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Video Game / Pilotwings

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Soaring since 1990.

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Do you ever dream of flying? The Flight Club offers a variety of aerial sports to thrill and challenge you. Dare to take the first step and earn your license.
— The introductory screen from the first game of the series.

Pilotwings is a flight simulator franchise created by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 and Nintendo 3DS. The game was developed by Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis & Development Division (led by Shigeru Miyamoto), and was first released in 1990 in Japan and 1991 in the United States. The European release followed in 1992.

The games feature several training missions and lessons that players must complete in order to earn pilot licenses, using several different vehicles (including a plane, hang glider, rocket belt, as well as skydiving and other secret unlockable vehicles). Players are graded based on a number of different factors, including checkpoints cleared, accuracy, time spent and completion of required (or additional) tasks. Some missions also have bonus stages that can be cleared for extra points.

Pilotwings was well-received upon its release due to its overall graphical presentation and gameplay style. In 1996, Pilotwings 64 was released as a launch title for the Nintendo 64, featuring sharper graphics, more areas to explore and a variety of bonus games. In 2011, Nintendo also released Pilotwings Resort for the handheld Nintendo 3DS.

Interestingly, all three games in the series have been developed by separate companies. As mentioned before, Nintendo EAD made the first game. Paradigm Entertainment, who already made video simulation, helped with 64. Monster Games, who specializes in racing games, lent a hand with Resort.

