1943: The Battle of Midway Review

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

After what was one of the worst shooters in history, 1942, Capcom came back at the video game world with the sequel, 1943: The Battle of Midway. Yet again I’m faced with a bit of a problem. This is actually an arcade port, so the question is do I base it on that or look at it only as it applies to the NES? I think this time around I’ll ignore the arcade issue somewhat, but remember that I’m well aware which came first. Anyway, 1943 is another shooter, pretty much the same format as 1942 but with a ton of upgrades and more variety. It’s definitely a vast improvement over the other, but still has some faults that make it a little unbearable at times.

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Graphically, 1943 is good overall and many steps above its predecessor. You have detailed animations on all of the planes, though a few are a bit strange because they simply go against basic laws of physics. There are a variety of enemy fighters in this game with tons of different formations, very similar to the SMS game Bomber Raid, which managed to use the same enemy characters over and over in different attack modes to produce the illusion of variety. Here, you have a bunch of different sized enemy fighters ranging from smaller than your Lockheed to filling the entire screen. Plus, as a bonus, there are sea attack modes where you go closer to the surface of the water and take on giant aircraft carries and destroyers. Nice touch. However, this game also has the problem of doing all this within about twenty-four long rounds, so it can get a bit tedious because the backgrounds don’t really offer much to look at once you see the bulk of them. Eventually they’re just repeating, especially when you want the game to end and lose a few lives in the process, forced to look at the same planes over and over again. Still, I suppose it wasn’t exactly easy to recreate a battle that primarily took place over the sea. Considering this I won’t bump the score down too far. Overall, good job, but could have used just a bit of improvement, a lot of the graphics are simply reused over and over so it may have been better if they threw some special features in here or different aspects of the game.

The sound has definitely improved over the incessant beep-beeping of 1942 and I’m happy to say is actually tolerable. Finally, for the love of god I hear good music and sound effects! The opening track fits the military theme they’re going for and the in-game themes are spectacular. They’re very energetic and capture the feeling of dogfighting, are well programmed and thankfully last long enough that you don’t even notice when they loop. Excellent scores in-between levels and during boss segments make for a great presentation sound-wise. Unfortunately, I have gripes with one of the musical tracks and I’m sure most players will as well. When your energy reaches twenty you get this very annoying, repetitive, blipping track that won’t go away until you bring the level back up. It’s probably the most annoying thing I’ve ever heard because it’s been put into a game where the music is generally great overall. Still, other than this everything in the sound deparment for 1943: The Battle of Midway is superb, including the sound effects. The bullets, the blasts, the destruction; excellent sounds to really keep you into the action in spite of the repetitive graphics.

1943 has basic gameplay. It’s a vertically scrolling shooter, not much else to say. It’s one of the earliest, sure, but not the first so I can’t really say anything to that effect. However, I can say that they’ve taken the suck that is 1942 and upgraded significantly to the point where the game is actually playable the entire way through. Well, for the most part. First off, you fire as fast as you press, so the faster you press the more bullets you throw out. Second, the power-ups in this game are more varied. The only problem I had with them is that one essentially trumps all the others and another is worthless, even though it can deflect bullets. Problem is that though it can deflect bullets, there’s so damn many of them coming at you you usually shoot bullets before you get a chance to shoot planes and end up getting hit. Thankfully, and this is the third feature to mention, you have more than one hit. In fact, you have a ton of hits. The programmers threw in this energy level thing that constantly runs down. You start fairly high and won’t die until it reaches zero. The more you’re hit, the faster it goes down, but it will continue to steadily drop regardless if you’re hit or not.

