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Review: 1942 (NES)

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What Are You Supposed To Do?

As far as shooters go, this is as simple as it gets.  You need to navigate your plane and shoot down all other planes.  You are given 3 lives and can collect power-ups for your guns as well as assistant planes.  In a pinch, the A button can be pressed to make you temporarily invulnerable.  You have 32 missions, each one the goal is to go from beginning to end without dying.


Back when the NES was brand new, you would play games to death because there were very few options, both from a budgetary and supply standpoint.  I remember completing Super Mario Bros. once a week for the first six month’s of my life as a gamer and for some reason it never got old.  1942 came out in 1986, the same year that most Americans were able to get their hands on an NES, and it couldn’t be a better suited game.  With 32 long levels and a difficulty curve that is slow and steady, navigating every level is more of a patience game than one of skill.  You may die, you may get a game over, you can continue on the level you died on and fight the good fight.  Most times your game over results from only taking a single life from level to level, so once you’re replenished it’s a piece of cake.  That doesn’t mean the screen won’t fill with tons of enemies and bullets by the time you’re in that seven level home stretch, but by then you should have a good rhythm at how this game navigates.  It will be a taxing and time-consuming ride, though, because it took me nearly four hours to get to level 30 and I had to take breaks to rest my hand.  It felt so classic, though, because like it’s sequel 1943 this game will entice you to leave the console on, paused, until you’re ready to tackle it again.  Like its sequel, I also recommend a turbo controller or Advantage to make the ride less perilous on your carpal tunnel.

1942 is much more widely distributed than its sequel 1943 and this is most likely because it was the initial arcade game to see massive success.  Ironically enough this game is much more simple than its sequel but with a few years difference between them, it’s not all that surprising.  There are only about five enemies in the game and only two or three of them make consistent appearances.  Each level is a bit too familiar with one another so the boring factor can become an issue for the savvy contemporary gamer and even I found myself dozing in those long middle levels.  The sound design is basic – not surprising given that it’s one of the earliest titles, but with the high-pitched army march that tries to emulate the arcade’s more impressive score I’d recommend putting on external music and keeping this one on mute.  Although not the most basic version of 1942 in terms of graphics, the NES port is just a smidge above Atari 5200 standards but back in ’86 I’m sure the scrolling effect was amazing to gamers.  Like the arcade game, this title is intended to be played long periods of time as well as multiple completions and this is one of the few titles that really captures that replay value (albeit a more boring format).  By the time you reach the final battles in the Pacific you’re probably ready to give it a rest, but as one of the first widely successful shoot-em-ups it’s interesting to see where the genre planted its roots.

Final Score:  2 out of 5  (review policy)

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 25, 2012 at 11:07 am

Posted in NES, Reviews

Tagged with , , , ,

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