Hello all you Dreamcast-loving people. This is Fraser Blue Gaming here, bringing you a new series of reviews. Welcome to the Dreamcast Room, where I look at games on my favourite console of all time, the Dreamcast if ya couldn’t tell, and help you decide whether these games are worth playing or thrown down the toilet. The game we’ll be looking at today is Dreamcast Flight School, otherwise known as Aerowings.
Background information first if you prefer an actual critics opinion. Aerowings is a flight simulator game developed by CRI Middleware (who made Sega shockers like Galaxy Force II for the Mega Drive, After Burner III for the Sega CD so not a good start) and published by Crave Entertainment (who published other Dreamcast games like Starlancer, Tokyo Highway Challenge 1 and 2 etc). The game was a launch title in North America releasing on the famous 9/9/99 and releasing in Europe on the 29th of October in the same year. It received mixed to generally favourable reviews with IGN giving it an 8 out of 10 and saying
‘I would say that makes for a pretty well balanced game, and that is always a feather in a game developer's cap.’
but GameSpot gave it a 6.6 out of 10, proclaiming
‘To conclude, Aero Wings is certainly a quality game, with little to diminish its worth and value. Unfortunately, it would be hard to recommend this game to anyone other than an aspiring Blue Angel (or Impulse as it were). Like Pilotwings 64, Aero Wings has realistic physics, and offers an authentic flying experience. Also like Pilotwings 64, Aero Wings is riding the fence between interesting and boring. If that's your bag, baby, then this game should suit you just fine. Personally, I was looking for the fire button the entire time. Not for everyone.’
So with the critics view out of the way, let’s go over the game section by section to see if it holds up today, starting with
Graphics and Presentation 13/20
First off, the presentation is actually decent. When you start up the game, you get one of a selection of quite well put together FMV sequences displaying stunt planes in flight backed up by a decent uplifting soundtrack. The title screen and options are well laid out, and there are a number of different modes and options to choose from. So overall, not that bad for presentation.
Then there’s the graphics. This game hasn’t aged that well, but I can see how people would have thought this was mind-blowing back when it was released. The environments are clean and clear and surprisingly well detailed, but get closer to the ground and you’ll see a mess painted onto a 2D Canvas, like in the City stage, where the buildings look like drawings on a carpet. Overall the graphics are ok, with some detailed environments but they still haven’t aged well.
Music And Sound Design 16/20
There’s not much in the way of sound effects other than the plane flying around but the voice acting isn’t compressed and actually alright. The music is uplifting as mentioned earlier and it fits the game well and on occasion when combined with some of the more impressive locations can induce a general feeling of awe. There isn’t a lot to say, but it’s pretty good.
The main chunk of the game is spent flying (who would have known). There are 3 types of game modes in the game: Blue Impulse Mission, Sky Mission Attack and Free Flight. Before going into any of these, the main problem I have with the gameplay is the planes feel slow when flying. It doesn’t help with the control, but that’s for later.
The first mode, Blue Impulse Mission, sees you being taught the basic maneuvers of how to fly. Simple in concept, as it acts like a tutorial, but poor in execution. You are instructed by a somewhat irate sounding male instructor that barks orders at you that you are expected to perform with 100% precision, and I mean that when I say 100% precision. Failure to do well in these tasks will result in your instructor practically telling you how damn useless you are, so that’s fun. This is probably the worst mode for me.
The second mode, Sky Mission Attack, is slightly more interesting, as you fly through different coloured hoops against a time limit. The hoops aren’t easy to find, and do require skill, which makes it more satisfying when you fly through them. This mode is fun for a couple minutes, but then you’re doing the same thing over and over again. Average at best, mediocre and tedious at worst.
Finally, the third and final mode, Free Flight, is essentially what the title suggests. You fly freely, with no commander barking about how much you messed up your landing by 1 degree, and it’s pretty relaxing. It doesn’t help that the landscapes aren’t the prettiest by today’s standards, and that the plane is slow, but it is fun. This is the best mode out of the three.
Oh and multiplayer exists. This should be fun, but it isn’t. For all the modes, you’re chained to each other, so if one person screws up, you’re both screwed. Overall the gameplay is just ok at best.
As mentioned earlier, the tasks are required with a large level of accuracy, so messing up is not that great. Sadly the controls are a mixed bag. Sometimes for me, they feel too light, often leading me to drop faster than lightning towards the ground, and other times, the control can be stiff and requiring a lot of force. They’re not terrible, but they’re not good either.
Finally we have replayability. Well, you have different planes to unlock, there is the free flight mode, there is multiplayer. I can’t see myself replaying this, but it does have a bit of replayability here and there, so it’s not all bad.
This game can be fun. The graphics, presentation, music and sound design are all mostly good. But the game fails to be compelling in the most important category: gameplay. Combine this with mediocre replay value and wonky controls, you have a game that isn’t bad, but isn’t worth of a star at all.
Final Score: 58/100 (No Star)
I have four levels of awards. A Gold Star is for a game that gets 86-100, a Silver Star for a game that gets 76-85, a Bronze Star for a game that gets 60-75, and for a game to not get a star at all, they have to get under 60. Hope that clears things up.