Although the 3DS is still several months away from its release, it seems the console's turning into something of a hub for reinventions and remakes of old Nintendo games. And after having been left to lie dormant since the launch of the N64 in 1997, Pilotwings is another franchise that'll be receiving the 3DS treatment, alongside the other heavy hitters like Kid Icarus and Zelda. The only difference is, this time, Pilotwings has received a change of scenery - and one that may be indicative of a change in direction for the franchise.
If you've already looked through the screenshots, and you've played Wii Sports Resort or Wii Fit, you may be thinking the island in the pictures looks somewhat familiar - and you'd be right. Set in the same place as Wii Sports Resort, Pilotwings Resort (which certainly explains the latter half of its name) has you flying around Wuhu island in all manner of airborne thingies - from planes, to hang gliders, and even a rocket belt, which seems to be a stupid name Jetpack.
With a release date set for around the same time as the 3DS, Pilotwings Resort was one of the many games we got the chance to go hands on with at the recent 3DS Amsterdam event. Letting you choose from a variety of flight based challenges - or, if you're wanting to just enjoy the serene scenery, simply fly around the island taking in the sunset and sights - the Pilotwings demo was divided into a number of brief snippets of gameplay intended to offer a sampler of the real thing.
And whet our appetities it certainly did. First choosing the ring challenge, we took to the skies in our little red aeroplane, taking in the sights above Wuhu island as the sun set behind the mountain. In the ring challenge, all you have to do is fly your plane through a series of rings that effectively take you on a course around the island. In the demo, the course wasn't so much a course as practically a straight line, though, but we'd imagine it'll get a lot harder as you progress through the game.
But even though it didn't provide too much of a challenge, the course did provide a great introduction to the 3DS's new control method - the Circle Pad. The 3DS's answer to an analogue stick, the Circle Pad shone through here, as it allowed for a surprisingly high level of precision - possibly even more so than a controller's analogue stick, as it was easier to make minor adjustments to your course. With just the right amount of resistance, manouvring your plane in Pilotwings was a doddle - which we're bound to appreciate when the game starts ramping the difficulty up.
Of course, this being a 3DS game, we couldn't let a hands-on preview go by without mentioning how the 3D effect works - and again, in Pilotwings Resort, it's certainly a nice addition. Seeing the landscape stretching off into the distance below you, with the various peaks and troughs of the island looking as though they really do reach out of the sea below is an impressive effect, but we're not sure how much of an impact is has on the gameplay. While it did seem to help lining up the various rings, as it was much easier to tell which ring came next, we were still fairly limited in our time with the game, so it's hard to judge the true effect.
Outside of the 3D, the entire game's been given a Wii Sports makeover, with Miis piloting the various aircraft, and, of course, the setting of Wuhu island providing a familiar backdrop to the flying. While it wasn't immediately obvious from the demo, we're hopeful the island will have been expanded, with hidden passages, caves, and other goodies scattered around the island to encourage you to explore - and, knowing Nintendo, we probably won't be disappointed.
Although we didn't get as long as we would have liked with the demo, perhaps that's actually the best impression we could have come away with. Feeling like we didn't get enough time means we wanted to play more, and that's a testament to how much fun Pilotwings Resort is. Although it's clear that Pilotwings Resort is a game that'll live or die on the amount, and the variety of stuff it gives you to do, with a full range of activities to compete in, and a gentle learning curve, Pilotwings Resort is a game that could potentially surprise a lot of people. With some surprisingly accessible controls, an interesting island to explore, and a genuinely fun concept, our hopes remain high for Pilotwings Resort.