Pilotwings is a video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The game was originally released in Japan on December 21, 1990, shortly after the launch of the Super Famicom. It was released as a launch title for the SNES in August 1991 in North America, with a European release following in 1992.
Pilotwings is an amateur flight simulator game in which the player attempts to earn pilot licenses through lessons in light plane flight, hang gliding, skydiving, and the use of a rocket belt. Bonus stages and levels involving an attack helicopter are also available. Each event offers unique controls and gameplay mechanics. To increase the realism of the game's flight simulation, the developers extensively utilized the SNES Mode 7 capability, which mimics 3D graphics by rotating and scaling flat objects.
The game was well received upon its release, largely thanks to its graphical presentation. The game has since been re-released on the Virtual Console service for both the Wii and the Wii U consoles in PAL regions, North America, and Japan, as well as for the New Nintendo 3DS in North America. A sequel, Pilotwings 64, was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1996. After many years of announcements and cancellations, Nintendo unveiled a second sequel, Pilotwings Resort, for the Nintendo 3DS handheld at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2010 which released in 2011.
Pilotwings takes place in a series of training areas called the 'Flight Club'. The player's objective is to pass each training area and earn licenses based on the difficulty of the courses. Each area features events, which may be played in any order. In these events, the player controls one of four aerial vehicles and must complete a task (usually flying through floating markers) within a time limit. Upon completing or failing an objective, the player earns points and receives comments from the instructors. Points are awarded based on criteria such as the time taken to complete the event, the accuracy of the landing, and the completion of certain tasks, such as flying through colored rings or orbs. To pass a training area, the combined scores from each event must exceed a certain threshold. Each training area can be replayed if necessary, and passwords allow players to save their progress.
The first event, the light plane, requires the player to follow a guide path of orbs, or to fly through rings of orbs, and then land on the runway. In the second event, skydiving, the player jumps from a helicopter at a high altitude and maneuvers by leaning forward and back, and by rotating on a horizontal axis. The player must fall through rings of orbs in the sky before deploying the parachute, and must then attempt to land in a target area made up of concentric circles, with marks indicating the points awarded. The third event sees the player taking control of a rocket belt, which can be controlled with left and right yaw rotation, leaning forward and back to control speed. High and low levels of thrust allow high speed and finer control, respectively. The player must take off and fly through a series of rings, bars, or other objects before landing in a target area. The objective of the fourth event, hang gliding, is to catch thermal currents (represented by ascending white dots), reach a specified altitude, and then land as close as possible to the center of a gray square target.
Some events have bonus stages that add to a player's score, even if it has already reached the maximum number. In the skydiving, rocket belt, and hang glider modes, landing on moving platforms rewards players with a perfect score, and a bonus stage for extra points may be earned by falling into the water of a target area. These stages include maneuvering a diving penguin into a pool, bouncing a winged man across a series of trampolines, and flying another winged man as far as possible.
After completing the certification courses of all four instructors, the player is informed that an agent has infiltrated an enemy base ('EVIL Syndicate') on the fictional Izanu Island and has freed the player's kidnapped instructors, who are waiting to be rescued. The player's mission is to fly an attack helicopter from an offshore aircraft carrier and retrieve the captives by landing on a helipad on the island. This rescue mission stands out from the normal courses in that the player does more than maneuver a craft. As the player flies over the island, they must successfully dodge anti-aircraft fire from ground-based turrets, and, although the helicopter is able to fire missiles to destroy the artillery, a single hit to the craft causes the game to end. The helicopter has forward, backward, left, and right pitch controls, rotor throttle controls for altitude, and left and right missile firing controls. Completing the mission earns the player the 'Pilot's Wings' certificate and opens harder training areas (consisting of several weather conditions and higher score requirements) and another helicopter mission. Clearing the second helicopter mission awards the player with the golden 'Pilot's Wings,' and the credits roll.
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