Game Review

Pearl Harbor Trilogy - 1941: Red Sun Rising Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Spencer McIlvaine

The dawn of a promising new WiiWare franchise

Pearl Harbor Trilogy - 1941: Red Sun Rising, one of the most anticipated WiiWare games of the year, wowed observers with screenshots that seemed far too impressive to be possible in a downloadable Wii title. In a field mostly populated by mini-game collections with simplistic graphics, Pearl Harbor Trilogy may just prove once and for all that WiiWare can indeed match the production values of retail releases. But might all this hype lull us into a dangerously false sense of security?

Red Sun Rising is the first in the three-part Pearl Harbor series from Legendo, makers of the PC game Attack on Pearl Harbor. The original was a fun arcade-style air combat game set in the Pacific during World War II, feeling authentic without taking itself as seriously as more traditional simulation-style PC games. With minimal controls clearly designed for a game pad rather than a keyboard and simplified ammunition accounting (there isn’t any, it’s all unlimited), the game seemed destined for a console re-release.

This is exactly what Pearl Harbor Trilogy is – a near exact port of that spectacular PC game. It brings the missions, opening cutscenes, graphics and pretty much everything else from the original and adds motion controls to the mix. The word “port” is often used negatively in gaming, but in this instance, we think it should be viewed as a wholly positive transition.

First of all, the sheer scope of the game is impressive compared to what is normally seen in WiiWare games. Existing in a fully-realised 3D game engine, you fly around large maps flanked by perhaps a dozen allied pilots, depending on the mission, and fight a similar number of opponents and sometimes whole fleets of Aircraft Carrier groups. The very first mission that you play is the battle for Pearl Harbor, in which you’ll go up against a huge number of planes, warships and bullet tracers all on screen at once, and the Wii is perfectly capable of displaying it all.

On the other hand, being a port is a mixed blessing in some ways. Part of the reason that the Wii can handle all of this simultaneously onscreen is that the resolution has been cranked down from the usual 480p of which the Wii is capable. The graphics are still impressive by Wii standards, but it’s worth noting that this is nevertheless a downgrade.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect is not the graphics, however, but rather the quality of the enemy A.I. which is most surprising. Far from displaying the usual mistakes, such as flying aimlessly or in a straight line, these opponents know how to avoid getting under the sights of your guns and are ridiculously good at positioning themselves aft of your plane if you give them any opportunity.

Again, this is a mixed blessing: developing a truly challenging A.I. is a great accomplishment and adds to the replay value of the game by increasing the challenge, but the PC version featured various options for different skill levels. Most notable was the inclusion of a ‘Casual’ level, featuring weaker A.I. and allowing the player to advance to the next level at the conclusion of each mission, regardless of whether it was won or lost. A setting like this is great for players learning the game and for those who just want to shoot things without having to work too hard, and taking away that option leaves a relatively hardcore game that may leave some novice players feeling frustrated.

Along with the lack of skill choices, there is a similar problem with an uneven difficulty curve. We found the hardest level of the game to be the first, one of the largest battles, into which you are dropped with very little instruction and no opportunity to practice before getting shot at. If you can get through that, the rest of the game becomes seemingly easier mission-by-mission until the last, which feels almost anti-climactic.

It’s important to note that the original game featured more than one campaign per side (Japanese or American), but Legendo is apparently breaking these up into separate, budget-sized WiiWare releases. As a result, this first game features the first American and Japanese campaigns with eight missions apiece. Do not go into this expecting the final battle to lead to “THE END” as originally it was only supposed to be the end of the beginning.

The missions offer you a choice of different planes in some cases, which will result in different objectives and therefore a completely separate experience. As a result, the game has plenty of replay value, as players will no doubt want to make it through both campaigns more than once just to see the result of making different selections. Additionally, at the end of your first play-through you are given yet another plane to use, though only in the ‘Dogfight’ gametype.

Separate from the campaign is the option for quick pick up and play games called ‘Dogfight Mode’: these are single player excursions, the goal of which can be to either reach a certain number of kills or to survive for a certain length of time. These modes are considerably harder than the main game as you will find yourself flying alone and greatly outnumbered, so these are best saved for further extending the life of the game after you have completed the campaign. The one exception to this is the ‘free flight’ option that literally lets you soar unopposed around a map of your choosing. This may sound pointless, but it is actually the only real way to practise flying and to get an understanding of how your plane handles, so this mode is recommended when playing the game for the first time.

