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1942 Review

Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: 1985 Also On: None

What in the hell is this? There is no other way to lead into a review of
this title. You know, I was scanning some comments on the internet for this
game to see what people had to say, just for my own knowledge. Some were
quite good. What? Did you actually play this game? Or were you too
nostalgic to look at it objectively? This is the only possibility. I myself
often revel in crappy games from my youth for this very reason, but when it
comes to looking at them aside from how they make me feel, the truth is
often quite harsh. Why anyone would want to sit and play this game the
entire way through is beyond me. I, unfortunately, went about this task just
for you much to my chagrin. It’s a terrible shooter with some decent
features here and there, but it should never, ever warrant a high rating
score on any gaming website anywhere. If you find a site that permits such a
review never, ever go to that site ever again.

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1942 is playable, but that’s it, you can simply not find anything redeeming.
It’s not historical in the sense of revolutionizing the “shooter genre”
whatsoever, so stop right there before you begin to argue, there were plenty
of shooting games before this and around at the same time that set the bar.
For history, all one can say is it was the first game Capcom released for
the NES, that’s it. Some people erroneously believe this to be the first
arcade title they released as well but this can’t be further from the truth.
Their first arcade title was, in fact, another shooter game called Vulgus.
Older shooters may have been simple, but they presented and played well,
such as Exerion for the Famicom or Asteroids for the Atari 2600. This does
little of that, if at all. It’s a bit tricky too, for it seems one who
decides to play 1942 goes through three stages of “1942ness.” I’ll get to
this in the “gameplay” category, so let’s wait for that and go to the
graphics for now.

This is an early title, way before programmers really learned how to milk
the capabilities of the NES. However, I know they could have done more than
this. Just look at Twin Bee for the Famicom or Gradius a year later to see
what I mean. I just know more could have been done with this arcade port.
The title screen has been done well considering, but in the game proper
things start to become drab. You control a World War II fighter plane that
appears to be the Lockheed P38 Lightning (though it’s not specified
anywhere) with nonexistent animation. It doesn’t move it’s wings left or
right as you bank around, it is mysteriously beyond physics when it comes to
motion. Nothing gets to me more than shooters that animate the main
character/craft like this. Give some sense of movement, please, it just
looks awful because your object appears dead and static. Plenty of enemy
planes are flying about in a variety of ways, so I know they could have done
the same to your plane. Guess they figured screw it, though it does do a
“loop the loop” to avoid enemies. Maybe they should have scrapped that and
animated the basic movements.

Enemy planes, one may assume from my comments, are animated well. They take
the same series of planes and have them flying around over and over in as
many ways as possible. Good job with them in this aspect, but like
everything else in this game they don’t have much detail at all, just
splashes of color thrown together to suggest shape. In addition to them are
some medium sized planes with no animation whatsoever. They simply go up the
screen, say hello and leave. That’s figurative, obviously. I guess they
don’t want to fire at you, which is strange since you’re coming to attack
their country. I noticed one with a bent blade and when you see it you
clearly notice it isn’t moving. Aside from them you have these large planes
that pop up occasionally. Thankfully, they fire at you and are one of the
two most well designed graphical features in 1942. I take that back, they
are the most well designed feature of this title. The only other one that
came to mind for a moment was the giant bomber “boss” you fight three times
overall. Details on this plane are a bit more involved, but still not as
good as the larger planes. Plus, to make it completely worthless, the
programmers did something I’ve only seen in the worst of unlicensed games.
Basically, the giant plane is placed directly onto the background you’re
flying over. So, when it comes towards you they make it appear to be moving
by simply attaching it to the “bottom” of the playing field and moving that
instead. Awful. You can clearly see the area around it marked for separation
from the ocean scenery and when you catch sight of it you’ll look at it as
more of backdrop than an enemy since they just keep moving the screen up and
down and didn’t even bother to suggest motion anywhere else.

