Flying games may not be the strong suit of the Nintendo 64 platform, but sometimes a game comes along that shows just what a system can do. Pilotwings 64 delivers incredible sensations of flight, with nonviolent objectives that reward the player with a job well done, and some of the most relaxing gameplay you’ll ever find in a console game. While many may find simply flying a selection of contraptions around different environments a tad tedious, those who seek enlightend peace in a game should take to the skies — leave the blood and guts to the Turok: Rage Wars gamers.
A 64-bit update of the SNES game, PilotWings 64 is a mission-based flight game with a decidedly lighthearted approach, tons of gameplay, and an unparalleled sense of freedom. Players select from six different characters, each of which have distinct personalities and flying styles: Some are more maneuverable, some are more stable, and so forth. As you progress through the game, flying over extensive, detailed environments, a variety of airborne vehicles become available — including a stress-free, go-anywhere free flight option — and the challenges get more difficult. The best feature of PilotWings 64, however, has to be the incredible sensation of flight it imparts. Once you have the Bird Man option, this game is sensational.
PilotWings 64 tempts players with four completely different islands to explore. Graphics are crisp and colorful; everywhere you look, there’s something going on: working waterwheels on the farm, recreational hang-gliders circling a tower, a motorboat speeding out to sea, even a Space shuttle taking off (really!). This is just the tip of the iceberg. The actual time of day changes too, so you can be flying around against a breathtaking orange sunset one time, then hurtling through the spray of a fountain in the dead of night the next. Great game doesn’t always have to be with realistic graphics, sometimes the most cartoonish ones like Pokemon Go makes more impact on gamers.
The game proper hinges on controlling the various contraptions (initially a hang glider, rocket pack, gyrocopter, and birdman suit) on your way to completing certain nonviolent mission objectives. Only the gyrocopter involves shooting of any kind: With the others, the tasks are peaceful activities, focusing on skillful control and precision flight rather than destruction. Early objectives are fairly easily completed. In fact, they’re very easily completed. But the point is to not simply to do what you’re asked, but to do it well, earning a gold medal for each undertaking. So while you may clear a certain task, you’ll want to go back to it and try to get it spot-on perfect for the highest score. Each vehicle is radically different: With the powerless hang-glider, your main concern is maintaining a gentle guiding touch on the controlling bar, while the rocket pack forces you to constantly alter the angle of the jets and vary the amount of thrust to fly with the required precision.