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Attack on Pearl Harbor was first demonstrated at the San Diego Comic-con 2007. It is a semi-realistic flight simulator in which players can have random dogfights or play as either USAAF pilot Douglas Knox or Japanese pilot Zenji Yamada. Like Ace Combat, it is highly streamlined and skips realism in exchange for gameplay. Aircraft carry unlimited ammunition, limited only by overheating (machine guns) and reloading times (rockets, bombs, and torpedoes) It can be controlled via the mouse, a joystick, or an Xbox 360 controller. The WiiWare version was released on July 5, 2010 as Pearl Harbor Trilogy - 1941: Red Sun Rising.
Aircraft can be separated into three distinct categories.
- Fighters include the A6M Zero, the P-40 Warhawk, the F4U Corsair, and the Supermarine Seafire. They are highly manoeuvrable and sport a single rocket as a secondary weapon. They are best used against less manoeuvrable divebombers and torpedo bombers. They are also the only type of aircraft that do not sport a rear gunner.
- Dive-bombers include the SBD Dauntless, the Nakajima J1N "Gekko", and the Aichi D3A. Carrying a trio of bombs, they are most effective against surface targets and ships. A white targeting pipper on the ground aids the player in placing their bombs. An AI-controlled rear gunner will assist the player in keeping enemy fighters away.
- Torpedo bombers include the TBF Avenger and the Nakajima B5N "Kate". Both drop a single torpedo that can travel underwater and strike enemy ships from long range. Unlike dive-bombers, which can attack both sea and land targets, torpedoes have no effect when dropped on anything on the land. A rear gunner will aid the player in making torpedo runs. Dropping a torpedo on the deck of a ship seems to have the same effect.
Non-flyable aircraft include the B-25 Mitchell, seen in the campaign. They are heavily armoured and sport multiple rear gun emplacements, making them difficult targets. There are also various other warships, ranging from aircraft carriers to battleships, destroyers, and landing craft. There are also tanks, warehouses, halftracks, and various other ground targets to destroy.
There are four single player campaigns, two for US and two for the Japanese, with cutscenes presented in a comic book-like fashion. Both start at Pearl Harbor and proceed through various battles, such as Wake, Midway, and Coral Sea in chronological order. Unlike most games, it is possible to continue a campaign after failing a mission - however, planes are deducted from the player's reserve, and the campaign ends in defeat once the player runs out of planes.
Dogfight mode is similar to the Skirmish or Instant action modes of play in other games. After selecting a venue, weather conditions (which do not affect controls, only visibility), aircraft type, and difficulty, the computer will endlessly spawn AI craft, always of the opposing nation, at the player. There are three possible victory conditions which the player can choose from:
- Time Attack - the player must survive for a certain time limit (minimum 5 minutes, maximum 20, in increments of 5 minutes) to win.
- King of the Sky - the player must destroy a certain number of enemy craft (minimum 5 enemies, maximum 20, in increments of 5 enemies) to win.
- Fly and Die - the game ends when the player is shot down.
There are two modes of LAN or Internet play - either a deathmatch in which last plane flying wins, or a team deathmatch in which the last team surviving wins.