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SNES Pilotwings – The Original! – Great Super Nintendo Video Games
I think Piolotwings is my favorite game on the SNES besides Super Mario World. This game had like everything going for it. I was actually surprised to find out that the game isn’t as well known as it should be. This is a fantastic SNES game. This was one of the first games released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, too. I didn't rent it at first because I thought it looked "dumb." I was a smart cookie.
The premise of Piolotwings is pretty simple, and the semi-3d flying effects (via SNES’s “Mode 7”) were superb for the time. Basically, you master landing and flying a light plane, pinpoint parachute landings, rocket jets, and hang gliders. Then you fly some kinda crazy ass Vietnam-style chopper rescue mission. It was… awesome.
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Fun in the Sun... Breeze in Your Face.. Machine Gun Fire Whizzing Past... Wait.. What?
Yeah, earning your wings while having fun in the sun was a strange precursor to a Vietnam-style chopper rescue. The transition was very irking. Okay... you're good at landing a single-engine crop plane? Oh, and you can ride a hang glider? I guess you're ready to go into Southeast Asia with a multi-million dollar military attack helicopter and get fired upon by machine gun turrets, all while attempting to rescue a bunch of civilians. Hah!
The first time you got through the chopper mission and saw the “Piolotwings Expert” logo fly into your face – it was cool. You felt skilled. But you were only halfway done! The greater point of the game was just to earn better and better pilot licenses from the “flight club,” and boy was it addicting as heck. I think the two chopper missions would have made more sense if they had made this military style, instead of some civilian flight club. That was weird - but hey, who is judging?
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I don’t remember there being any other flying games like it during its day. It didn’t have the awesome polygon graphics that Flight Simulator 4.0 had – but Pilotwings was a casual game. You didn’t have to screw around with flight realism and crap like that. It was just pure fun.
Now, the only thing that truly has a 3d look to it in the game is the Pilotwings logo. The ground designs are done using the SNES’s Mode 7 – so they are just drawings. Everything is just a drawing or sprite in Piolotwings, but the 3d effect is still amazing. It was a little awkward being near the buildings and finding out they are almost flat to the ground – but they were only meant to be viewed from the sky. They looked fine from up there.
Pilotwings Gameplay Video
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The Magic of Mode 7
Mode 7 allowed for a background layer to be moved and rotated, which developers were able to use for various effects. So the ground that you fly over in this game is just one giant drawing, basically. The most interesting consequence of mode 7 was the creation of these semi-3d video games like Pilotwings. F-Zero is another example of a mode 7 semi-3d game. If you ever saw the spinning room effects in Super Castlevania, that's another early example.
Pilotwings didn't have the graphics that Star Fox had because Star Fox had something called the Super FX chip installed within the cartridge. That is how Star Fox was able to achieve all of those striking polygonal shapes. Pilotwings uses plain sprites (movable images), but it uses sprites that have a faux 3 dimensional design. So stuff like the green balls that you fly through really do have a 3d appearance. I do have to wonder how much more awesome the original Pilotwings would have looked had it come out at a later date
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Nutty Bonus Stages!
If you hit the moving special landing area with the rocket belt or parachute (very hard with the parachute), you could get to a bonus stage. These stages were really zany in comparison to the rest of the game. One stage had you diving, and you were a penguin. Another one has you wearing goofy wings and red pants on suspenders. Some designer clearly thought their prescription medicine was candy. The bonus stages were surprisingly fun, though. Someone should have made a game based on those crazy designs. Would've been great.
I had so many hours of fun playing this game. I even played through it a year or two ago and beat it again, because I love it that much. Flying in the plane gives you such a serene feeling. It’s not just fun, it’s good for your spirits. The music is so good that I’m actually listening to the soundtrack as I write this up. This was an almost perfect game – great controls, great visual appeal, great sound, and providing a perfectly scaled level of challenges as you keep going.
Like a fine wine, it ages with class, too – unlike some games. NES Double Dragon really is looking its age these days.
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I'm Luke. I love writing about all sorts of things, but my passion has been for writing about old video games lately. I live in Los Angeles. Things...
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