Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Review: 1943: Battle of Midway (NES)

with 2 comments

What Are You Supposed To Do?

This is one of the earliest versions of the vertical shoot-em-up where enemies approach from the top and sides of the screen and attack the player, who is usually located at the bottom.  Your goal is to shoot the planes out of the sky, avoid being shot yourself and prevent your energy from depleting completely.


As a follow-up to 1942, 1943: Battle of Midway places you in the pacific theatre of World War II during the battles at Midway Atoll.  I always felt that this was the more popular of the two titles, but in most cases the arcade version was ported and re-released whereas the NES version is a bit different.  For starters you get to tweak and improve your stats, allowing you to improve your plane and abilities in future levels.  There are also more diverse enemies and bosses that weren’t present in the arcade and I personally feel the levels are longer, although I can’t confirm that.  At first it may be difficult to figure out why you fail a mission in 1943 and you will fail missions time and time again because the game is of the hardest shooters on the platform.  You not only need to keep up with the planes and bullets, but also your energy meter in the lower right corner – if it depletes, you crash.  All kinds of things deplete your energy from what I can tell: it naturally drops with time, every time you get shot and every time you use a charged attack.  Like all titles of this genre, power-ups will drop from certain enemies that can restore your energy, give you a new weapon or increase your number of special attacks.

These are all necessary variables to keep in mind as you begin to progress through the games discouraging 16 levels – or at least that’s how many the arcade version had, I have yet to pass level 8 on the NES.  Each level is separated into two parts, one in the skies above the naval fleet and another closer to the aircraft carriers that ends in a boss battle.  There are no second chances and you need to work fast when finally taking on bosses because you’re fighting against your energy meter running out.  If it does, you get a game over and that’s all she wrote.  Frustrating as this may be, you do have the option to continue at the beginning of the level you died on, but the more difficult the levels get the more heartbreaking it is to get back on the horse.  1943 stems from a time where you needed to be on top of your game and the difficulty is punishing without any caveats.  There’s also no save feature, so you’ll want to do the infamous “leave the console on pause for days at a time” if you want to complete this title – it takes me at least an hour or two to reach level 8 and I’m familiar with the game.  Too bad this isn’t on virtual console, because the ability to save your state (which is available if you emulate the game) would make completing it just slightly less of a chore.

Unlike many shooters on the NES, there are so many enemies moving in different patterns that it can’t be memorized like, say, Life Force because you can’t destroy every enemy on-screen as they approach.  You can know exactly what major obstacles will be coming your way and how to appropriately plan for them and in the early levels know when to grab energy and when to grab a weapon perk.  Thankfully 1943 has some of the most responsive controls on the console, which makes it easy to use twitch reflexes to avoid surprise attacks.  At the same time, it’s a button masher through and through that requires the durability only an NES pad can afford, but it doesn’t take long for your hands to cramp up gripping such a small controller.  This is one of those few instances where the NES Advantage would come in handy despite it’s stiff joystick or even an NES Max for the turbo buttons.  1943: Battle of Midway is a classic that many who grew up with the NES probably played at some point, but given its steep difficulty you probably didn’t make it beyond the early stages.  If you stick with it this title will chew you up, spit you out and beg you to come back for more, but with each new level comes a new sense of accomplishment for the day you might eventually conquer the entire game.  Unfortunately there are so many more balanced and better shooters, even on the NES, that it’s hard to justify spending so much time on this nearly endless and infuriating title.

Final Score: 4 out of 5  (review policy)

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 24, 2012 at 11:37 am

2 Responses

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  1. Its a very fun game, I got to level 21 with lots of practice and taking breaks. I suggest using a joystick.

    darren renvue

    June 5, 2016 at 9:25 pm

  2. a while back, and in the process I saw that this game had an arcade sequel, so I thought it would be fun to see what it would be like on nintendo8 and review it.


    April 12, 2020 at 3:10 pm

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