicle.


While I pretty much hated the Hang Glider in the original Pilotwings, I found that this Hang Glider has never felt more realistic. Press forward on the Control Stick and you'll glide down with increasing speed. Press back on the Control Stick to try to bring yourself back up in the air. If you press the R button, you'll switch between a behind the hang glider view and a view almost on the back of the hang glider. The Z trigger lets you take pictures of your surroundings. Last, but not least, you can use either the A or B button to "flare," which basically slows you down. Once you get real close to the target, hold down either button so you can almost run onto the target.


As stated, I think the Hang Gliding levels are more enjoyable in Pilotwings 64 than in the original. For instance, you may have to fly through a series of rings and then land. Or you may have to use the wind to get you across a bay to the target. Or you may have to fly through a series of rings in a snowy valley while avoiding the mountains. Another task may require you to take a picture of an item, which the game will show you, and then land.


My second favorite vehicle in the original game was the Rocket Belt. Fortunately, as well as it controlled before, it's even more realistic in Pilotwings 64. Press forward on the Control Stick and you'll go forward with the rocket belt. Hold backward and you can go backwards. Well, actually, you can't go anywhere unless you hold down one the rocket throttles. The A button is fast rockets. This is the one you'll be using most of time. The B button is slow rockets. You might want to use this to perfect your landing on a target. A new addition to the Rocket Belt gameplay is with the Z trigger. By holding down the Z trigger and holding left or right on the Control Stick, you can make a quick turn. You can also use the Z trigger to just hover in the air. Finally, there is the R button, which will let you switch between a behind and overhead view.


When you don the Rocket Belt in Pilotwings 64, you may be required to complete these types of tasks. For instance, you may have to touch a ball above a building and then land. Or you may have to fly through rings scattered throughout downtown Los Angeles. Or you may have to land on a series of a targets on your way to the final target. Another task may require you to knock this huge bouncing ball into a designated area.


The third vehicle, the Gyrocopter, is essentially the same as the Light Plane from the original game. Press forward to dive and backward to climb. The A button increases the throttle speed and the B button decreases the throttle speed. You can use the R button to choose between a behind 'copter view and an inside 'copter view. The inside view is completely inside. You don't see any part of the Gyrocopter except the gun aimer. Speaking of gun aimer, if you hold down the Z trigger, an aimer comes onto the screen. Release the Z trigger and a missile goes flying. You can also just press the Z trigger to shoot missiles relentlessly. You'll find that you'll need to hold down the Z trigger and release it at the right time to take out some targets in a few of the Gyrocopter levels. Disappointingly, the missiles don't do any damage to the game's surroundings. It will only take out designated targets that you're supposed to hit.


Some examples of Gyrocopter levels include making you fly through a series of rings and then landing. Or you may have to you take out a series of targets with your gun before you land. Or you may have to fly through rings underneath bridges down the Mississippi River before you can land by a space shuttle taking off at Cape Canaveral.


Overall, the goal in Pilotwings 64 is to get a bronze or better for all three vehicles in each class. For each flight you take, you are rated on a scale of 1 to 100. Depending on the vehicle, you are rated in different categories such as Accuracy, Time, Angle, and Beam (or Ring, etc.). Accuracy is the accuracy of your landing on the bull's-eye or landing pad. Time is based on how fast you completed your task. Angle is how you came to the target. Did you just plop down from above, or did you get closer and closer to the target from an angle? If you get between 70 and 79, you'll get a bronze. If you get between 80 and 89, you'll get a silver. And if you get between 90 and 100, you'll get the gold. Anything lower than 70 will require you to play the level over again.


Pilotwings 64 has four different classes that get progressively more difficult. There's the Training class, A class, B class, and P (professional) class. Inside the Training class, there is only one event to complete for each vehicle. The A class will require you to complete two events for each vehicle. The B class will require you to complete three events for each vehicle, and so on. For example, in the A class you'd need a minimum of 140 points to get a bronze in Rocket Belt. Fortunately, the game keeps track of your best score in each event. So if you got a 75 in the first task of A class Rocket Belt, but got a 50 the next time when you tried to better that score, the game will still keep the 75 score. Also, the game only goes by total score, which determines if you can move on or not. Therefore, you can get a 60 in the first task of A class Rocket Belt, and an 80 in the second task of A class Rocket Belt. That would give you the minimum of 140 and you could move on.


