Hello all! I’m back! Last time, we talked about a PS2 shooter that flew well under the radar. Which is too bad, because it was really cool.
Today brings us the second entry in a series that really doesn’t have enough entries.
Pilotwings 64 was a launch title for the N64, making this game a ridiculous twenty years old, and the second entry of only three Pilotwings games. A flight simulator of sorts, Pilotwings 64 has you choose one of six pilots (which all play slightly differently) and complete a series of vehicle-based challenges. You’ve got the Gyrocopter, a tiny, one-man helicopter inexplicably equipped with missiles; the Rocket Belt, a jetpack with multi-directional rockets; and the Hang Glider, which...is a hang glider.
Missions revolve around simple things like flying through rings and landing, or touching down on a series of platforms in the case of the Rocket Belt. Later, missions get more bizarre and complicated—you have to shoot misssiles at a giant robot named Mecha Hawk with the Gyrocopter, or push a giant ball into a goal area with the Rocket Belt; you pretty much just slam yourself into the giant ball. Hang Gliding remains Hang Gliding, more or less (seriously I hate Hang Gliding)
Do well in the missions (below par time, land accurately, etc.) and you get up to 100 points and a medal for each mission. Get enough gold and you unlock the much more insane Human Cannonball, Skydiving, and Jumble Hopper events (Jumble Hopper is, um, you wear boots that make you jump stupidly high and you need to get to a goal). There’s also Birdman, which isn’t a scored event—you just fly and explore the map by using wings for arms.
That’s all there is to the gameplay; it’s simple to learn and explains itself mostly well, but it’s quite hard to master. Getting a gold medal or perhaps a perfect score is no easy feat; it requires perfection. Fly through the direct center of each ring, land flawlessly, and do all of it in under the par time. It can get pretty hairy in the later levels. But that’s what I like about it; it’s tough, but by nature of the game’s design, you want to do better. Rarely are you turned off by a level, screaming “It’s too hard!” Instead, if you’re like me, you find yourself analyzing what you did wrong. You could’ve turned tighter here, or maybe you see a faster order in which to hit platforms. Moment’s like that happen all the time in Pilotwings 64.
There’s even more to it than that, though. For me, Pilotwings 64 was about the world, about the exploration. I’d rented the game from my local Blockbuster when I was a kid, back when I’d first gotten my N64. I had never seen anything like it. Worlds that were (at the time, at least) huge and detailed, filled with cool little things we take for granted nowadays, like boats traveling through the water and stuff. I would later buy a copy from a friend for $10 (and if that friend is reading this, I am so sorry, but that’s a steal), and I spent hours of my life just flying around. Exploring, and seeing what I could find. The Little States map (a miniature version of the United States) was incredible and filled with secrets and Easter Eggs. You could find Mount Rushmore, but with Mario’s face in place of Washington’s (crashing into it would change it to Wario!). You could watch a space shuttle take off from Cape Canaveral. You could warp between Seattle and New York City by making your way through the inside of the building (basically only with the Rocket Belt). You could even refuel at a gas station in Florida.
I mean, it probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I thought all of this was amazing back then. Hell, the game’s still amazing now, in its own way; it’s still such a soothing, relaxing game if you want it to be. You can push yourself for gold medals, or you can just fly. That’s the best part, and that’s why I remember it so fondly. Especially the Birdman and Jumble Hopper levels in particular; the former was such a chill experience that could help you relax, while the latter was so much damn fun it puts a smile on my face every time.
You don’t always have to be blasting things, after all, and that’s why games like Pilotwings 64 are so great. It’s good to take it easy; we could use more games like that these days. Or just play Pilotwings again; it holds up extremely well. Here’s hoping for a Switch sequel, yeah?
I’ve been writing these weekly articles as a kind of aside for three years now; my first such piece was dated July 9th, 2013. Since that date, I’ve been doing this every week, with the occasional missed week here and there; I hate missing my self imposed deadlines, but I think I have a pretty good hit/miss record. Some of these articles suck, and some I’m pretty proud of.
I’ve been missing weeks more, I feel, and that’s not only because of life and work and such, but also because of a general, mild burnout; I love doing this and sharing my opinions and stuff, but sometimes it’s...well, it’s not hard to do, but let’s say it’s sometimes much easier not to. I especially didn’t want to write about games when I woke up this morning. They seem so unimportant, and sometimes they are. But they’re important to me, and the unending support I get from you for writing pointless weekly posts is important to me too. It felt good to write this week’s post, truly. I mean, these articles are so minor. I pick a game from my collection and I talk about why it’s cool, I guess? It’s so basic.
Regardless, I have fun writing them, and I always hope you like reading them. Thanks for all the support, especially to those who comment every week. I hope you know, it means a lot, and helps me get through things. Thank you. I’m gonna keep bugging you with these articles until I can’t anymore.
And remember that I’m on Twitter, so if you wanna follow a dork who owns and plays way too many games, I’m right here.
Next week, I’ll cover the game I was going to do this week. I wanted to cover a feel-good game today, so I pushed the obscure PS2 Warren Ellis-penned shooter to next week.