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The improvements made to Pilotwings 64’s frame rate on Switch Online have reportedly ‘broken’ its most relaxing stage.
The classic N64 game has a bonus ‘Birdman’ stage, in which the player wears a large pair of wings and can fly around the island.
This stage is supposed to be a gentle and relaxing level, where the player can chill out and take photos of the scenery.
However, as Dakko Dako founder Rhod Broadbent has shown on Twitter, the emulated version of the game on Switch Online makes the Birdman stage significantly more stressful.
Pilotwings 64 - Nintendo Switch Online trailer
Broadbent, who previously worked as a programmer on the likes of Fable and Star Fox Command, as well as a designer on the PixelJunk Shooter games, posted a video showing him playing the Birdman stage on original N64 hardware, and then on Switch Online.
On the original hardware, the Birdman flaps his wings as he should, with occasional presses of the A button making him flap his wings.
On the Switch Online version, however, Broadbend has to bash the A button repeatedly to flap, and it still isn’t anywhere near enough to stop the Birdman crashing into a building.
Broadbent believes that this is due to the Switch version’s increased frame rate, which in any other situation would be considered a positive change.
According to Broadbent, the wing flaps in Pilotwings 64 are tied to the frame rate, which he says was a common programming technique at the time.
Because the Switch Online version of the game runs at 60 frames per second, it requires far more flaps to keep the Birdman in the air.
Speaking to VGC, Broadbent explained in more detail – according to his explanation, the game counts the frames that elapse after each button press, and flapping faster (i.e. flapping with fewer frames between presses) leads to harder flaps.
Because the game now runs at 60 frames per second, the number of frames between each press is greater and as such the game thinks more time has elapsed between presses, making the flaps weaker.
Some players have pointed out that the stage can still be played by quickly tapping the A and B button alternately, in a method similar to a sports game like Track & Field.
However, it could be argued that such button-bashing requirements are the opposite of the relaxing environment the Birdman stage was originally supposed to give.