Published on March 11th, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell0
1943: The Battle of Capcom…I MEAN Midway
Year: 1987 // System: NES // Publisher & Developer: Capcom // Designer: Yoshiki Okamoto // Genre: Overhead Scrolling Shooter // Atmosphere: Aerial Dogfight//WWII/Pacific Theater
>>> Man, after reviewing all these overhead shooters for Capcom, I’ve basically memorized the legendary name “Yoshiki Okamoto,” the major gear that kept the behemoth gaming company’s clock ticking (just look at the Street Fighter series. He had a role over there as a freaking producer. Dude was everywhere!). In 1987 Okamoto followed up the smashing hit at the arcades, 1942, with an even better game in 1943: The Battle of Midway. Now, I’ve only played both games on the NES, so I have no idea what they were like in the arcades, but the differences in the first two games in the 1942 series were pronounced in ways I didn’t know were possible. First off, you’re given this white shadowy plane thing that they call the “Super Ace” and expect you to do amazing things with it. Well, it’s a pretty big plane, which means it’s slow to move around, and it’s more susceptible to taking hits. In 1943 your plane was a small little red fighter that could zig-zag its way through enemy fire and take MULTIPLE HITS!!!
In 1942, you could collect powerups to give you more firepower, and a diving maneuver that allowed you to dodge incoming fire. But in 43 you didn’t NEED that stupid barrel roll move because you could take MULTIPLE HITS!!! This did, however, change how you went after powerups. The powerups you got from those looping lines of red jets could change form as you fired at them in ’43, and for the most part you were trying to turn them into fuel which would allow you to take more hits, because, well, you wanted to survive. If you reached 0 and an enemy fighter shot you, or their attack power was stronger than the amount of fuel that you had left, then you went down, losing the one and only life you had to start the game with. Your special attack in 1943 was not a barrel roll, but instead a lightning bolt that killed all on-screen enemies. Strangely enough, the AI in ’43 was balanced with that of the first game, but what truly defined this sequel as the better game was the presentation.
The gameplay itself was faster and twice as gripping in ’43. The music was- there!!! I mean, there was MUSIC!!! And happy, upbeat music (although that “LOW ON FUEL” track, which for me plays a LOT, is the most annoying track on this side of retro gaming) keeps you going in this game, whereas in 1942, there was NO music during actual gameplay. Now the levels were still pretty repetitive, but there was a lot more to see. Clouds streamlined past you as you glimpsed at differentiated land masses below. Enemy planes were coming at you at a faster rate and giving you a sense of the chaos that goes along with war. Levels transition as you descend over the battleships and rain fire upon the enemy troupe. Levels are easier to fail, but more of a challenge because of that. You don’t face the same bosses over and over, as your enemies range from carriers in the sea to airships in the sky. The faster gameplay to me turns 1943 into way more of a challenging game in the long run, but with everything all actiony and speedy and backed up by great music, I simply cannot go back to the original.
Challenge: 8/Great- This is a hardass game. Don’t let the high health count fool you for a second. You better be seeking out each and every POW there is to find, because that HP of your is decreasing one at a time, baby. And with only one life to win this thing? Man, you better push things to the LIMITS! This game was a tad too hardcore for me, but the AI is way more engaging than in the first game simply due to faster animations.
Handling: 7/Solid- Your plane handles like a zipline, although I am fairly disappointed you can’t really do anything with your plane except shoot. At least in 1942 you could barrel roll. A rather boring character if you ask me. Aw well. At least it’s a lot nimbler than that clunky piece of sap you piloted in the original.
Innovation: 7/Solid- The improvements from 1942 were interesting, to say the least. To stretch out how many hits you could take was a fresh idea, but to transition from three lives to one felt to me to be a little harsh. The difficulty level came out to be the same, but the changes did change your playing style in 1943 as opposed to its predecessor.
Core Experience: 9/Outstanding- The levels were beautiful for an aerial combat game, the enemy AI were well rendered, the adjustability of your plane’s attributes (flashback to Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing and how you could change your car’s setup) accounted for various approaches to each level, the music was excellent (except for that god-awful “YOU’RE GONNA DIE” piece that looped all the goddamn time), and the game was adrenaline-rushing, high-paced fun. Destroying things never felt so good…at least until you got to the SNES and onward.
OVERALL: 8/Great- This was possibly Okamoto’s best overhead scroller, and it’s interesting because this is definitely one of the last titles you’d think of. Nope, it fell between the cracks of the tone set by its predecessor, and the western style of Gun.Smoke. But this game smoked them all with its relentless beatdowns and formidable AI. Play this overhead scroller FIRST, or LAST if you prefer to save the best for….well, you know…