When I first saw the YouTube trailer for Legendo’s WiiWare title I was admittedly quite blown away.
The visuals looked spectacular, not just for a Wii game, but for a game that only costs 700 Wii Points. However the trailer starts off with the actual opening credits of the game itself and they’re all rendered in heavily outlined, cell shaded fashion which really excited me. A cell shaded flight action game – what a stroke of genius! Then the trailer cuts to some “gameplay footage” and shows off some impressive, un-Wii-like graphics that are a joy to behold in themselves.
I was disappointed. Despite the game looking relatively great, I was gutted to find out that the whole game wasn’t cell shaded. A mistake on Legendo’s part I feel, as if the Wii didn’t have to draw as much detail then they could have done a bit more with the game itself. As any Wii gamer will tell you – any game that has graphics that come close to the other current-gen consoles will often have an unfortunate sacrifice in some other aspect of the game.
The game is even presented in a wartime comic book illustration style – it would have been something special had this carried over into the gameplay itself.
You get to take to the sky and fly as either the American or Japanese forces and complete campaign missions specific to their respective roles in this pivotal time in history. Of course along with your choice comes the appropriate planes to fly in. There’s six in all, two of which are locked (I have no idea what these are, for reasons I shall explain later). For the US Naval Air Force you have the P-40 and F4F Fighters and for the Japanese Imperial Air Force you have the Zero Type 1 and Zero Type 2 Fighters.
Gameplay choices include the obligatory Campaign Mode and Dogfight Mode under which you are presented with three more choices: Avenging Ace – an objective based mode where you must kill a specific amount of enemies. Survival Mode – speaks for itself. It’s you against an endless barrage of enemies and it’s a case of kill or be killed and stay alive for as long as possible.
Then there is Free Flight Mode where you can pick any of the Campaign mission settings – Pearl Harbor, Midway, Wake Island, Philippines, Darwin, Guam or Pacific Ocean, and cruise around admiring the countryside – or what little there is of it in the relatively limited flying arena.
There are three control methods to choose from – Remote & Nunchuk, just the Remote, or the Classic Controller. I chose the Classic Controller because twin thumbsticks (after joystick and then mouse/keys) is always the better option for flying games – and this was no exception.
But here is where my first issue with the game lies. The plane is controlled almost purely by the left thumbstick – climb/dive and turning, while the right stick is used to throttle up and down as well as look left and right. There’s no yaw for precision aiming, no barrel rolls for evading enemies and no loops - if you try to do a loop then you just fly straight up and stall – it’s a bit of a tragedy really.
Thankfully you have unlimited ammunition, in both your machine guns and bombs/rockets/missiles so you don’t need to preserve your stocks. However your machine gun does heat up if you’re trigger-heavy so it pays to keep bursts short.
My second issue (I have three by the way) is with the draw distance. Copious helpings of mist are employed to compensate for the awful pop-up and draw distances on the terrain. But enemy planes are also impossible to hit at range due to them being pin-pricks (with obvious red health bars above them, granted) in the distance and seemingly taking stepped increases in size before the whole plane is visible and you can appreciate them in all their glory. I was reminded of the old arcade classic Gyruss and the way enemy ships would approach.
Quite often, by the time you see enough of the enemy to feel confident in taking a shot – they’ve already pumped a dozen shells and a couple of missiles into you, introducing you to the Game Over screen…yet again.
Which brings me to my third and final issue. The game is hard, very hard. It’s even harder when you take into account the limited flight physics. At the time of writing this review, I haven’t finished the campaign as I’ve gotten to a point where I’m just sick and tired of being cut in two before I’ve had a chance to pull the trigger, so much so that I’m not sure whether I can be bothered going back to it again.
The difficulty is even more apparent in Survival Mode and you’re alone in the sky surrounded by about 20 enemy fighters who are far better shots than you. I think my best result was three enemies shot down – and even that was a mission.
There’s no multiplayer modes, online or off, but I wasn’t exactly expecting any either.
But criticisms aside, we must remember that Pearl Harbor Trilogy - 1941: Red Sun Rising is WiiWare and for only $10 you get a good looking game with plenty of bang for your dollar.
If you want the full flight/action WWII experience on the Wii then pick up a copy of Blazing Angels: Pearl Harbor. However if you’ve got a tenner to spare or some Wii Points to use up – and from the perspective of value for money – this is well worth a look.