Attack on Pearl Harbor Review

At 07:53 in the morning of December 7, 1941 the Empire of Japan air-attacked the United States of America military base on Pearl Harbor. This marked the beginning of a fierce struggle between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan.

Play as either nation Legendo’s Attack on Pearl Harbor provides players a unique, never-before-seen perspective on history’s greatest armed conflict by affording audiences the chance to play as either the USA or Japan.

Right at the front, let it be known that this is NOT a Flight Simulator. This is an arcade game. There are no in-cockpit views, or immaculately reproduced gauges, or horsepower/weight ratios to think about for banking turns. Anyone can get their hands on this game and play single player, the 4 campaigns, or multiplayer (online or local) and have a blast.

My Specs: Dell E1705 laptop, T2400 Duo, 1GB RAM, 17″ WXGA display, SigmaTel High-Def audio, WinXP SP2.

The graphics are not overly stupendious and yet everything is accurately represented. The planes are quite nice, and there are several period paint options that add to the flavor. There are several different times of day to fight: Mid-day, Sunrise, Sunset, and Night. There are a few different conditions to fly in be it Haze, Rain, or bright and shiny. There is no shading or anything so these effects have little outcome on the game other than to break up the monotony. Even in the rain, there are drops flying all around you, but it does little to actually make discerning friend from foe difficult, and there’s no “drops against the canopy” effect.

Now, that’s not to say the game is without special effects. Guns blazing is quite a feast for the eyes! The detail put into the fire being spit forth from your plane is impressive. The tracers confidently stream out ahead of you, or frighteningly reach out from behind you. If you’re behind the plane doing the shooting, their empty cases fall back over their wings and force you to fly through the clouds of metal. Don’t worry, they won’t harm you. But the bullets do, and your engine will let you know when it’s not happy. Take a little fire and you might have some wisps of grey smoke from behind the propeller. Eat a lot of lead and thick black clouds flood out of the engine bay obscuring your sight and make you easier to track/kill. Finally, it will give out in a bright orange fireball and send you spinning to the ground with no hope of escape.

Ships are not quite to scale, but they’re pretty good looking. The details and hard work is apparent when you get close for a bombing run, or to drop a torpedo on its way to your target. Rather than cannons, the ships fire a missile which leaves a nice white trail behind it, but I’d rather have seen the big black cloud of the gun powder and the gun recoil as it launches a shell at its enemy. However, they do sink in a rather impressive fashion after they’ve taken enough hits from your munitions. No life rafts or anything, but good fiery effects and waters churn as the ships slow meet their new fate as underwater museum/sea-life habitats.

There is no voice acting unless you consider the wah-wah-wah akin to Charlie Brown’s teacher as voice acting. I don’t, but I do give points that the Japanese wah-wah-wah is different from the American wah-wah-wah. That was an easy and obvious shortcut, but they choose to take that extra step.

The music score is good. The intro is kind of stereotypical for any game set in the Orient. They all use they same type of music, but perhaps that’s due to its authenticity. Still, no bonus for originality. The music in the menus is soothing and goes along with its graphical novel story boards.

The sound of the plane’s engine is pretty good. I haven’t been around any vintage aircraft that were running so I can only compare to what I know from movies and TV. It’s what you expect the engine to sound like and that works for me. The guns fit as well, and they make a nice metallic thunk when they connect with the target be it your wings or theirs. Nevermind that the majority of Japanese planes were largely made of wood and cloth. It’s an arcade game, remember?

As a bonus in the control section, the game can be played with, pretty much, any type of control there is for PCs. Keyboards, keyboard/mouse, Joystick, gamepad…all good for this game. The control is very simple as an arcade game should be, and there aren’t a lot of buttons to remember for things like: flaps, landing gear, tail rudder, and etc. My USB Sidewinder2 proved no more advantageous than my ancient Logitech Wingman in flying the plane or shooting down others. There is no force feedback support which was a bummer, but hardly necessary.

You cannot do a majority of the advanced flight model manuvers, you can climb, dive, and bank left or right. So there are no Immelman turns, loops, barrel rolls, or whatnot, but you can control speed (sort of) and the scissor turns to remain in position on your target. By speed control, I mean that there’s a button to slow down and there’s another button to speed up, but your air speed is largely controlled by climbing and diving. I can hold down the Slow button to the point that the propeller stops, but I never stalled. When I let go of the button the plane keeps flying though you can hear the engine sputtering. The Fast button is a small boost, but wasn’t useful for escape or anything. There didn’t seem to be a limit as to how long I could hold the buttons down either.

The only real frustration I had was the bombing runs. While you’re flying the bomber, there is a crosshair that shows where your bomb should hit. The problem is that you cannot see the thing unless you do the steep dive, drop, and pull up manuever. Realistic and true, yes, but it was hard enough finding a target let alone figuring out when and how to dive-bomb the wretched things. This is certainly lack of talent on my part rather than a design issue.

Attack on Pearl Harbor is fun. If you read anything else into this review remember that one point first. The demo just released is getting high praise, and I can understand why. The campaigns are neither historically accurate, nor lengthy. Different missions come and go depending on the date so you aren’t stuck doing the entire run as a bomber, or a torpedo dropper, or a all-guns-front fighter. The caveat is that you only get so many planes. If you crash your only torpedo plane you have to wait until you earn another one with so many kills.

I was unable to partake in multiplayer LAN since no one else I have access to has access to the game. Internet play was easy and didn’t require a long wait. However, there were some problems with latency, warping, and many kills I thought were mine were accredited with the player hosting the server itself; presumably with the least amount of lag. Given the ease-of-use and role-based balance I still managed to enjoy the game. By role-based balance I mean that the fighters have pretty much the same characteristics on both sides. They have roughly the same speeds, turning radius, and firepower. Differences between the Zeke and the Corsairs are subtle enough, if present at all, to make it an even match of wits. Fighters get all their guns up front, where bombers get an AI co-pilot to protect their six. Too bad its not two players in one plane, but we can hope the day will come.

Certainly this will be a LAN-party favorite, and Internet multiplay holds promise. The single-player dogfighting isn’t enormously challenging and the AI is mediocre, but does offer some semblance of practice against multiple targets. The campaigns in the game are fairly short. After each mission, you are often presented with your choice of assignments. Sometimes there’s only one option, but over the course of the campaign you are given options to try different types of sorties. There are dogfights, bombing runs, escort, and even patrols to fly. If a mission has multiple parts to it (i.e. escort the bomber, or be the bomber) you have a choice in planes, but it will not let you pick an inappropriate model. No, you cannot torpedo the enemy’s runway.

It’s a good game. The controls are simple and offer a variety of methods to execute them. Anyone can pick up and play without worrying about where the ignition switch is, or worrying about how to land if you survived the mission. You never run out of gas and you never run out of ammo.

The hardcore simulations experts may not enjoy the usual advantage they have with experience in flying a plane with a realistic model, but they can still enjoy that they are “flying” and doing it with anyone whose company they enjoy.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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