For some people, the controls will take a little getting used to. Legendo was kind enough to give you three controller options and they are all quite different, so there is something there for everybody. One uses the Wii Remote only, another utilises the Wii Remote with the Nunchuk, and the third takes advantage of the Classic Controller.

We found that the first of these was the simplest and most functional of all the choices: handling was smooth and responsive, as you hold the Wii Remote horizontally and use it to steer. By using motion controls to steer, players’ thumbs are left free to operate the other functions and performing tricks such as looking behind you in a dogfight are easily accomplished with the press of a button.

Similarly, the Classic Controller also worked well, utilising the left thumbstick for steering, though this means your right thumb must shoot, throttle forwards and backwards on the speed, and check your different viewing options such as looking behind you. We found this to be too much like playing thumb-twister and, worse, it meant that while firing your guns you couldn’t adjust your speed.

In contrast, the Nunchuk option was the most difficult option. With this option, players hold the Nunchuk almost like a flight stick and move it around to steer. It seemed to be fluid and responsive, which is surprising as it uses a more simplistic motion sensor. This choice definitely takes a lot more getting used to than the other two, but it has its merits, and is something else to play around with once you’ve beaten the game.

One thing missing for those looking for longevity in a game is a local or online multiplayer option: these were present in the PC version, but did not make it into the Wii release. The game still features plenty of single player content for the amount of points it costs, but air combat and multiplayer are an obvious pairing and thus is missed in this release.


Although we singled out some areas for needed improvement, we say this only with the hopes of receiving an even better product when the second game in the trilogy is released. Although the PC release is still probably the better choice if that option is available to you, among WiiWare games Red Sun Rising stands out as a truly impressive game that not only looks like a retail game on a WiiWare budget, but is every bit as fun to play. Its primary flaw is its uneven difficulty curve, but the game is still accessible to those with patience. For those who survive it, Pearl Harbor Trilogy: Red Sun Rising offers a thrilling experience that will encourage returning to replay it again and again until the next game in the trilogy is released.

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User Comments (57)



Slapshot said:

Very unexpected after the last horrible attempt at making a war game for WiiWare (Blood Beach)!



WolfRamHeart said:

Very good review. I am really enjoying this game right now. It may be tough but I keep coming back for more. The price made the decision to buy this game a no-brainer. It is well worth the price of admission. I'm really anxious for the next chapter in the game. Hopefully, they won't keep us waiting too long to play it. Great job Legendo, keep up the good work!



xAlias said:

Legendo is clearly locked into the LUV IT! section of my gaming hall of fame so far; let's see if they can keep it up!



UltraRobPrime said:

Great review! I agree, it needs multiplayer. I think this first game is an introduction the the trilogy, helping player with the gameplay and controlls. Maybe multiplayer will come in part 2 or 3, if the game does well. Great job Legendo, keep up the good work!



Link79 said:

Sounds good. I've been playing alot of Starwars Rogue Squadron lately so my skills might be up to the challenge. How long is this going to last me though? What's the music like? Is it as Epic sounding as the Trailer would have us believe?



Philip_J_Reed said:

Great review. This is a very rare WiiWare game in the way that I have yet to hear a truly negative comment from anyone who's played it. I'm a little nervous that the later two episodes won't be able to bring much to the table, and that this might be the kind of game where owning any one episode is as good as owning all three, but, of course, that remains to be seen.

And other than that (hopefully unfounded) worry, I can't think of anything bad to say about it. Definitely worth a download.



Rogues said:

The game does kick . I also found the Wii Remote alone the best way to play the game. I found the hardest chapter so far to be The Battle of Midway and pretty much breezed through first 2/3rds of the American campaign in less than 1.5 hours.

Some multiplayer would be nice as would additional flight features such as barrel-rolling your plane. The AI is better on the enemy pilots than on your side so I hope they can balance that out better. I frequently end up finishing a mission with absolutely no support as they are all shot out of the sky. Or I find that 6 American planes are in the upper atmosphere all chasing one enemy fighter while I am down near ground level trying to fight off a dozen enemies alone! LOL!