Compared to the original, the flight areas in Pilotwings 64 are much more realistic and large. The game starts out in the Training class known as Holiday Island. Here you'll find carnivals, beaches, resorts, and golf courses. The Training class is the only time you're here, so you better enjoy it. The rest of the game (the A, B, and P classes) takes place across three other different islands. There's the snowy, icy, and cold Ever Frost Island. There's the tropical Crescent Island. And there's the now-famous representation of the United States of America. This is known as Little States. Throughout the A, B, and P classes, you will have to complete different tasks on these islands depending on the class and vehicle. For Hang Glider, you might be on Ever Frost Island. But when you pick Gyrocopter on the same class, you might be flying across the Little States.


Gameplay in this game is definitely on the difficult side, though. It takes quite a bit of practice, skill and patience to get even a bronze on the later courses. Fortunately, if you should ever get lost during any of these levels, then you might want to press the Start button and look at the handy map. The map will show you all the rings, balls, etc., you might have to touch or go through as yellow items. It then shows you a red area with a word above it for where you're supposed to finish. The map is fully scaleable and can be rotated in any direction if you hold down the Z trigger while you move the Control Stick.

Graphics & Sound

It should be no surprise that Pilotwings 64 looks incredible. After all, Paradigm Simulation, Inc., the leader in realistic flight simulations, is responsible for the game's stunning visuals and realistic flight physics. The world is completely 3D, as you can fly anywhere you want around the island. With four completely different islands, including an incredible rendition of the USA, one has to wonder how they fit all of this onto a 64 megabit cart?


Flying around Holiday Island, you'll notice golf courses, carnivals, resorts, sandy beaches, waterfalls, and more. Ever Frost Island has oil refineries, ice caves, waterfalls, icebergs, whales, and tons of beautiful water. Crescent Island is populated with palm tress, beaches, power boats, caves, vegetation, and little villages. In the Little States, you'll see the Statue of Liberty, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle in Seattle, the White House in Washington D.C., Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, and so much more. The attention to detail in this game is downright incredible. The various monuments throughout the Little States all look very realistic compared to their real-life counterparts. You just have to remember that this is a very small scale of the USA. One second you're at Mt. Rushmore and 5-10 seconds later you're in Seattle. Even though you might think this world would be static because of all the detail, you're wrong. Go down for a closer view and you'll see the world busy with activity.


With all the incredible detail, variety of textures, and colorful areas, there is still a few minor pop-up and clipping problems here and there. Moreover, although the frame rate can be inconsistent now and then, you will find that the game is smooth and impressive most of the time.


The sound portion of Pilotwings 64 is almost like Jekyll and Hyde. The music in the game sounds relatively generic and synthesized. The music in the Hang Glider and Bird Man stages is generally mellow and laid-back. The music in the Rocket Pack stage is some sort of weird concoction with horns and a lot of twang. Meanwhile, the Gyrocopter music has a lot of bass guitar and drums in the beginning with some horns eventually coming in. For the most part, the music is just average. Not really anything good to listen to.


Fortunately, sound is composed of both music and sound effects. And Pilotwings 64 really excels in the sound effects department. Incredibly realistic wind and helicopter sounds are accompanied by tons of sounds down below—that is, if you can close enough. You can hear the bell of a church. You can hear the crowd clap on a golf course. You can hear the sounds of a carnival. You can hear the sounds of a river. You can hear the crashing of the water at the waterfall. You can even hear boats down on the water.


When it's all said and done, Pilotwings 64 is a beautiful, fascinating, thrilling, and fun flight simulation. Hard-core flight simulation fans be forewarned: This is not a real flight simulation in the sense of what you're used to seeing on the PC; it's more of an event-based game with emphasis on adventure and fun. There is no doubt this game will go down in history as one of the classic Nintendo 64 games. Now let's hope Nintendo lets Paradigm work its magic on a realistic, dog-fighting, flight simulator.
















As we look back at Pilotwings 64, it becomes apparent that it was more of an "experience" than a game. True, there are some decent gameplay elements in here, but the series is still lacking in that department. Pilotwings 64 is probably too difficult for the average gamer as well. Pilotwings 64 will still go down as one of the classic N64 titles, but that's only because it was one of the first two games for the system and because the environment provoked immersion.


Review by: Scott McCall

First Reviewed: July 11, 1996

Appendix Added: December 6, 1997




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