The series provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Goose from 64 is self-described to be this.
  • Airstrike Impossible: One Rocket Belt mission in 64 requires you to fly through a cave.
  • Anime Hair: Lark and Goose. Lark merely has some extremely messy bangs under his hat/helmet, whereas Goose hides tall, gravity-defying hair under his helmet.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: One Rocket Belt mission in 64 requires you to fly through a cave in under two minutes for a perfect score. Perhaps because this is already a very difficult task (colliding with walls or landing anywhere that's not a landing pad takes away points, and falling into the stream of water that runs throughout the cavern ends the mission with 0 points), there is no landing segment; the goal consists of a stationary ring that you simply fly through to end the mission and get your points.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: In 64's Little States map, you can maneuver your Rocket Belt or Gyrocopter through gas stations to get a full refill on your fuel tank. While this is great if you're just exploring, this is not a good idea if you're trying to get a high score since the gas stations are out of the way of your objective causing you to potentially lose the time bonus and you lose points every time you make a hard (but non-lethal) landing or collision with an object. The only missions where fuel is even a concern anyway are the floating pad missions, where you start with a mostly-empty fuel tank, and even then landing on each pad will give you a small refill.
  • Bonus Stage: The original game has access to bonus stages if you land on more difficult targets, such as landing on the parachute target with the rocket belt. You score a perfect 100 for the round, plus whatever bonuses you earn.
  • Bragging Rights Reward:
    • The Birdman outfit in 64, which is only available at the very end of the game and allows you to travel around without crashing or needing to use fuel.note 
    • In Wii Sports Resort, you got a house built in your honor for collecting all the "i" rings. In Pilotwings Resort, you get a whole castle to yourself if you collect them all.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Implied with Hawk, the heavyweight pilot from 64 who the game manual describes as tough-looking but actually "a pussycat." Both the title screen and the group shot on the front of the instruction booklet show him carrying Kiwi, suggesting he's a Gentle Giant as well. This might explain why Meca Hawk runs off screaming whenever he's hit by one of the Gyrocopter's missiles and has pulled a Heel–Face Turn between this game and Resort, assuming his personality is in any way based off of the original's.
  • But Thou Must!: In the original game, when Big Al briefs you for the helicopter missions, he gives you the option to say no, but if you do he'll just insult you until you say yes.
    Big Al: I forgot, chickens cannot fly!
  • Card-Carrying Villains: E.V.I.L. It's right there in the name.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Clear the first four lessons of the original on both the Normal and Expert modes, you will be thrown into a rescue mission where you must save hostages from behind enemy lines by a terrorist organization calling itself the E.V.I.L. Syndicate.
  • Character Select Forcing: Present, but only lightly enforced in 64. Each class of pilot works best with a specific vehicle (Light = Rocket Belt, Medium = Hang Glider, Heavy = Gyrocopter). While it's not impossible to do well by, say, placing Lark (the lightweight male pilot) in a Gyrocopter, matching up the right character with the right vehicle does make it a fair bit easier.
  • Cheerful Child: Both Lark and Kiwi, but more so Kiwi.
  • Collection Sidequest:
    • The Birdman stars in 64.
    • The Free Flight mode in Resort includes this. "i" rings, balloons, rings, and trophies are scattered throughout Wuhu Island.
  • Continuity Nod: Your reward for three-starring every mission in Resort is Meca Hawk making a surprise reappearance. He can be found circling Wedge Island, with a "i" ring above him. His facts state he's mellowed out and isn't bent for destruction. He even screams if you crash into him!
  • Cool Shades: Big Al in the original and Goose, the mediumweight male pilot, in 64. Neither are seen without them at any time.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: One failure scene with Lance has him saying "Land on the land." While it isn't actually this trope (both uses of the word land have a different meaning), it's both poor wording and amusing.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Landing on the yellow, bonus platforms in the first game. Doing so earns you a trip to the bonus stages where you can earn some "extra credit" points towards your certification. However, the moving yellow platforms are often surrounded by water and in the expert stages they move very fast. The yellow platforms are even more difficult to land on in the skydiving event where since you only get a very small chance to land on them.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • The instructors' original names are Fumiya Tanaka (Tony), Ran Shirashi (Shirley), Indy Scott (Lance), and Doubei Kuroda (Big Al).
    • Robin from 64 is named Hooter in Japan... and if you know what "hooter" means as a word, you'll understand why her name was changed.
  • Eagleland: Goose and Robin from 64 are very American in their designs, from their blond hair to the predominant use of red, white, and blue colors on their casual attire (which is combined with stars and stripes for their flight suits).
  • Easter Egg:
    • If you engage in some Rushmore Refacement by shooting your character into Mario's face, it will turn into Wario.
    • If you're flying at night in Resort, someone will be playing Super Mario Bros. in the cabins on Wuhu Island.
  • Evil Knockoff: Meca Hawk to Hawk. No longer evil after he chills out by the time of Resort.
  • Excuse Plot: In the original Pilotwings on the SNES, your instructors are kidnapped by an evil terrorist organization... for some reason. And you have to use an attack helicopter to save them. Though, the helicopter missions are technically bonus stages.
  • Expy:
