Pilotwings 64 – Definitive 50 N64 Game #29

The list so far: The Definitive 50 N64 Games

The N64 suffered from one of the thinnest launch line-ups in history. In North America, there were just two games available on September 29, 1996: Super Mario 64 and Paradigm Entertainment’s Pilotwings 64.

Pilotwings 64 closely follows the formula of its SNES predecessor. The game leaves you largely on your own to work through a series of challenges for various flying vehicles on a quest to earn your pilot’s license for each.

The regular vehicles are Hang Glider, Rocket Belt, and Gyrocopter. You’ll need to pilot each through open skies and tricky terrain, often flying through rings, popping balloons, snapping photos, and shooting targets as you go. Hardest, and most importantly of all, you’ll have to land cleanly at the end of each challenge. There are four challenges for each vehicle, ranging from Beginner Class to Pilot Class.

Three extra modes of transportation can also be unlocked, and each comes with its own three missions. These are Cannonball, Sky Diving, and Jumble Hopper – uhh – springy boots. Pilotwings may be labelled a flight simulator, but nobody said it was realistic.

Points are awarded based on performance, and you’ll need to do well to progress, which can be a serious challenge. Pilotwings is all about experimentation and exploration. Although mission descriptions and control instructions are listed, you still have to work to really understand where to go and how to maneuver.

Don’t take it too seriously though, playing Pilotwings is like going on a laid-back video game sightseeing vacation. Missions take place across four sprawling islands: from the refreshing Holiday and Crescent islands to the frigid Ever-Frost Island.

The most famous island is Little States, which boasts replicas of many famous American landmarks, from the Grand Canyon to the Hollywood sign. Most importantly, the island shows Mount Rushmore as it should be – with Washington’s face replaced with Mario’s.

The original Pilotwings served to demonstrate the awesome power of the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 technology, which simulated 3D graphics. Pilotwings 64 similarly showcases the N64’s power, but this time, the 3D is all real. Believe it or not, Pilotwings 64’s graphics and sprawling environments were stunning in their time.

Although a handful of worthwhile titles would arrive by the end of 1996, and the N64 would eventually build up a worthwhile library, the system’s launch line-up set the tone for a lifetime of delayed games and software droughts.

Let me know what you think of Pilotwings and the Definitive 50 in the comments section below. Don’t forget to rate and subscribe. Check back next week for entry #28 on the Definitive 50 N64 games.

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