When it “crashes,” they simply added some lame explosions around its wings
and the screen scrolls up to make it appear as though it were falling into
the sea. Yeah, kind of hard to “see” that. Plus, this game does something I
despise. Every enemy that can fire fires the same shot as everything else. I
wasn’t aware the Japanese reused ammunition for every fighting plane during
the war. I guess it must have been pretty economical and certainly saved
time, as it did for the programmers here. All these enemies are then thrown
around, flying over various islands and land masses to mimic the Pacific
Theater of the war when the US was engaging the Japanese. Kind of funny this
was programmed in Japan. Anyway, I get the point, you’re flying over the
islands and such, but since there are thirty-two levels to go through they
tend to look the same after some time. They only mix it up here and there
with some desert looking areas and eventually a “city” in the last few
levels that amounts to nothing more than randomly placed blue and white
blocks. The desert segments are not long, which is good because the white
background makes your white plane almost invisible. The “cities” don’t
really look like cities at all, very poor job on that, it looks rather like
you’re flying over a child’s bedroom with a green carpet and building blocks
strewn about. With no ending to speak of, this all becomes so monotonous
you’ll want everything to end or eventually get swallowed into this weird
void where you suddenly step outside of reality as your brain tries to
divert your perception so it doesn’t get bored. Very disappointed with the
graphics in 1942, compared to the arcade version they’re awful. I know they
could have done better with this.

Oh, good God. I can’t believe this. If this game had anything redeeming
about it the Sound category alone would have driven it straight through the
icy tenth ring of Hell, up through the mount of purgatory, and then back
down again for good measure. Okay, okay, I know this is Capcom’s first NES
release, but come on guys. Exerion, a game released in Japan but not the US
a few years prior, has great sound effects and pretty much no music at all.
This is just unacceptable. The soundtrack is without a doubt the most
irritating, most grating, most worthless and most hideous theme you will
ever hear. It never ends except during the cut segments between levels and
the game over screen. What does it sound like? Basically, imagine someone
striking at a snare drum using a brush to mimic a military march and then
add over that an insistent, ear-piercing beep that does not seem to
represent any kind of musical instrument or sound whatsoever. That’s it. It
just keeps going and going and eventually you can longer bear it. It doesn’t
even change during the boss segments. Thankfully, it stops and goes to a
different tune in-between levels, but this is a short respite because it
returns, yet again, without fail. The sound effects are just as bad. Your
gun fire sounds almost identical to the “snare drum” of the music so that
doesn’t help any. When your plane goes down, or the larger planes, this
unexplainable warble rings out, which is literally like the classic “dying
sound” from many an Atari 2600 game. Incredible. How did they manage to make
everything sound so awful? I really can’t believe it. Counting in my head, I
believe 1942 has a total of four sound effects. Unless I missed one or two,
I’m not joking. The only sound that really captures what it tries to capture
is the “loop the loop” when your plane curves under and up. It does sound
decent, I must say, and has that feel of a plane spinning in the air. This
is all though, everything else in the sound department might as well have
been completely silent because with sound it gets a zero and without I might
have seriously given it at least a “2.”

So forget the presentation, what’s the gameplay like? Basically, it’s the
same as pretty much every vertical scrolling shooter that came after it, to
use that for reference. You control your plane, shooting at enemy planes,
gathering power ups and making it to the end. You start out with a basic
two-bullet shot and the ability to “loop the loop,” which is where you do a
roll and avoid enemies or enemy fire. You can gather more if you collect the
correct power up icon, but otherwise you only have three per level. They’re
pretty much worthless, though they do work. I can’t think of a single time I
used it because it’s just to easy of a game in the first place. That’s the
main problem here, it’s way too easy. Though you fight a slew of small
planes, occasional medium planes and infrequent larger planes topped off
with three boss planes throughout the entire game, their attack patterns are
very basic and easy to call and most of them don’t fire at you. The medium
planes simply appear from the bottom of the screen, and the only time
they’ll actually kill you is if you’re too far down and they happen to come
suddenly because you can’t see them beforehand. The larger planes can be
downed with even the basic shot in a few seconds with no problem. Even if
you don’t take them out, the bullet pattern they throw at you is hardly a
challenge to avoid. The boss planes aren’t even worth the effort they tried
to put into them. They fire a slew of bullets in a spray pattern, but I
suppose this is the sole reason the Japanese lost the Pacific Front, because
this giant beast of a craft only shoots towards the bottom of the screen.
You can just move to the edge of either of its wings and fire away. Somehow,
this little attack at the very tip of one side or the other can take out the
entire craft. No series of cannons to take out in sequence or something,
just the wing tips. Either one, take your pick and you win the war.

