Normally, if there aren't any long-legged stewardesses or at least some machine guns and missiles, I have no reason to fly on a jet. I would much rather drive a nice little car where I can both smoke and lounge in my chair and not worry about lowering my life expectancy (at least in non-cancerous ways). Some people say that airplanes are safer than cars... listen, if planes are so safe why are an oxygen mask and 5 vomit bags required for every passenger? I don't ever have to know where the nearest fire exit is in my Honda. I never once saw a Twilight Zone episode where a gremlin was hanging outside the window on a hubcap. Islamic fundamentalists never hijack a geo Metro in the name of Allah. I'm exactly like Rainman... I know every date and every casualty from every airline crash. I can also count the number of toothpicks in a box but that's beside the point. Since playing Aerowings I have learned to love jets, except those under the command of Bill Parcels.

Aerowings is basically a combination of that old PC game Stunts and X-wing. You fly around in a Japanese stunt jet and complete different mission objectives without ever firing a bullet. Lemme just say from the get-go that this game gets VERY, VERY hard. You must undergo the basic training if you hope to complete any of the latter levels. Now, most training modes (especially in fighting games) are tedious, move-oriented lectures. It isn't much different in Aerowings, except for the fact that your Air Traffic Controller, Maria, has a truly sexy voice. Unfortunately, she only gives you the briefing. During the actual game her voice mutates into some macho drill sergeant who feels the need to yell at an inexperienced pilot. "Turn right! Pull up the landing gear! LAND LAND LAND. NO NO NO." Even though it's like having Genghis Khan teach you how to ride a bike, don't give up.

As far as the game's objectives, I was a little diappointed by the lack of weapons. I know that after World War II we denied Japan the right to have an armed military, but a flight-sim with military jets just isn't a flight-sim without some sort of deadly force! However, Aerowings still manages to pull off this gun-free stunt with aplomb and is actually a fun, challenging, non-violent game.

Unlike Afterburner, you can't just fly up to the upper left-hand corner of the screen and fire guns and missiles all day until you beat the game. This sim is about analog stick precision and mental attention. In the Sky Mission Attack mode, you try to locate targets before the time runs out. In Blue Impulse mode, you get to perform in-air gymnastics (you'll be able to see my air shows on Fox's next "deadliest crashes" series). In free flight mode (my favorite), you must lead a formation "just like pied piper, led rats through the streets" [mandatory Megadeth quote insert]. Oh yeah, there's one more mission objective: locate Amelia Earhart (a.k.a. Tokyo Rose) in the Pacific. So far, I've just found her left ear.

I must say, the graphics are quite stunning. I've really been impressed by how realistic the clouds look on the Dreamcast. Each marshmellowy mass has the beauty and fluffiness of a Method Man exhalation. I can actually identify whether or not each cloud is cumulus, stratus, cirrus, or nimbus. What a meteorological dork I am.

Every flight stage from the "Night City" to the "Summer Sunset" is wickedly detailed. The planes are nice eye-candy, and Crave made sure the Japanese "red sun" logo was quite visible. We wouldn't want to mistake these Japanese planes for Baru Angeru... errrr...I mean Blue Angels.

You get the basic flight-sim choice of perspectives: Behind, WAY behind, and Cockpit. The cockpit is probably the recommended perspective for the beginner because of the HUD; it keeps you posted on altitude, speed, direction, and G-force. By the way, where the hell is the in-flight movie?

I only have two real graphical objections. The first is how grainy and pixelated the ground looks when you nose dive into a nearby city. Also, when the jet releases its smoke for those air show stunts, it looks terrible. What happened to the fluffy cloud artistry?

Like every 3D game out for the DC, there's an instant replay feature. But instead of watching Maxi knock Xianghua into the surrounding lava, you can use Aerowing's playback feature to watch yourself crash over and over again. Even the tape of the Challenger explosion got old after awhile. I understand the desire for playback video when you successfully complete a mission, but do I really need my nose rubbed in failure?

Although I miss the violence that I've come to expect from flight sim games, I thought Aerowings was far more innovative than N64's Pilotwings and definitely has graphics to rival any current console game. I probably would have preferred a force feedback throttle stick for the trickier missions, but the DC pad did surprisingly well. You want gun battles and dogfights? Buy Air Force Delta. You want strategy and precision? Pick up Aerowings.



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