Pearl Harbor Trilogy – 1941: Red Sun Rising Review

Are we supposed to have sympathy for WiiWare because of its miserable track record? I think not. While the limited file size (in comparison to downloadable titles on XBLA and PSN) does impose restrictions on graphics, scope, and length, that’s hardly an excuse for poor game design. Which is why, upon playing the jet shooter Pearl Harbor Trilogy – 1941: Red Sun Rising on WiiWare, I was actually angry.

It’s been a long time since a game imbued in me any sense of ire, and that’s because game developers for this generation’s consoles know how to, for the most part, create gaming experiences that work. The most basic function of a game is that the player is able to interact with it in a way that makes sense, and if that goal is achieved, then the game works at a foundational level. 1941: Red Sun Rising does not.

Pearl Harbor Trilogy - 1941: Red Sun Rising

There are three control schemes and only one of them comes even close to being acceptable. The first, holding the Wiimote sideways and aiming by tilting the remote, is near impossible to get accustomed to, and frustrating enough that you wouldn’t want to spend the time to do so anyway. The second, holding the Wiimote and Nunchuck and aiming by lifting, shifting, and dipping the Nunchuck on a vertical and horizontal axis, is even worse than the first and is in no way tenable for a jet shooter. The third, using the Wii Classic Controller, is the closest to being usable that the game gets, but despite any amount of tweaking in the options menu, the joysticks on the controller are still too twitchy and imprecise to aim accurately in any way.

The controls are hard enough to use, but on top of that, 1941: Red Sun Rising is also a really difficult game. And I don’t mean there’s a gradual build-up that allows the player to grow into the skills needed to meet the challenge. I mean the first level of the American campaign (you can do both American and Japanese campaigns), Pearl Harbor, thrusts you right in the middle of the action on December 7th, 1941 where Zeros are targeting you from the second you take off and not letting up. The only way to avoid being constantly barraged with bullets is to fly as high as possible in the opposite direction of your objective. However, it turns out that it doesn’t even matter if that’s all you do, because the first mission, despite the presence of objectives, is actually just about not dying. I spent over an hour trying to complete this mission before realizing that when the game tells me to "shoot down enemy fighters" it actually means "don’t shoot down enemy fighters." This is an anomaly among the rest of the missions, but indicative of the utter confusion and chaos that is 1941: Red Sun Rising.

The graphics are last-gen at best (again, no breaks just because it’s WiiWare), the soundtrack is repetitive and boring, and the gameplay is straight-up broken. The most enjoyable part of this game was flying around in Free-Fly Mode on the level "Pacific Ocean" where there is literally nothing but your plane and the ocean. At least in this scenario, I felt like I could handle what was being presented. I will say that the one positive element of the game is the quirky comic book storytelling between campaign missions. It tells both sides of the story of the Pacific Theater, and is goofy enough to be enjoyable.

But if you like jet shooters, WWII games, or games that you can play at all, avoid 1941: Red Sun Rising. Let’s hope the rest of the Pearl Harbor Trilogy makes for a swift and definitive landing.

1 out of 5


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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