It has been way too long since Nintendo has blessed us with a new Pilotwings, and even longer since the company has released a truly good game in the series.
It’s time, Nintendo. It’s time for another Pilotwings release.
Why do people love Pilotwings so much?
Pilotwings was a unique game on the Super Nintendo when it was released as a launch title in 1991. You had to fly a variety of “real” and fictional aircraft skillfully in order to quality for a number of licenses that would increase in difficulty. It was never a flight simulator, but it felt real enough to be more satisfying than the more arcade-flavored flying games that would come to the system later.
The game also focused on the flying itself; you had to fly well to get ahead, the focus was never to kill other people once you were up there. The helicopter levels included weapons, sure, but you were flying a rescue mission.
The visuals took advantage of the system’s Mode 7 effects, where flat sprites were rotated and scaled to give the illusions of 3D movement. It’s a clunky effect in retrospect, but it was a showstopper at the time.
Pilotwings 64 was one of two launch titles for the Nintendo 64 in 1996, where it was instantly outshone by Super Mario 64. But Pilotwings 64 was a classic in its own right, offering visuals that were far beyond the first Pilotwings release and flight mechanics that were easy to pick up but hard to master. It was a luxurious mixture of great ideas and near perfect execution.
Plus, you could wear a bird suit and explore the game’s setting while Nintendo seduced your ear holes with some of the smoothest music it has ever produced for a game. Prepare for romance!
Nintendo released the last Pilotwings game back in 2011, but Pilotwings Resort on the Nintendo 3DS felt like it lacked content compared to the franchise’s previous two games.
Resort always seemed like a tech demo more than a full game, and was mostly known for making good use of the system’s stereoscopic 3D capabilities — a selling point that is all but ignored by Nintendo in recent 3DS games and hardware — and for taking place on Wuhu Island, a shared setting for Nintendo games of the time. It seems to have killed the franchise, and that’s a shame for Pilotwings fans who have been underserved by Nintendo for decades now.
So what now?
Nintendo is riding high on the success of the Switch, but it’s been seven years since the last Pilotwings game. It’s time for a proper sequel.
And the structure of Pilotwings, with its short missions and gently ramping difficulty, are a perfect fit for the Switch. They could bring in Nintendo characters to serve as the instructors or even the pilots. You could add amiibo support if you wanted. Launching the game alongside the Switch’s online service, complete with sharable ghost data of your best times in each challenge with your friends or strangers, would be a great way to continue the series.
Heck, imagine a massive multiplayer hub world where friends or strangers could gather and challenge each other to trials or even races and competitive player on top of the standard single-player content of the original games. The possibilities stretch as far as the morning sky itself.
The Pilotwings series has always been at least partially there to show off some new trick Nintendo hardware could pull off. If only Nintendo had a way to help children and adults create their own flight sticks or foot pedals with which to play Pilotwings...
It’s time, Nintendo. It’s time to give us what we’ve been waiting for, and it has been a long wait. Since the Switch is a portable system, we can even finally achieve the true dream of the series: To play Pilotwings while flying.