This week I’m going with a true arcade classic, which also happened to be the first arcade game I purchased for my own collection. Images via KLOV.
1942 by Capcom
Players: 1-2 (not simultaneous)
Before Capcom became the well known developer that it is today, they had a small presence in the arcade scene. 1942 is one of the fruits of those days. Play through memorable (although not exact to historical detail) battles in the Pacific from WW2 in this scrolling overhead shooter that was the first of many types of these games that raged on in arcades of the 80’s and early 90’s.
You take control of a WWII fighter plane and you alone must face the literally endless onslaught of Japanese fighter planes for a total of 32 levels. Hoards of planes who never let up on you lay down blankets of bullets and undertake wild kamikaze attacks all in an effort to take you down. While this may sound pretty basic on the surface, 1942 embodied what would become a pillar of vertical shmups later on, including power-ups, tons of enemies, bosses and of course a level of difficulty that only a skilled player can overcome (or a pocket loaded with plenty of coins). The difficulty is so hard in part to the fact that you can only take one hit and you lose a life. The game does imploy a roll feature that if timed right can save your life but you only have a limited number of rolls, so be sure to use those wisely. When it comes to shooters 1942 is a classic, barely giving you a moments rest before it throws another round of enemies at you to take down. While the selection of enemies you face may not scream variety in comparison to other games that came along later (such as Raiden), the way they attack is random enough to keep you wanting more. The boss type plane is difficult to deal with due to it’s gigantic size and the fact that it takes many shots to bring down while it sprays the screen with bullets you must dodge in addition to avoiding a direct collision with the plane. Most enemies are easy to take down but they can quickly flood the screen and overwhelm you by their sheer numbers. It’s this almost non-stop action that makes 1942 such a great game.
1942 is not an easy shmup, but part of it’s charm lies in the difficulty. The game is unforgiving, but it does manage to keep you coming back for more. Holding a competition with your friends to see who can get the highest score without continuing can be quite enjoyable.
The graphics for the time were great although one may crave a little more animation in their 2D titles these days. You rarely see any slow down or flicker and the color is sufficient for this type of game. Many sprites fill the screen with ease and the explosions are pretty good. It also featured some very large sprites to push home the impression. For the first part of the game the background is nothing more than the ocean, so it is a little bland when it comes to backgrounds but you can find worse from the same time period.
It has one tune to play along to, which isn’t the catchiest tune I’ve heard from an arcade game but certainly not the worst(it’s better than Phoenix at the very least). The sounds one hears are fairly basic and there is no voice so don’t expect much from 1942 in this department.
I like the control scheme, it’s easy to use (you get one joystick and two action buttons, fire or roll) and it has an ambidextirous layout as well with buttons on both sides.
Nothing to really say here, the original cabinet wasn’t one that turned heads and the one I have is a conversion. The original did the job but could have used some better side art but the marquee conveys the game very well.
Overall, if you see this one in your local arcade, give it a try. And be ready with enough coins in your pocket as well as the game is guarenteed to burn through those if you wish to face the challenge to the end.