  • Eye Pop: Your instructors in the original game do some variation of this if you get a perfect score a perfect 100 on any mission without going to a Bonus Stage in the original game. The exception is Big Al, who instead removes his sunglasses and cries long streams of Manly Tears.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: In 64, once you enter Birdman mode (either from the mission select or touching the star hidden on the map), there's no safe way to end the session short of quitting out of the mission; the only way to properly end is to crash. This gets a bit problematic as Birdman also gets a 6-shot camera (like the Hang Glider) and quitting from the pause menu doesn't save the photos, so you have to crash just to keep any pictures you take.
  • Featureless Protagonist:
    • The player character in the original... up until the end credits. Dark hair, male, looks to be in his 20's, with about as much Japanese as Big Al.
  • Fictional Country: The Little States island is a miniature, but very convincing replica of The United States.
  • Free-Range Children: Lark and Kiwi in 64 are young children, and it doesn't seem like any of the adult pilots are their parents, yet they're able to hang-glide, skydive, operate rocket belts, pilot gyrocopters, and get shot incredibly long distances out of a cannon, all on their own.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The E.V.I.L. Syndicate.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: 64 features six playable characters, three male and three female. They're also neatly divided across the three weight classes.
  • The Ghost: The Mad Scientist responsible for Meca Hawk's creation.
  • Golden Snitch: The first game's Bonus Stages, available by landing on moving targets during Skydiving and Rocket Belt assignments. Providing a perfect 100 for the stage just for accessing them, plus extra points from the bonus, doing well in a Bonus Game can allow you to clear a tier despite failing/skipping other assignments.
  • Gusty Glade: Part of the challenge in some of the more advanced missions is having to deal with strong winds that will adversely affect your flight.
  • Hartman Hips: Robin in 64, as the heavy class female also has a very prominent set of hips and thighs to go with her large breasts, giving her a borderline Impossible Hourglass Figure.
  • Have a Nice Death:
    • The many snarky comments by the trainers upon failing an event.
    • You're also often treated to your character screaming as they crash out of control.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Area 7 takes place at dusk, but the visibility is still clear. Area 8 and the final helicopter mission, by contrast, are in near-pitch darkness.
  • Human Cannonball: The Cannonball stages in 64. The musical score has some fun with the scenario, playing a sped-up, more frantic version of the level's carnival-esque theme from the moment your helplessly screaming pilot is launched out of the cannon until they either hit their target (complete with the fanfare equivalent of a "Ta-da!") or fail miserably.
  • Humongous Mecha: 64 has a mission where you fight a giant robot version of Hawk, named Meca Hawk. As mentioned above, he'll come to Wuhu Island in Resort after beating the game. Since he's chilled out, he won't fight you this time.
  • Impact Silhouette: Your character will leave a human-shaped silhouette in the ground if you go skydiving without opening your parachute in the original game.
  • In a Single Bound: 64 has the Jumble Hopper where your character can clear tall hills and buildings with a powerful jump from their spring-loaded shoes. However, jumping is the only way they can move since they can't walk.
  • Incoming Ham: Compared to their more restrained female counterparts, the male pilots in 64 get some pretty hammy exclamations when selected—a "YAHOO!" from Lark, a "YEEHAW!" from Goose, and a boisterous Kiai from Hawk.
  • It's Up to You: When your instructors are kidnapped by E.V.I.L., Al loads you into a helicopter to rescue them solo.
  • Large and in Charge: Big Al.
  • Lighter and Softer: Pilotwings 64 and Pilotwings Resort are this when compared to the subtle militaristic undertones of the original game on the SNES.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: The "Event Failed" music, which is a Dark Reprise of the "Event Clear" music.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Robin from 64, who doubles as a Gorgeous Gaijin. She's designed with an American motif in mind (blond-haired, blue-eyed babe; primarily red, white, and blue colors and a purposely placed star on her left breast). She's wasp-waisted, very buxom, and has the hips to match. She's constantly seen giving a flirty wink that seems to be aimed at the player (as seen with her bio in the game manual, at the title screen, and at the character select screen), while selecting Robin as your pilot elicits from her a very sensual-sounding "Ohhhh yeah!"
  • Musical Nod: The hang gliding music in Pilotwings Resort contains snippets of its counterpart from Pilotwings 64.
  • Nebulous Evil Organisation: The E.V.I.L. Syndicate in the first game. Their reasons for kidnapping your instructors and later Big Al's brother are unknown, and the closest we can see of them are the many turrets guarding their base and island.
  • Nintendo Hard: The original game in particular is very realistic for its time, making the simple act of going through rings or even just landing correctly rather difficult.
  • No Fair Cheating: The cave mission in 64 is completed by flying through a goal ring on the opposite end of the cave. If you try to bypass the cave by flying outdoors to the goal, the goal ring will be inert (taking the form of a sphere) and you cannot tag it.
  • No Name Given: The player character in the original. Also, the flight instructor in Resort.
  • No Plot? No Problem!:
    • Aside from a few appearances from Meca Hawk, a giant robot created by some random mad scientist, Pilotwings 64 doesn't have a plot whatsoever. Not that it matters...
    • Ditto for Resort.
  • Non Standard Game Over:
    • The original has a milder example: but get shot in the helicopter levels, and the game ends abruptly as you crash to your doom. Big Al doesn't even say anything, unlike the other levels.
