Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Impressions - PilotWings Resort for 3DS

Of all the games prepped for launch day, PilotWings Resort always seemed like the most risk-free purchase of the bunch. Not because I had enjoyed the series prior. Quite the opposite, I remember renting PilotWings 64 and having a hell of a time trying to control these crafts and accomplish the tasks they were throwing at me and I left it as another bad rental without giving it another thought for years and years. Then E3 2010 rolls around and among many titles and series that Nintendo revealed were coming to 3DS was PilotWings Resort. What really caught my eye is that it was set on Wuhu Island of Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus. The Island Flyover mode of Wii Sports Resort had become my favorite piece of that game, so an expansion of that sounded great to me. Roll forward to February 22nd when Nintendo laid down the day-one software for perspective owners of the 3DS in the U.S., and easily PilotWings Resort still looked like the safest purchase to me. Roll forward again to a few weeks before the launch of the 3DS in the U.S.. Reviews and impressions were coming in for the final version of PilotWings Resort, and a grim detail seemed to be universally voiced; you could beat the game in about an hour and a half. It doesn't matter how you spin that number or how awesome that hour and a half is, for $40 that's a lousy deal.

For a second, I wavered on whether or not to purchase PilotWings Resort.
I knew I wanted to buy it, but did I really need it at $40? At $20? It crossed my mind that it might never drop in price, like Super Mario 64 DS..... But luckily more impressions came in, some directly in defense of the game and ready to explain the "one and a half hour" figure away as nothing more than the bare-minimum time it might take to see the credits. It didn't hurt that Toys-R-Us had the best deal on buying two 3DS games from a major chain and that it was a (very) limited time deal. In the end it didn't hurt that much when I purchased it.

Unlike those that hit up a demo kiosk at BestBuy (or where ever PilotWings Resort was the demo game) my very first experience with glasses-less 3D was not PilotWings Resort. The 3DS has a "3D Screen Check" that introduces you to the 3D in a simple, but neat way, and I made sure to make my Mii before playing PilotWings Resort. But none of that compared to seeing an open world in 3D.

I hear it all the time when Zelda comes up: "Ocarina of Time 3D will be the game that shows me if 3D makes things better". They say it because they are intensely familiar with the world of Ocarina of Time on a 2D display. Because of my love of Island Flyover, I'm familiar with Wuhu Island, and I imagine that I get the same feeling from this game that people hope to get from Ocarina of Time 3D for 3DS; it's incredible. It feels fantastically, touchably real despite the unrealistically beautiful colors, and I will never sell it short by playing without the 3D if I have a choice.

That feeling of not exactly knowing how to control the characters that I got from PilotWings 64 came back with the introduction of the Rocket Belt in the game. It's absolutely worth noting that the plane does not control exactly the same as the ones from Wii Sports Resort, because that plane is pretty unrealistically responsive and would make the plane missions considerably easier. My years of experience with controlling objects in a 3D world since PilotWings 64 meant that I came to grips with the Rocket Belt without frustration. The other crafts you can pilot (no spoilers) likewise put my ability to learn something new to the test without being frustrating.

Maybe it's just me, but those people that were claiming it was a short game were not giving the game's challenge the credit it deserves. You get a score for all of your activities during a mission; flying through a ring, collecting a way-point, bursting a balloon, your landing, and making it through mission without bumping into anything or crashing, to name the aspects of the first set of training class missions. There are five classes of missions, and up to the fourth (gold) I can tell you that there are 20 unique activities using 6 unique crafts, across 30 diverse levels. For each mission your score will amount to one of five ratings upon completion of a mission; no stars, 1, 2, and 3 stars, and 3 stars highlighted in red if you get a perfect score. For me, it's rare that I get a 3 star rating my first time, and I've yet to get a perfect score the first time. Additionally, you can achieve a score higher than perfect (say what?) in a mission, but only after achieving a perfect score for that mission. I'm not sure if it was in the first two games, but if not, it's a really brilliant addition by Monster Games (the developer) that means you will have a reason to play missions more than once, no matter how awesome you are. You have to get a certain overall star count (red highlighting from a perfect score still counts as 3) from the current class in order to unlock the next class, which basically amounts to getting at least 2 star ratings on every mission, a feat I didn't always accomplish on the first try.

There is also the free flight mode, which is much like the Island Flyover in Wii Sports Resort. This time around, the flights start out at two minutes each, but there is a specific way to increase the time limit. If you played Island Flyover as much as I did, you might initially be disappointed that the "i" information locations are the same as in Wii Sports Resort which means those last few that were especially well hidden aren't a surprise now. But quickly you'll see that the white balloons have all new locations, unlock as you play, and some are difficult (but not impossible) to acquire without the Rocket belt so you have good reason to try out the different crafts. Each of the original three crafts has a unique third collectible that can only be collected while piloting that vehicle, so you'll be playing this mode multiple times for sure if you want to 100% free flight mode.

If you're not interested in exploring free flight mode, or perfecting all the missions, then sure, I could definitely see how you could blow through the game in an hour or two. But to me, the gameplay is very enjoyable and I can tell I'm going to get a lot of play time out of it. Is it worth $40? Maybe not as worth $40 as some games, but I definitely recommend it at the $40 asking price.

Just wonder, would anyone be interested in getting a "second opinion" from my brother? I've let a couple people play PilotWings Resort, but he's definitely played the most of them.


  1. "Unlike those that hit up a demo kiosk at BestBuy (or where ever PilotWings Resort was the demo game)..."
    Best Buy it was...as a matter of fact, as of now, Best Buy is the only store I know with demo units.

    "Maybe it's just me, but those people that were claiming it was a short game were not giving the game's challenge the credit it deserves."
    How many hours do you think you played it, just to complete it?

    Also, "This time around, the flights start out at two minutes each, but there is a specific way to increase the time limit."
    How high can the time limit go in "free flight" mode? I just find it an ironic name, "free flight", if there is always a time limit...

    Anywho, for me, I would have held off on purchasing Pilotwings, or perhaps gone with the Toys-R-Us deal on it.
    I really liked what Monster Games did in Excitebots, so the exclusion of any online play...leaderboards mainly...really baffle me here.

    I would be interested in the "second opinion", especially if he's played the past games of the series a lot.

  2. Oh, I'm not sure my brother remembers PilotWings 64 that much....

    The GameStops near me have 3DS demo kiosks running Super Street Fighter IV, and I see ads on GameFAQs saying you can try the 3DS at Target, although the one closest to me does not have a 3DS demo kiosk. I should see if I can find out what game Targets are typically demoing.....maybe I can try out Steel Diver.

    I haven't completed PilotWings Resort, but from the total that's in the Activity Log, I'd estimate I've spent 6 1/2 hours with the game.
    I've liked everything I've seen from Monster Games starting with Excite Truck. I can understand the desire for leaderboards; I personally think uploadable and downloadable ghost runs would have great, and even some local competition by exchanging them through StreetPass, but the game is what it is and it's either a package I'm interested in purchasing or it isn't.