Great game though and I'm sure the next episode will be better.



BulbasaurusRex said:

Hmm, sounds like they should've mapped accelerate and decelerate to the shoulder buttons like in the GameCube Rogue Squadron games.

Since the sideways Wiimote control option is said to work well, I'll go ahead and get it, but please include GameCube controller support in the sequels.



pixelman said:

Sweet, I'm buying this as soon as I get some points. I'm really hoping the next episode has online multiplayer. :3



Egg_miester said:

nice review but i have Sky Crawlers and its a better game and i only paid 10$ new for it so it was cheaper for me and it mulitplayer



AlexSays said:

If there is multiplayer it should be in the last game.

You don't give people a reason to not buy the other games. They'd be silly to put it in the very first game.



eripmav said:

Guys at NL, a huge thankyou from the Legendo team. This is a superb review and we're absolutely made up that you loved our game!

Also a huge thanks to all of you who have bought the game so far and have laid down your praise to us. Thank you:)



XCWarrior said:

Sounds like a game worth picking up. We need great flyers on the Wii, so I might have to use up some Wii points on this. Good review, I like challenging games, so I have no problem with your gripe!



AlexSays said:

Anyone that has played this and Sky Crawlers?

I'd like to know if there's someone out there that greatly prefers one to the other.



hylianhalcyon said:

I have played this and Sky Crawlers, and I have to say I prefer Sky Crawlers, although I am comparing a retail game to a download. While I do like both, Sky Crawlers being retail allows it to have a lot that Pearl Harbor doesn't. From multiple difficulties to 20 planes with I think 4 or 5 colors each. Although Red Sun Rising has also left me quite impressed, especially for wiiware. So if you're looking to buy one of them, I'd say get both, especially since they're both pretty cheap.



Kaeobais said:

Too bad I only have 600 pts D: Guess I'll have to wait until a good NES game comes out ... if ever ...

Man, I want Battletoads D:



RonF said:

I've just downloaded it and I have enjoyed a lot so far. I am using the nunchuck control option. It might be harder but definitely feels a better fit to control an airplane. Unlike the reviewer, I never played the PC version and thus I can only compare this game to other WiiWare releases and I can say it looks pretty good.



Junkface said:

@ 17 Egg miester Is that correct Sky Crawlers has multiplayer? Everything I've seen says its one player only.



AlexSays said:

No Sky Crawlers does NOT have multiplayer, which is why I was asking for more... credible opinions.



Egg_miester said:

@AlexSays sky crawlers does have multiplayer at least the box says it does but i don't play games with other people so i don't know if its right or not



Zach said:

@Egg miester Of course it's right to play games with other people, if that's what your heart wants.



AlexSays said:


It has a very weak co-op mode, where someone can sit in the back of a plane and fire a gun too.

There's no actual multiplayer. Where you can shoot each other and stuff.



coyote37 said:

"We found the hardest level of the game to be the first, one of the largest battles, into which you are dropped with very little instruction and no opportunity to practice before getting shot at."

Sounds like an accurate simulation of the US pilots' experiences in 1941!

This has been at the top of my purchase list since I heard about it, but for 700 points? How could I say no?



EdEN said:

I'll buy it by the end of the month since I currently have several games I need to finish first on DS, DSiware, Wii, Wiiware, PS3 and PSN.



SolarJetman said:

I find it clever that the story progresses through comic book pages. I usually couldn't care less about storylines in videogames, but the way its done in Pearl Harbour is brief, entertaining and a great way to save memory for gameplay.



rwq said:

At 700 points you would insane not to buy one. Buy two for yourself and gift some to your friends!



eripmav said:

You took the words out of my mouth there rwq, you trying to steal my job??



Bassman_Q said:

I actually found the nunchuck option o be the easiest and definitive option, with the Wiimote-only option being the hardest. But yeah I think the difficulty should be toned down a notch, or add extra difficulty levels.



GreenSpleen said:

Ive played thru SkyCrawlers twice and Ive now bought this game and I can say with all certainty that Pearl Harbor is the more difficult game. I enjoyed Sky Crawlers alot(especially for the cheap price it can be had now) but PHT is the better game. I say this because, assuming that each game in the trilogy costs $7, a $21 game with the challenge, fun and graphics your getting is going to last you alot longer than SC does. I hardly ever died in SC but have done so more often in PHT so far. The challenge is more 'realistic' and I really cant complain at anything so far. Sign me up for anything at 700 points with this type of challenge, graphics and pure fun to be had. Kudos Legendo.