    • Crashing as a Birdman in 64 doesn't show a Score Screen like with the other vehicles, as Birdman Mode has no objectives. Instead you just get "Oh no! You crashed!"
  • Not So Stoic: Al is moved to tears if you manage to impress him. Does it happen that rarely?
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Get hit once in the helicopter stages in the original and your helicopter crashes, abruptly ending the mission and game.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: With the exception of Lark, who per Word of Saint Paul (i.e. Nintendo Power) is Nester, everyone in 64.
  • Opaque Lenses: Big Al glares at you from behind aviator sunglasses.
  • Pass Through the Rings: One of the oldest examples of the trope; the original game was one of the first video games (if not the first) to use this type of system.
  • Remixed Level: After completing all five missions in the original, you're paraded through them again. The weather conditions have changed, and the difficulty is ramped up.
  • Ring Out: Going too far outside of the course area earns an "OUT OF COURSE" failure, and no points.
  • Rushmore Refacement: In Pilotwings 64, one level allows you to shoot a rockface of Mario carved into the side of Mount Rushmore, which changes it into Wario's face. Crashing into it yields the same result, and doing either a second time reverts the visage back to that of Mario's.
  • Scenery Porn: Half the fun of the entire franchise is cruising around looking at the backgrounds and islands.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Crescent Island in 64 is obviously modeled after C-Island from StarTropics.
    • Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, 64 also features a character named Goose, who just happens to be an ace pilot. Now why does THAT sound familiar?
    • Hard to tell if it was intentional or not, but one of the flight instructors in the SNES game is named Shirley.
  • Spear Counterpart/Distaff Counterpart: The cast of 64 can be considered as such. Specifically, Lark/Kiwi, Goose/Ibis, and Hawk/Robin.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Officially, the Humongous Mecha built in Hawk's likeness is named Meca Hawk as opposed to Mecha Hawk.
  • Spiritual Sequel: Pilotwings Resort seems to be one for Wii Sports Resort, oddly enough. (Specifically, it's mostly based on the Island Flyover mode from that game. In particular Free Flight Mode is pretty much identical, just with more vehicles allowed.)
  • Stalked by the Bell: Most missions have a bonus for finishing by a specific time.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Ibis is tall and lanky, just like her male counterpart Goose. Despite being the second-tallest of the 64 cast, her bio in the game manual describes her as "small and calm."
  • Super Drowning Skills: If you go into the water, regardless of whether you're in a plane, hang glider, rocket belt, a bird wing construct, whatever, it's mission failed for you. You can be right above the threshold for this to happen, with yourself partially submerged, but the moment you go one centimeter below that threshold, you basically get sucked into the water. The only vehicle that doesn't do this is the Jumble Hopper, in which you land on top of the water and keep going, albeit with a small penalty to your score.
  • Tech-Demo Game: The entire franchise could be considered an example of this. The original game was mostly used to demonstrate the Mode 7 capabilities of the Super Nintendo, and was one of the first games to be released for the console, while Pilotwings 64 was one of the launch titles for the Nintendo 64. Pilotwings Resort is also a launch title, carrying on in the tradition of the franchise.
  • Theme Naming: All the pilots in 64 are named after birds. In order: Lark, Kiwi, Goose, Ibis, Hawk, and Robin. Robin's original Japanese name note  also fits the motif ("hooter" is another name for an owl) but doubles as a not-quite-Stealth Pun about the size of her chest.
  • Third Is 3D: Resort is the third game in the series, and is indeed totally 3D.
  • Timed Mission: Every mission must be completed within a certain time limit in order to get the best score/move on to the next stage. The Plane and Rocket Belt sections have a fuel gauge which can't be replenished, acting as another time limit.
  • Tomboy: Kiwi from 64 is aptly described to be this.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The original game throws this curveball midway through; it starts out with simple training exercises on various aircraft, then turns into an action game where you have to avoid anti-aircraft fire in a helicopter to rescue your instructors.
  • Universal Driver's License: The original mostly avoids this by requiring you to actually practice with each of the available vehicles to earn your license. However, the helicopter missions play it straight, throwing you into a live combat scenario with absolutely no way to practice with the chopper ahead of time. Hope you can learn on the job!
  • Vector Game: A rasterized depiction of vector graphics is used in the original game on the apparatus selection screen.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • In the original game, neglecting to open your parachute in the skydiving levels leaves a person-shaped hole in the ground. In addition, the plane and the rocket belt both explode when crashed.
    • One of the most entertaining and hilarious things to do in Pilotwings 64 is to intentionally miss when playing the Cannonball event. Shoot your poor character into a plume of fire and then watch them go into their doom as a smoking, blackened torch!
    • Crashing in 64 has your pilot's vehicle tumbling around like a ragdoll as they scream, which results in them eventually landing upside down and kicking their legs. You can intentionally crash and see how far your character bounces across the terrain and watch it again on instant replay.
  • Walk on Water: Jumble Hopper is the only mode in 64 where hitting the water causes you to stand on it instead of drowning to your doom. However, you'll take a point penalty for doing so.
  • Weight Woe: Possibly. Out of all of the playable characters in 64, Robin is the only whose bio list their weight as '?'.

Alternative Title(s): Pilotwings 64