1942 was the game that cemented Capcom’s reputation as a high quality games developer. It would be their fourth game and first major franchise, spawning a number of hit sequels such as the classic 1943 arcade game. In this article, we play and review the series in order, giving you some background and handy hints along the way.
1942 is the first game in the series and would set the tropes for what was to come. Taking place in the Pacific during World War II, you pilot a Lockheed P-38 Lightning airplane in a battle for the skies. The aim of the game is to reach Tokyo and destroy the Japanese airforce in a vertically scrolling shooter game.
On the way you encounter enemy airplanes, gunships and come under heavy fire. Using power ups, rolls and loops, you must avoid destruction while making your way to the end of each stage.
Being the first in the series, 1942 is obviously a little more simplistic than its offspring. In many ways, it reminds me of Galaga but with new sprites and backgrounds.
What really differentiates it though is the ability to perform loops. The loop allows you to dodge enemy fire but is both a blessing and curse. Often when you loop, by the time you come out of it the screen is filled with enemies that you should have been shooting down. This can put you in a worse situation than the one you tried to escape. Loops are also limited, so you often find yourself hitting the loop button in a panic and getting no response.
The game is tough. The enemy formations can often leave you hedged in, especially when the larger enemies with more firepower arrive on screen. Bosses are also on a time limit, meaning you may have to repeat the stage if you don't off them in time. Stages can also get a little repetitive with the first two mainly being over sea, essentially a blue background. However, it is fairly playable and the World War II narrative is a really interesting concept.
1943: The Battle of Midway
The 1943 arcade game is a huge step up from it's predecessor. As soon as the game booted up I instantly felt a million miles away from the last one, though they were only released 3 years apart.
A constant soundtrack which fills the game with an excitement lacking in the last was the first thing to hit me. Adding to this was the step up in graphical quality. The flat blue expanse of sea from the last game now has varied tones, with clouds and aircraft shadows to give much more depth. Between stages you are shown some awesome cut scenes, often of your plane flying away from the burning wreckage of the boss you just destroyed.
The gameplay also improves drastically. Power ups now turn your loop function into a special, force of nature move. Although quick, the lightning attack or giant tsunami looks amazing and can help clear an enemy filled screen in an instant. A new depth of enemies also gives a more urgent feel to the game. Within the first part of stage one, I had already encountered a number of gunships, planes and boats.
The 1943 arcade game is a highlight of the series for me and a huge improvement on 1942.
1943: Kai Midway Kaisen
This version of the game was exclusive to Japan and had a number of differences and enhancements. However, I feel it is a little inferior to the standard 1943 arcade game.
The reason for this change was due to a port to the PC Engine (read up here if you are not sure about this Japanese console). Colour palettes have been edited and enemies are much more aggressive. This game had a brand new soundtrack and new special weapons are added.
What it lacks however is the urgency inherent in the last 1943. Graphically it is somewhere between the previous two games and the new soundtrack is just not as intense. It also replaces the Lockheed with a Boeing Stearman E75 Bi Plane as the player. This is the only game in the franchise without this plane.
1941: Counter Attack
Counter attack feels like it needs a lot more skill than the 1943 arcade game and Kai. The button bashing shooting element is still there, but a lot more tricks and tactics are apparent.
For instance, the placement of power ups is always far enough away to draw you a little bit too far into the fray. This makes it question if it is actually worth it.
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Stages are also more than just backgrounds. In this version, they are much more interactive, bouncing you around canyons and narrowing the field of play. Scenery becomes interactive and you can blowup pill boxes and cranes in ports.
19XX: The War Against Destiny
The best thing about this version is the choice of three fighter planes at that start of the game, which each have different strengths and weaknesses.
Very similar in style to counter attack, this version adds very little apart from more of a futuristic feel. The mission intro gives you a laser guided targeting animation. Power ups are mainly huge lasers and enemies are often more modern, stealth type planes. Possibly a little less enjoyable than counter attack because of it.
1944: The Loop Master
This is probably the most enjoyable of the franchise and a great update. The opening video is spectacular, resplendent in swooping fighter planes and scrolling pacific scenery.
Of all the installments, this is the most exciting. The nineties heavy metal soundtrack really helps the action, as do the improved sound effects. Of course, graphics are much updated with a huge colour pallette. It also has lots of really cool little touches, such as the way your pilot ejects then parachutes away when you lose a life.
Your loop now releases a huge airstrike of missiles against your enemy. Power ups are much more useful, with wider ranging guns and formations than previously on offer. Well worth your time.
What was your favourite installment? Let us know in the comments below
Thanks to www.mobygames.com for all pictures.