SolarJetman said:

I totally agree with Qwikman on the the nunchuk controls. It's very intuitive and realistic, and demonstrates why the Wii is the perfect system for flying games.



SolarJetman said:

Having played through all but the last Japanese mission now, I would say the one improvement I'd like to see in the follow-ups is to see your number of "victories" at the end of each mission -- maybe separate numbers for bogeys and ground targets -- and shooting percentages for both weapons.

Also, I'd like to fly Lancaster bombers and Messerschmitts, but of course, they wouldn't be found in the Pacific theatre of operations...



eripmav said:

But the all important question is SolarJetman, did you enjoy the game?

Less than 24hrs to go until EU/AU release!



Toadhall said:

I'm loving the game so far! I've been waiting for a good WW2 era flying game for quite some time now.

One question though: how do you guys avoid the many enemy planes going after you? What are your strategies? Seems that every time more than one plane (usually 5 or more, yeesh!) comes after me, and that's just a matter of time, I'm practically doomed.

Anyways, good job Legendo, and I hope the game makes enough so we can see the other two installments soon. And guys! I can stomach the lack of multiplayer, but no BARREL ROLL??? You missed the plane on that one...



SolarJetman said:

I certainly did enjoy the game eripmav. There's nothing more gratifying than downing a bogey with a missile, and the nunchuk controls are spot on. Love the sound effect when an aircraft carrier goes down. Being able to play as the Japanese is great, and so is the option of playing missions with different aricraft with different objectives.

@Toadhall: Keep trying to get behind those guys, and don't fly in a straight line for more than a few seconds. Practice using the missiles and you can make short work of them. Also, try helping your wingmen out so they can give you a hand. They have pretty good AI.



Toadhall said:

Thanks for the tips SolarJetman! That seems to help in the campaign, but the dogfight mode is giving me hell, since there aren't any wingmen to help you out. Still loadsa fun though!



Tate24 said:

I bought this other day and am very impressed! Two chapters with 8 missions each. A good selection of fighter planes and bombers plus free fly mode, dog fighter modes. there's even two unlockable planes after completing the two story's chapters all for 700 points well worth it! looking forward to next one:)

wish there had been online leader board though!



darebear said:

I've played through this game from both sides now and I've decided that I really don't know games at all ; > No, just kidding...but seriously folks, I think it rocks! However, I don't understand why a lot of people seem to find that it starts very difficult and is overall fairly difficult. I found it pretty fair, if anything a little easy really. Doesn't anyone know how to bugout?! Geesh!! Using the brakes while maneuvering is a big part of this game. Those addicted to acceleration will pay the price. I know this is a good game though because I was playing it with an actual pilot and was trying to grab the controller from him to demonstrate how to use the brakes but I couldn't brake the iron grip he had on the controller. Then he shot me one of those, "Get out of my face! I'm in the middle of a game!" looks. When a game makes people do that it's classic!
Overall, very satisfying shooting planes out of the sky; dropping bombs on things and going on torpedo runs. Good variety and also a good sense of history to the game too. It's presented fairly from both sides. I liked the tip of the hat to Japanese samurai culture. I'm looking forward to future episodes, though I'd like to see some increased difficulty and local and online multiplayer. Fun stuff though, I've really been enjoying it!



AVahne said:

Maybe they should add splitscreen multiplayer in the second game, and then finally online in the last one.



John3714 said:

Having a lot of fun with this, although I agree with Chicken Brutus in that it doesn't leave a whole lot of options for the two upcoming sequels. Hopefully there will be some type of multiplayer tacked on, if for no other reason than to make it unique.

And FYI, I would download a version of this game that is nothing but online dogfighting.



Kev2380 said:

I must be getting old, because I found this game to be damn near impossible. I can't even survive the first level.



bkdove said:

It's a great game!! enjoyed and finished.
I think that sequels must have planes collisions and online support



n0body said:

I love this game! especially playing with the wiimote only- good thing the controls are tweakable too
when is the sequel coming?

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