Pilotwings (SNES)

Pilotwings (SNES) - Full Cover


Welcome back to another 30 minute review everyone. Today we’re going to be taking a look at a true SNES Classic, in fact it was a launch title here in North America. I of course speak of the wonderful title Pilotwings. The game itself is rather simplistic, but what makes the game so memorable is the extensive use the SNES’s Mode 7 capabilities which allowed 3D graphics on the 2D system. In essence the game was basically a giant tech demo for the then new mode 7 graphics. Nintendo however has a great history with making amazingly fun tech demo games. Just look at Wii Sports. It’s still listed as one of the best games for the system, and that was a pack in game just to show off the new motion controls.

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Anyway, In Pilotwings, you play as an aspiring pilot as you go through various training sessions. But don’t knock the game as a simple flight simulator. In addition to the traditional plane you would expect, you also get to control a hang glider, a sky diver, and my favorite the rocket belt. I feel like I know a lot about this game, but truth be told I think I only played it once or twice at a friend’s house, I really don’t have much experience with the game. So join me as we test our skills and try to earn our pilot’s license.


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Join the Flight Club Now! So for the first lessons, we’ll just be learning the basics of the game. We won’t have access to everything right away, just the airplane and skydiving for now. But not to worry, I’m sure Tony here will have us flying like a pro in no time.

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As we play, we’ll be scored on how well we accomplish each task, and to pass we need to score at least 120 points between the 2 objectives. First we’ll start with the airplane where our goal is simply to land the plane without killing ourselves.

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Death Count: 1

It should be simple enough, we’re already flying straight into the landing strip. All we have to do is follow the markers down and land softly on the ground below. Of course this is our first time flying, so we land a little harder than we would have liked. I think our wheels just fell off… we’re going to have to try that again.

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The second attempt goes much better. We land safely on the ground and score an impressive 90 points on this first objective. That means we’re almost guaranteed to pass even if we completely mess up the skydiving portion. Speaking of which, we should probably get over there now.

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For the skydiving, you start out on the ground as a helicopter carries you up to height while you hang onto a ladder. It’s a very unusual form of skydiving that I’m unfamiliar with. I thought you usually fly up in a little plane and then jump out the side. Anyway, as you’re dropping down out of the sky you need to try to fall through a couple of rings. This sound simple enough, but the skydiver is a bit tricky to maneuver.

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Once you get close enough to the ground, you need to open up your parachute and try to land in the center of the target. Again the controls are a bit tricky here, but I’m sure we’ll get used to it. Somehow we even manage a pretty good landing. We might not have hit the center of the target, but we at least landed within the circle of the target.

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With that I manage to pass the first lessons and get my A class license. So it’s official, I’m now a certified pilot! The skies are open to me now! Of course, that was just the basic training. The lessons are only going to get harder from here.

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Lesson 2 gives us a new instructor, Shirley, and the promise that we’ll actually get to use the rocket belt soon. With 3 objectives this time, we now have to score 220 total points to pass. You may also notice we’ve had a change of location. And it looks like there’s now a pool of water surrounding the skydiving target area. But we’ll worry about that when we get to it.

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Death Count: 2

First up is the airplane objective. Once again we have to pass through a few rings on the way to the landing strip. However, we’re not already approaching it head on. So this is basically our first lesson in turning and maneuvering in the air. Unfortunately I couldn’t straighten myself out very easily and we ended up crashing again.

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We might still be able to do this though. So let’s move onto the skydiving objective. This time it feels like we flew up to a much higher altitude, and there were quite a few more rings this time than there was last time. That pool of water is quite intimidating though, it doesn’t leave much room for error.

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Death Count: 3

As I feared, we end up slashing down right into the water. With 2 bad performances already, it’s unlikely that we’ll end up passing this certification. So let’s just start over right now.

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This time around I have an almost perfect landing and get a much better starting score for the plane objective of the lessons. In the skydiving objective I end up missing a few of the rings, which is a bit disappointing. But I have a much better landing. I still didn’t hit the target, but I landed in the target zone outside the water for an easy 40 points.

