An improved frame rate on Pilotwings 64 is causing problems on Nintendo Switch.
The classic flight sim came to Nintendo Switch Online via the Expansion Pak earlier this month, boasting an improved frame rate compared to its original N64 release. Unfortunately, it’s making certain parts of the game unplayable.
“I thought I was doing something wrong or the buttons were mapped weirdly,” said IGN’s Peer Schneider who has been playing Pilotwings 64. “They have to patch it. It’s just not fun this way.”
Although most of the game is unaffected, problems arise during the Birdman bonus stage. Usually a relaxing tour of the island, allowing players to take pictures and soak up the atmosphere, the Birdman stage is renowned for its calm, laid-back gameplay. The player suits up with a large set of wings, hitting the A button occasionally to keep the Birdman in the air.
Unfortunately, the timing of these flaps was originally tied to the game’s framerate, so you can see where this is going. The Nintendo Switch Online version of Pilotwings 64 requires manic button-mashing just to keep the Birdman airborne, transforming the previously relaxing stage into a stressful feat of endurance.
Dakko Dakko developer Rhod Broadbent has taken to Twitter to highlight the change.
I did the science: N64 (red) vs Switch (grey) #Pilotwings64. New version has indeed lost its chill.
The flap timing seems tied to framerate (common back then), and hasn’t been adjusted for much higher FPS NSO version. https://t.co/wpy6au9yQP pic.twitter.com/Bvt9Awij0Y
— Rhod Broadbent (@sdrhod) October 20, 2022
According to Broadbent, tying the wing flaps to the game’s frame rate was a common technique when the original N64 version was created.
Speaking with VGC, he explained in more detail, positing that Pilotwings 64 counts the frames that elapse after each button press and that flapping faster leads to harder flaps. Since the game now runs at 60fps, the number of frames between each button push is greater, leading the game to think more time has elapsed between them, and in turn, making the flaps weaker.
The level can still be played, especially if alternating between the A and B buttons to flap… but it’s not quite the same, sedate experience as the original. Hopefully, Nintendo will address this in an update.
Pilotwings 64 – Nintendo Switch Online Version Screens
Want to read more about Pilotwings? Check out our top 125 Nintendo games of all time as well as our history of flight simulators.
Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.