We haven't seen a new Pilotwings-game since Pilotwings 64, but with Nintendo 3DS it's time for Nintendo to resurrect the classic series - around 20 years since the original was released for the SNES. And if you've already decided to buy yourself a Nintendo 3DS when it launches, Pilotwings Resort might be worth to pick up while you're at it. Not because it's the best game in the world, but because it shows exactly the difference the Nintendo 3DS does.
This time the flight school is located on Wuhu Island, which we've seen before in games like Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit. Shigeru Miyamoto might be incredibly proud of his creation, and he's said that he sees the island as an actual character in the games these days. Something that I'm personally very sceptical of. Sure, we've seen Mario in dozens of games by now, but he usually sports new tails, capes, ears and other things that gives him variation.
Wuhu, on the other hand, is a relatively small island which we've seen everything from before. I've hardly turned on the game, signed up for the flight school, jumped into the airplane and flown around for about 30-40 seconds before I'm already bored with it. I know this place like the back of my hand, but Wuhu Island is all I get. It feels rather cheap and the game's biggest drawback.
Pilotwings Resort isn't a bad game, though. Nintendo has done the most of what they have to play with, and there's in total 40 different missions to choose from and the possibility to fly around on your own to find hidden stuff. You got airplanes, jet packs and hang gliders to choose from, and the dev team has tried to create challenging courses for you to pit yourself against and the possibility to constantly improve your scores to make the game last longer than simply getting "perfect" and moving on. Sadly, there's no online leaderboard so you can compare yourself with your friends - not even people with a separate save file on the same cartridge can see your high scores. But I have a hard time putting down the console when I've decided to beat a certain time on one of the activities...
As noted above, Pilotwings Resort is one of the games that are best at using the Nintendo 3DS's 3D-features. Everything from hitting orange balloons with your jet pack, fly through narrow caves and pull off perfect landings during the hang gliding gets a lot easier thanks to the added dimension. You can easily tell where you are located compared to your surroundings, and the graphics are detailed enough that you don't miss any small details.
The flying itself is fairly simple. In your airplane you can shoot things, as well as boost and roll, and have to both fly through rings (some which will have you flying like a mad man to complete them on time) and do some precision shooting - as well as flying through the narrow passages mentioned earlier and top it all off with a nice landing. Nintendo does what the company always has been good at and manages to create an intuitive game with a lot of depth for the record hunting player.
During the hang gliding you have to use a camera to take photographs of some hard to reach object from tricky angles. The pictures you've taken are saved and you can always go back and look at them later, which is nice. The jet pack doesn't come with such frills, but that's probably for the better since you still have to keep track of how much fuel you've burned through, which is then converted into points depending on how much you got left when you've landed.
To glide around Wuhu Island in the sunset gives a nice feeling and Pilotwings Resort is a game simply perfect for hand-held gaming. It's a genre that Nintendo knows how to do well, and it's as fun to play for three minutes as it is for 30, and hunting for high scores is always fun.
Despite this, it's hard to shake the feeling that this is a budget title. Wuhu Island is completely dead, it would have been nice to at least see some sporting Miis somewhere. There are no weather effects and no changes in the environments we've seen in Wii-games before. Still, while not being the biggest and best launch title, it still manages to show the 3D in action and what kind of possibilities the technology brings with it. It can be addictive, intuitive and in general it's a lot of cozy fun.