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Pearl Harbor Trilogy - 1941: Red Sun Rising - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Pearl Harbor Trilogy - 1941: Red Sun Rising

WiiWare | Legendo | 1 Player | Out Now | 700 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii Remote (sideways); Classic Controller
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30th September 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

I've always really been a fan of flight simulators, even in my early gaming years. There's a lot to like in games like this: fast-paced gameplay, complete with challenge and a level of excitement that other games simply don't provide. And so, when Legendo first announced Pearl Harbor Trilogy and started showing off early screens, I was sold. It looked incredibly promising - more so than almost any other WiiWare game I was keeping tabs on at the time. What struck me the most was the way it looked on par with, if not superior, to a large chunk of the Wii games currently available on the market. But I'm sure you'd agree that it would be all for naught if the controls weren't up to snuff. No matter how pretty the game looks visually, there would be no getting around crippling flaws. But I was so relieved to see that Legendo went all out. What resulted is a title that is so close to being labelled as a must-have title.

    Immediately upon loading the game, a strong first impression begins to form in your mind. You start off by assigning yourself a profile in one of the available save slots. And rather than just entering your name on a simple keyboard, like the one you'd see on the Wii Message Board, you're given a visual typewriter to select the necessary characters. From there, everything just continues to flow nicely. As you make selections, planes fly by on screen to advance to the next page of options. The menus are very user-friendly in terms of navigation, and you can just zip through them and begin flying in a matter of seconds.

World War II is the backdrop for '1941: Red Sun Rising'. The storylines, and the mission objectives all revolve around this concept. From the Main Menu, you can locate the central option of choice, the Campaign Mode. From this bracket, you can select one of two different storylines to follow. Take on the role of the Americans under 'The Awakening', or follow the Japanese under 'Operation Z'. Essentially you're getting both sides of the story, as it were. And perhaps best of all, you won't feel a sense of gravitation towards one side over the other. (As far as the game's pitch is concerned.) Either way, you'll need to complete both campaigns to see everything the game has to offer.

    Prior to each new mission in the campaign, you'll get a briefing on the area that you'll be in, and what your overall objectives are. This can range from either destroying enemy facilities and fleets, or protecting your own behind using resourcefulness and cunning. You'll then be able to select your fighter, that is, if the particular stage allows you to. You won't always have a say on what you'll be able to use. But when you do, it should be noted that your choice will have a bearing on the nature of the mission objective that you're required to reach. So if you find yourself struggling, you can always try a different fighter to see if that objective is any easier. And that's something I liked a lot, even if they didn't reward you for doing it both ways.

This game can be played in one of three ways: holding the Wii Remote horizontally, using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo, or attaching the Classic Controller for button play. Each of the control schemes have their own features that may or may not sit well with you. But whichever method you choose, it's unlikely you'll get a perfect hang of it right away. All of them require a certain amount of practice, and will demand that you play around for a bit to see which control set feels right for you. 

    In my case, for example, after trying all the control schemes, I fell in love with the Classic Controller. When using this control scheme, you can hold the R Trigger or the A Button to fire your gatling gun, and press B to deploy bombs and other projectiles. The Left Analog Stick is used to control movement, while the Right Analog Stick is used to adjust speed and the camera. It's a bit complicated initially, but once your fingers get used to it, it's great to use.

    By comparison, I found that using the Nunchuk & Wii Remote combo was the least user-friendly of the three available options. Here, you'll be tilting with the Nunchuk for movement, which I thought to be a bit awkward. The Analog Stick is also used for other functions: moving it left and right controls the camera to look behind, and moving it up and down adjusts the speed of the plane. Everything else was pretty straight-forward. The A Button is used to fire, and the Z Button to fire rockets, bombs, and the like. Your opinion on the varying control options may very well differ from mine. You might even need to head into the Options menu to invert the Y-Axis or adjust the flight sensitivity to make the game work for you. But so long as you find something suitable for your playing style, that's all that really matters. Just be prepared to put some time into them.

When you first give it a shot, you may feel that the controls need tightening up, as if your aircraft were too loose. Added to this is the fact that not all of the fighter planes control the same way. Each offers a different level of control in terms of how sensitive the tilting mechanism is. But over time, you'll begin to improve whatever evasive and offensive maneuvers you have up your sleeve. What I liked was the fact that even from the start of the campaigns, you'll be tasked with challenging mission objectives. This really pushes players to understand the controls and if they're having trouble, they can always head into Free Flight mode to try to figure things out at their own pace. Things may not necessarily become smooth sailing, but you'll have such a grasp on the controls that you'll be soaring through the skies with such skill and a measure of precision.

    Now, back to gameplay. For the very first mission in the campaign, you'll be introduced to a comic strip that accurately describes the events that are taking place at the time of your recruitment. It helps provide some back-story to the game, and may even motivate you to look more into this point in history at your own leisure. In any case, these special images don't appear again until the campaign is complete, meaning that all other times you'll only have lines of text to depict what's happening at the time. So now, you can begin taking to the skies.

