I randomly logged into the Wii Shop Channel the other day, simply because I hadn’t done so since downloading Max and the Magic Marker and I wanted to pass the time before I went to work by browsing through the most recent releases. To my very humble surprise, I found that I had 800 Nintendo Points just sitting in my account, waiting to be spent.
I thought about going for a Super NES or Genesis game, but decided instead to check out what was new on the WiiWare front. After browsing through a few games and glancing at reviews by other sites for each title that caught my eye, I ran across Pearl Harbor Trilogy. An arcade style World War II dog fighter for seven bucks? Sign me up!
Red Sun Rising kicks off by letting you choose one of two campaigns, The Awakening or Operation Z, and your air craft. Once you decide which side you want to fly for, the good guys or the bad, you get thrown headfirst into one of the most brutal first stages in recent memory. The level of difficulty is almost on the borderline of unfair, as you’re facing way too many enemies for way too long, with no breaks between waves to catch your breath.
Then the second level comes and… what? Well, that was easy. It’s like this through the whole game, it is literally a roller coaster of levels that are way too hard and send you to the Game Over screen repeatedly and without mercy and levels that are simply boring because they are so easy. This is a pretty big problem, and can cause some massive headaches. At the very least, being able to choose a difficulty level would be nice.
The game’s difficulty issue isn’t simply caused by too many enemies that are too aggressive, though. It can also be blamed on the controls, which are severely dated for an arcade-style dog fighter. There are three available control options, which is nice, but the only one worth using is the Classic Controller as the motion options are just too finicky to be substantial. The problem isn’t that the controls are awful, it’s just that enhancements to the way we play these games has been made since this game’s original PC release, and it’s hard to go back.
Instead of flying in the direction you set by aiming continuously, your craft levels out once you release the analog stick. This forces you to have to constantly adjust your aim by making minute flicks of the stick and then trying to hold it steady over an enemy plane, a task that isn’t easy when they are swerving all over the place constantly. There’s also no lock on and you can’t fly to any degree beyond 90 (straight up, no going upside down). Still, once you get used to the controls the game becomes considerably less painful to play through, but there are several adjustments that could’ve been made to modernize the game and make it a bit more accessible.
At least there’s not really much to complain about on the visual front. The game looks great for running on WiiWare, with decent particle effects and some pretty attractive water refractions in place. Planes look good, and environments are, while often a bit drab and barren, a fairly impressive rendering of 3D space on WiiWare. The game has yet to drop its frame rate on me, and that’s certainly saying something for the engine considering all the planes and bullets and bombs constantly flying around on screen. Audio is also pretty solid, with orchestrated music that just screams World War II and sound effects that don’t get obnoxious.
For only seven bucks there is a decent amount of value to be had here. Two campaigns with a handful of missions each makes for a few hours of playtime, easily enough to warrant the $7.00 price tag.
When I first started playing Pearl Harbor Trilogy 1941: Red Sun Rising, I hated it. I couldn’t beat the first level of the American campaign, the controls were painful, and it just wasn’t fun. The more I played it and adjusted to the issues the game has, like stupid difficulty balance and archaic controls, the more I began to enjoy it. I recommend this game to hardcore gamers with attention spans to match their love for challenge, but warn you that the issues in this game are not easy to overlook.
Here’s hoping the next few installments get the attention they need to become must-buy games. There is a lot of potential here that I would love to see tapped.
Score: 7.25/10 (Above Average)