Top Landing is the sequel to 3D flight simulator Midnight Landing, released for the arcades in 1986, which used very basic polygonal dots to simulate a city at midnight. Unlike Midnight Landing, which had a very limited colour palette and draw distance, Top Landing uses fully coloured three-dimensional graphics, with objects and landscapes fully rendered, allowing depictions of cities during the daytime. It also adds a take-off stage.
The game runs on the Taito Air System, one of the first gaming systems dedicated to 3D polygonal graphics (along with the Namco System 21), powered by a custom GPU (graphics processing unit) board with a Texas Instruments TMS320C25 digital dignal processor (DSP).
The game begins at the fictional Taito Airport, where the player executes a simple takeoff sequence, in which the player turns the aircraft onto the runway, and then applies full thrust and lifts off the ground when prompted to by the game. The stage is completed when the player climbs to 950 meters.
Afterwards, the player moves onto the landing stages. Each landing stage begins at 2000-2300 meters and 8-12 kilometers from the runway. The player must land the aircraft on the runway to complete the stage.
Failing a stage other than takeoff ends the game. The following are ways to fail a stage:
- Time Up: Run out of time on the takeoff stage.
- Course Out: Veer too far off course, or touch the edge of the runway while already grounded.
- Crash: Hit anything other than the runway.
- Over Run: Land on the runway, but roll past the end of it.
As the player progresses through each round, wind conditions will get worse--winds will get stronger, and will also change speed and direction in mid-approach, especially in later stages. There is no wind in stage 1, but by stage 8, winds can achieve speeds of up to 14 m/s and can change upwards of 5-6 times throughout the course of the stage, making staying on course and successfully landing more difficult.
In addition, the current stage indicates the type of jetliner the player will pilot: Trainer jet for stage 1, small jetliner for stages 2 and 3, medium jetliner for stages 4 through 6, and jumbo jetliner for stages 7 and 8. Larger aircraft have faster speeds, even at zero thrust, and thus require more runway length to be able to make a successful landing.
The player lands at eight different airports, the order of which can be freely chosen. The following airports, all based off of real-life airports, are:
Apart from scenery, there is no gameplay difference between each airport. The choice of airport comes into play because of the presence of weather conditions. Weather for a given airport can be sunny, rainy, or cloudy. Sunny weather is clear, rain can somewhat obscure vision with rain lines, and clouds can heavily disrupt the player's visibility. Weather for each airport changes after every successful stage.
The takeoff sequence is scored based on the amount of time left and the smoothness of the takeoff.
Each landing has a default, perfect score of 100 points. Points may be deducted for the following:
- Nose dive: Pointing the aircraft's nose at a steep angle downwards.
- Fishtail: Oversteer and drift-like behavior, particularly in windy conditions.
- Contact point: Touching down off-center, too early, or too late.
Points do not affect pass/fail status of each stage, but are used to determine status on the high score table.
The Landing series went on to see the release of two more games: Landing Gear in 1996 and Landing High Japan in 1998.