I suppose this is meant to represent fuel, but it can get a bit annoying. This is a game, I really don’t care about realism here, and in fact it’s not realistic to get hit and lose energy and still lose it while moving and dodging attacks. May have been a better idea to keep the energy stable unless you’re hit. It gets really draining later on, especially during the final boss segment because by the time you finish off all of the bosses and are approaching the final hoorah you have no energy and thus only one hit. Luckily, you can take out orange planes and collect power to recharge, but sometimes they don’t provide enough of these often to avoid dying and more importantly to turn off that friggen song. It seems when you need them most they are elsewhere, apparently supplying other planes with Pow. You can also upgrade your weapons by finding secret locations that add some incentive to look around instead of blasting away like mad, but I must say even though I increased my powers to their maximum it seemed to have little effect in the game. If it actually had any, it was too minute to notice and they should have done a bit with that. If my bullets are supposed to be more powerful why do they only seem a tad, teeny-weeny, itty-bitty bit more powerful? I expect freaking flames shooting out and planes falling left and right like in Bomber Raid. At full power I still have to hit some of the basic planes more than once? What the hell?

The real problem with the gameplay for me is the game length, it’s too long. Sure, they’re trying to recreate a sea battle here, but they should have thrown in some more variety. Perhaps bombing segments where you take out ships instead of flying to the surface in the same freaking plane to shoot at them. Is that even possible? Yeah, that’s right, it isn’t. I know they could have done something. 1943 can get a bit irritating in this regard, especially later on if you happen to die, because it’s one of those games where without good weapons you have to essentially memorize enemy movements to have a chance of getting anywhere. When you do, you get to the final boss segment and regardless of how much life you have, by the time you get to the very last monstrosity, you have little remaining because of the damn timer issue. The one good thing is that they threw in a password feature so you can punch the game out of the console and come back to it later, but it doesn’t help much because you still start out with basic weapons when you continue. Even with the cheat codes you can put in it’s incredibly difficult near the end. They definitely improved on 1942, but there was still work to be done in comparison to other shooters from this era. Need I mention Gradius again for the quadrillionth time? Get a clue.

For creativity they really didn’t do too much different here. It’s another plane battle taking place during the Japanese front. Okay, we saw that in 1942 so what did you do different with the sequel? As you can realize at this point, they really didn’t do much other than upgrade the graphics, sound and some aspects of the gameplay, it’s essentially the same game otherwise. This is why I really wish they added different segments to this like a bomber to control, perhaps different perspectives instead of continuously vertically scrolling environments, I don’t know, anything, there isn’t enough here. I suppose they wanted to get it right with this one, but as I always say, if you’re doing an arcade port, for the love of god add something different to it so I’ll want to play it at home. It’s not like I can find this in the arcades anymore, but I probably would have preferred it to this.

I can say wholeheartedly I haven’t played this game much because it gets so aggravating at times. It’s really fun at first, but then gets so mind-numbing due to the repetitive gameplay, that damn danger tune and the final level that I really just gave up on it, which is rare for me. I normally play games the whole way through regardless of how bad they are, and it takes something really bad or really annoying to make me toss it aside. I was pretty pissed about this game for several days. I’ve played some of the most atrocious games in history, but there’s something about well-designed games that are tedious at the same time that makes them occasionally more unbearable than the worst of unlicensed titles. As for the game length, as hinted at, way too long. With the immense nature of this game they should have thrown in something to mix it up because I could hardly stand sitting to play through it, even when I was playing with max weapons. Thankfully, they at least threw in a password feature, but even then you still start the game basic so when you play the last level like this good luck getting anywhere.

In conclusion, I can say that 1943: The Battle of Midway is definitely a title for the NES that you should have at least played if you’re a fan of the system, and maybe even of shooters. It’s leagues beyond 1942, but yet it doesn’t really pull off what they were trying and needed a bit of work to get it perfect in my opinion. Arcade ports aren’t the easiest thing to do and can sometimes turn out hideous, which this isn’t, but it isn’t the best game either. I’m not even sure why I still own it, even from a collecting standpoint. If you’re going to play it, keep the above in mind and don’t say I didn’t tell you to approach with caution.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 5.5
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 3
Final: 5.6
Written by Stan Review Guide

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