Once you enter the air space, you'll receive regular communications from command control, displayed for players at the top of the screen. This is done through a radio system, complete with authentic sound effects, and random gibberish of speech. They'll direct you to your next destination, and warn you about incoming attack forces. When you get into performing actions that are directly tied to your mission objective, a gauge will appear in place of the aforementioned lines of communication. These serve as a indication of your progress, and help you stay focused on the task at hand.

    When enemies are within range on the screen and your radar, special markers will appear above their planes to differentiate these from your fellow warriors. If you find these distracting though, they can be turned off. Whenever these same units are out of sight, arrows off to the side of the screen will indicate their relative position in relation to where you are. Your plane comes equipped with a targeting reticule that help you aim your fire towards the opposition when in a heated aerial fight. When using bombers, there's an additional cursor underneath to help you show where your bomb will fall on the ground. There's no lock-on system attached to the targeting, meaning that if you have a weapon ready to deploy, you'll have to wait until the right moment to use it. And I'm really glad they did this. Not only does this adds to the realism, but it makes the game more challenging, and it encourages strategy and well-timed movements.

The AI is very challenging and will not show mercy when you cross their path. In addition to the typical fighter planes, you'll also need to contend with ground forces on land, and large battleships at sea. In short, there's a lot of enemy fire. It's very easy to get caught in the line of fire, even from your own fleet of battleships trying to defend against intruders. When you get hit by a bullet, the screen will take on a red colour towards the edges of the screen. Plus, as your plane begins to take serious damage or your main weapon overheats, a warning will flash on-screen. This forces you to take necessary precautions so you don't get shot out of the sky.

    Red Sun Rising's presentation values also match the quality of the gameplay experience. First off, the HUD is quite welcoming, not cluttered with details and icons, but provides just enough information that the average player would need. Second, the visuals are extremely impressive. The water effects seem life-like from afar, and up close. When you aim at a body of water, splashes are produced from the bullets, and when you soar slightly above it, a shadow of your plane's body appears. As you complete the various missions in both campaigns, you'll be treated to various weather conditions. Whether it takes the form of a beautiful night sky with a full-lit moon, a pretty sunset, or a shower of rain. I especially loved it when I had to fend off against some troublesome fighters within a fairly-dense fog. I certainly hope to see more elements like this introduced in the next title.

The explosions produced from bombs and missiles are very well-rendered. So much so, in fact, that it's cool to watch as an enemy fighter is shot out of the sky, plummeting to the surface below. You can even bomb parts of the environment on land. Unfortunately, these aren't destructible, but when the game already nears the point of being breath-taking in appearance, it's only a minor complaint in the long run. The music in this game is pretty good as well. The tune found on the Main Menu really sets the tone of the game, and the music that plays during actual missions is quite stirring. Albeit, I expected something more forceful during the final few missions.

    Aside from Campaign Mode, there's also a Dogfight Mode to extend the experience even after you've completed the game. This option consists of three different sub-areas: Avenging Ace (engage all enemies, aiming for a number of kills), Survival (lasting a certain amount of time), and Free Flight. While these modes are great to play, I felt that they lacked a certain something. And then it hit me. What this game needs is some sort of a medal system, one that's in line with the whole military motif. This can reward players for beating missions within a certain amount of time, thereby adding much more replay value that would be achieved otherwise. And so that's something I feel is almost a must for the next entry in this trilogy.

To that end, I would definitely like to see some sort of multiplayer incorporation next time around. To me it seems obvious to include, but a dogfight mode with 2 to 4 players would be a blast, perhaps even harking back to even Starfox 64's VS mode. If the team has the resources to implement this feature, online leaderboards could also encourage replay value either in all missions, or select portions of the game (e.g., Survival). And finally, I would also like to see a greater sense of variety in the types of missions they have you performing. I hope that in the next entry, we'll be able to participate in missions where you need to defeat the enemy without causing damage to citizens, or performing stealth-based objectives. There's still some room for them to explore, and I think this could definitely go a long way in making the game even more enjoyable to play.

    Playing Pearl Harbor Trilogy - 1941: Red Sun Rising is thoroughly enjoyable. Players will really feel like they're reliving a part of history, and having loads of fun doing it. It's a very realistic simulation game, and the amount of work that went into making this a success is evident from the moment you start playing. Everything about the package is impressive, from the beautiful visuals to the very cheap asking price. You can't ask for a better deal! If this game sounds appealing to you, allow me to anchor your decision by offering my wholehearted recommendation. It's a wonderful piece of work, serving as one of WiiWare's highlights since its inception.

26/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Realistic physics, feel like you're reliving history, good AI and a level of challenge, controls are tricky at first, different planes and objectives
Presentation 9/10 - Impressive visuals in terms of WiiWare standards, special effects are a nice touch, suspenseful music that suits the nature of gameplay
Enjoyment 5/5 - Lots of fun once you get a hang of the controls, extremely gratifying to destroy a fighter plane, Dogfight is great fun for testing your skills
Extra Content 4/5 - Campaign mode will take a few hours, three additional gameplay options, could've included medals, multiplayer and high-scores

Equivalent to a score of 87% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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