Monday, March 4, 2013

NES Replay: 1942

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Released: 1986
Kind of Weird Feelings: Yes
I say that there were only three companies that really understood what the NES was capable of and how to push it to its limits: Nintendo, Konami and Capcom.

Capcom started in 1983 and quickly became a force in game development. They formed from two companies merging together, and the name "Capcom" is a portmanteau of "capsule computers," which was their name for arcade machines. However, while they started out in arcades, it didn't take long for them to take control of the NES. In short order, they were making some the greatest NES games, and the first one we're going to cover is 1942.

However, there are some weird things about 1942 that gave me pause. Tell me if this seems weird to you:

  1. In 1986, Capcom was a completely Japanese company.
  2. 1942 is set in the year 1942. It's not an alternate-history 1942, where there are aliens and laser beams or anything. This game appears to really be set in 1942.
  3. Your enemies are Japanese planes. I'm not making that up, either. Look carefully at the screenshot below.
  4. Therefore, we can conclude that 1942 is about World War II, and in the game you're killing the ancestors of the developers en masse.

Correct me if I'm wrong on any of these points, because I would love to not have a twinge of guilt every time I blow up an enemy plane in this game.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this game, but imagine the furor that would erupt if a developer today made a game where you did nothing but mow down wave after wave of American soldiers en route to destroy Washington DC. I mean, this is weird, right?

Either way, that's way too much thinking about a game that's clearly supposed to be nothing more than a mindless yet challenging shooter. Even at this early juncture, Capcom already had a good handle on the NES, being able to show an astounding number of on-screen enemies and bullets. The animation is fantastic, and some of the bigger planes look really imposing.

That's to be expected, since the producer of 1942 was Yoshiki Okamoto, who eventually ended up co-designing Street Fighter II. He's had an interesting career. He went from Capcom, where he worked on games through Resident Evil, and ended up with his own company where he made Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom (which is highly underrated).

There are a few problems with this game, though. The music in the arcade game is supposed to sound like a drum track with military-style whistles, but on the NES it just sounds chirpy and tinny. Plus, the levels are incredibly repetitive. You'll see the same few planes, the same few islands, and the same ocean below for the first several levels, and it doesn't get much better the further you go.

That being said, 1942 is still a pretty fun game. It's just the right amount of challenging, and it's neat to see that Capcom was able to work wonders on the NES right from the beginning.

Final Rating:

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