The player's single jet fighter (placed in the center of the screen) shoots down waves of WWI Biplanes, WWII era fighters, 1970s era helicopters, 1980s era jets, and futuristic UFOs while trying to rescue fellow pilots and avoid bombs, missiles, and other enemy fire.
Your aircraft is a sleek jet that travels to five different time eras which each have different enemies. The time periods are as follows:
- 1910; biplanes and a blimp
- 1940; WWII monoplanes and a B-25
- 1970; helicopters and a CH-46
- 1982 or 1983 (the year varies between ROM versions); jet planes and a B-52
- 2001; UFOs.
In the first four eras, the background setting is the sky with clouds; in the fifth, it's space with (equally harmless) asteroids.
During waves with missiles (helicopters and jets), tight turns with many double-back actions will render the attacking missiles mostly useless. Concentrate on shooting down entire squadrons (whose appearance is signaled by a siren sound) to rack up bonus points. You can also rescue the flying parachutists as you battle the enemies.
You must destroy 56 normal enemies in order for the mothership to appear, then you must destroy the mothership by shooting it with seven direct hits. After you have destroyed the mothership, all the other ships will be destroyed and then your jet will advance to the next time period. After you get past all five time periods, the game will begin again with increased difficulty.
This game was designed by Yoshiki Okamoto. He was hired by Konami as a graphic artist, although not long after being hired, he was asked to design a driving simulator video game. He did not like the idea of a driving game, but he did like Bosconian a lot, so he decided to base his game on Bosconian without telling his boss. He was also smart enough to know he would get in trouble for doing this, so he also had his design team simultaneously create code for the driving game too, in case his boss wanted to see it. When his boss asked if the driving game was finished, Okamoto showed him Time Pilot instead; his boss was angry, but Okamoto asked him to do a location test, the game was well-received, and the rest is history. Okamoto designed only two games while at Konami: Time Pilot and Gyruss. He later went to Capcom where he designed 1942, Final Fight, and the Street Fighter series of games.
This game had an In Name Only sequel of sorts in 1984 called, not suprisingly, Time Pilot 1984.
Time Pilot has examples of :
- Astral Finale: After four stages with a sky and clouds for the background, the fifth stage is in space.
- Boss Battle: Pretty historically significant in many respects:
- One of the earliest arcade games, if not the earliest, to have multiple bosses (though none of them were more important than any other, story-wise - i.e., there isn't a Final Boss who is implied to control all the others)
- Also one of the first, if not the first, to have a boss at the end of every single stage, rather than at the end of a series of stages (like Gorf or Phoenix).
- Possibly also the first to have bosses that require multiple hits to destroy, rather than a single well-aimed shot at a tiny weak point (again, like Gorf or Phoenix).
- And it might possibly be the first to have mini-bosses as well, in the form of the medium-sized supply planes in the 1940 stage, which take four hits to destroy, as opposed to one hit for regular enemies and seven hits for the bosses.
- Boss Warning Siren: A loud warning will sound before the boss shows up on any given level. Though it's not actually a siren—it's the sound of the boss's engine.
- Destructible Projectiles: Canister shot in 1910, missiles in 1970 and 1982, and everything in 2001.
- Failed Future Forecast: The sole future era is represented by a Space Battle in the year 2001.
- Shows Damage: As you shoot the level's Mothership (or the 1940s supply plane), it slowly bursts into flame, which grows as it takes more damage. The sole exception is the 2001 UFO Mothership, which just flashes faster and faster as it takes damage.