The power ups are decent, but they could have used some work. One gives you
a more powerful shot with more bullets flying out. The other destroys every
enemy presently on the screen. The third provides you with two smaller
planes on either side shooting along with you. The fourth and fifth type
give you points. The final power up gives you an additional “loop the loop.”
Thanks. The increase shot power icons are pretty nice, but not very flashy.
Nothing beats having fireballs flying out or some kind of ridiculous wave of
energy. I know, I know, this is a World War II simulation, so I won’t judge
too much. It’s just something that’s nice in a shooter. Each level lasts
about three to five minutes depending on how many times you die. You only
have three lives to start with but can easily gather extras by gaining
points. I think it’s every twenty-thousand, which is really simple to do in
1942 because you take out at least fifty planes a minute, each worth fifty
points (more for the bigger ones, of course). With the “infinite continue”
factor at play here, you can just keep going and going forever if you like,
minus your score; ruins the challenge significantly.

Really though, the above features don’t necessarily make it a terrible game
in itself. Though it is too easy, I found that players of this game go
through three stages of realization, or phases of “1942ness” as I mentioned
above. Allow me to elaborate. Notice yet that I haven’t gone into great
detail about the levels. Well, let me just be straight up here, there are
thirty-two of them. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get through this
game in under two hours, but considering occasional slips and lapses of
interest/concentration, look to be playing this game at least two, if not
more. This makes for a nice, long game, and that’s not the problem really,
the problem here stems solely from the monotony of 1942. Every level pretty
much looks, feels and plays the same. There is little variation. The weak
looking “cities” don’t arrive until the last four levels, which makes sense
I suppose considering the island geography and such, but still, by the time
you see them you’re lucky if you’re paying attention to the actual game
instead of it just waiting for the ending. The boss planes, which you’d
think would mix it up a bit, are all the same and only appear three times in

The segments between each level involve you pulling your P38 back onto
the battleship and it helps to set things apart only slightly. Even so, you
see the same battleships thirty-two times, so even it becomes old quickly.
Wait a second, now that I think about it, would it really be possible to
have thirty-two battleships just sitting around to land on? Hmmmm, something
to research.

At any rate, here is what happens to said player of 1942.
First, you’re a bit taken back by the poor graphics and awful sound
depending on what you’re used to. Then, the game starts to sink in and you
actually find yourself enjoying it. However, say about twenty levels later,
your brain suddenly says to itself “God what in the world is happening, why
isn’t this ending?” From this, it has to readjust its attention to avoid a
nervous breakdown, sinking you into a pit of sadness, despair, rage and
hatred towards all who created this title. Seriously, I swear I’ve seen this
reaction verified in two other people. Maybe I got a bit poetic about the
psychology here, but I swear, you’ll hate it, like it and then despise it.
No question about it.

1942 was not necessarily ahead of its time, but it wasn’t behind either. It
was released during the early surge of shooters in video game history, so it
does have some features not found in others and is a bit original in certain
respects. However, I can really only say it deserves historical merit for
solidifying the vertical shooter, not the entire genre, and even so it
didn’t really break new ground in that respect. Even in so far as a
historical shooter it didn’t do anything new, with an even more interesting
game, Sky Destroyer, coming out a month prior. That game has air-to-surface
torpedoes too. I’m not going to score too low here, but I certainly want to
make it known that this game does not deserve all of the historical
recognition it receives. It’s a case of a mistakenly popular game gaining
merit through popularity, not fact.

I would never ever play this game again. The only reason I did was to
complete it and give a review making note of all flaws and possible interest
to be found therein. If you want, play a few levels and put it away.
Seriously, the levels are all the same and the ending isn’t worth the time.
To get there takes way too long. They could have shortened this game by half
and it would have been a decent length, might have even brought the score up
a bit. It’s nice you get a “percent destroyed” tally when you’re done, or
when you die, but even that doesn’t make me want to play again because I
simply don’t care. It’s not possible to get a perfect score. You want to
know what the ending is though? Here, I’ll tell you right now. Text, just
text, and they didn’t even spell correctly. “Congratulation [sic].” Thanks
guys, real good, I mean come on is it that hard to translate a single word?

In conclusion, let it be known to anyone thinking of purchasing, borrowing
or playing this game that it’s nothing to bother with. It fails in every
category. It may be worth a five minute go if you’re trying to play every
single shooter in history to break a record or something to that effect, but
simply for entertainment or a nice, relaxing release after a stressful day,
forget it. This game breeds stress and all foolish gamers whom approach it
are overcome by hallucinations of thirty-two battleships and boss planes
attached to backgrounds. What in the world did that mean? Nothing, nothing
at all, do you see what 1942 did to my reasoning abilities? Who knows how
long until it’s back to normal. Probably thirty-two levels or so.

Graphics: 2.5
Sound: 0
Gameplay: 3.5
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 0
Final: 2
Written by Stan Review Guide