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Now we finally get to play around with the rocket belt. This is so much fun, but it is a bit hard to control. In this objective, we have to pass through 3 rings before we head back to the target zone for a gentle landing. As fun as this is, I do have a bit of a complaint with the rings. They are a bit hard to spot at a distance since they are just tiny dots until you get close. Only once you get close do they expand out to full size rings.

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Death Count: 4

Once you actually find the rings, passing through them is quite easy. Landing on the other hand is not as easy. Just like with the sky diving, we have to be careful not to land in the water. Unfortunately that’s exactly what we end up doing. I’m not positive, but I don’t think jet packs work very well underwater. That also means I failed the lesson again and have to start over AGAIN.

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So once again we go through and get a good flight on the plane objective for a nice 74 points. Then we follow that up with a great landing in the sky diving objective for an additional 82 points. So it looks like we’re in really good shape to beat it this time. I thought I should take a slightly different approach this time and head for the target by crossing the bridge. That way I don’t have to worry about the water as much. It pays off as I get a fantastic 90 points for the rocket belt section.

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So with my total score of 246, I pass another lesson and get my B Class License. This game is already a lot of fun, even if it is rather challenging. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me.

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We still have a little bit of time before my 30 minutes are up, so let’s check out Lesson 3. This time we’ll have Lance as our instructor, and we’ll finally be introduced to the hang glider. This time there won’t be a skydiving objective, instead it’s just the plane, rocket belt, and hang glider.

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Death Count: 5

So we start off with the plane. For the first time we actually have to start on the runway and get up to speed to take off. I was a bit hesitant though, and well, I ended up driving off the end and straight into the water… how about we give that one more try.

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Once we’re up in the air, there are quite a few rings for us to fly through this time. We’re actually doing quite a large loop out over the ocean before turning around and heading back to the island. It’s hard to tell since the island is almost never in frame, but I think we might have actually flown a full lap of the island this time around.

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Death Count: 6

The final ring however was a bit deceptive. It has you flying really high into the air right before you need to land. This made me dive too quickly in an attempt to still land on the runway. Predictably, I ended up crashing spectacularly. But no time to worry about that, let’s just move on and see what else we can play with in this lesson.

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The rocket belt level played out roughly the same as last time, except this time we need to touch pillars of lights rather than flying through the rings. This is quite a bit harder to accomplish, but not too hard. Then of course we have to land on a tiny target in the middle of the water. Surprisingly I have a great landing on my first try.

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It’s a nice score, but not enough to allow me to pass the lesson. No worries though, we’ll just go onto the hang gliding objective anyway to at least see what it’s like. To be honest, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing here. You start by being pulled behind a plane, but then it detaches and lets you off to do whatever you want. Since I have no other indications of where to go, I decide to head straight for that odd pillar of white clouds.

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Death Count: 7

Turns out that pillar of clouds were actually an updraft that pushed me way up into the air. Soon after I was giving my only instructions, try to land without killing yourself. But where am I expected to land? Do I aim for the tiny sky diving target? Or perhaps I’m supposed to land on the runway like a plane? My indecision ends up wasting too much time and I crash land in the middle of the lawn. But that’s ok, we’re out of time anyway.


Price – $9.00

It’s a cheap game, so there’s no reason not to add it to your collection.

Play Again? – Absolutely

This game is one of those simple yet challenging type games that are just loads of fun. I will absolutely come back and play this from time to time.

Total Deaths – 7 Deaths

At its core, it is a flight simulator game, so you need to be very careful with your landings. It’s not just going to hand you a “close enough” passing score.

Fun Rating – 8 / 10

This is a really fun game and I suggest everyone should play it at some point. The controls take a little while to get used to, but you can’t deny how much fun it is once you get the hang of it. On top of that, the graphics were quite revolutionary for the time, and in my opinion are holding up well enough for their age. No matter what, it’s hard to properly show depth in videogames, but this game does a good job of it. Even if I did die a few times I knew it was always my fault and I never got mad at the game. From start to finish it was a fun game, and sometimes crashing was the most fun part. Seriously, add this game to your SNES collection and be happy with the purchase.

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Someday I’ll fly free in the skies… Someday…


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