Format reviewed: Arcade
Submitted by: Gabe McGrath
One of the biggest gameplay evolutions in the early years of shmups (1978-1984) was the complexity of enemy movements. The baddies in Space Invaders only moved horizontally, before dropping one space down. Galaxian’s baddies added “diving”. Galaga’s enemies learnt to swirl around, and loop underneath you. These were mere entrees, to a vertical shmup where death would come at you from all directions.
In 1984, Capcom’s programmers moved away from space themes, and looked to World War 2 for inspiration. The result, was 1942. It didn’t sound futuristic like Galaxian or Xevious, but that didn’t matter. 1942 showed that you didn’t need to leave earth to have a shmupping good time.
Piloting a P-38, you’re challenged to complete 32 levels, and destroy the Japanese air fleet. Enemies range from slow diving aircraft, to much faster, agressive jets. There are also mid-level boss aircraft that take a number of shots to destroy. Besides an unlimited supply of bullets, you’re also equipped with 3 “barrel rolls”. The latter is less of a “smart bomb” and more of a “smart dodge”, allowing you to fly over enemies, avoiding a deadly collision.
Powerups (POW) are left by groups of red enemies, and vary from double bullets to smart bombs & extra wingmen. Levels cover both land & water, but unlike other games of this type, the battle is all air-based. At the end of each level, you can land on a friendly carrier for a rest, and an update on your hit/miss percentage.
In 1942, sounds are basic, but very effective. Graphically, it’s only slightly above average. 1942 doesn’t replicate the great leap that Xevious made 2 years earlier, but it’s a wonderful example of a “zone out” shmup. When things get hectic, with multiple bogies looping around you, the only way to survive is to let your subconscious take over.
1942 was converted onto many platforms, and if you’re after the PCB, they’re quite common. A working one will set you back around £25/US$45.