I wasn't the biggest fan of the 194X series when it was in the arcades but I do remember playing the game at various arcades growing up. This was mostly because I could barely get through the first level on a single quarter which frustrated me to no end. I got my top down top down shooters fix from Xevious guy as I enjoyed the pacing and the ground attack element just a little bit more. That aside the franchise has been around for years and there's a reason for it, it's pretty damn good.
1942: Joint Strike is not a remake of the classic arcade game (like Bionic Commando:Rearmed) but rather a new iteration of the the classic series that's been adopted to this generations HD consoles. The move to HD consoles brings a lot of changes, the biggest being the change in the shape of the screen. Capcom has embraced the fact that the screen is now wider than it is tall which changes the game in subtle ways. This is most noticeable with the included co-op mode as each player has a bit more room to roam.
Firing up the game you pick between one of three planes (there is a fourth unlockable plane if you complete the game on it's hardest difficulty level) and start playing. In the co-op mode you get to pick an additional "joint strike" weapon for your plane. These uber weapons are significantly more powerful than missiles you get playing by yourself and include a nice lightning weapon that creates an electrical field between the two aircraft on screen.
There's not a lot to the gameplay as it's straight old school top down shooting. You fly over enemy territory and try to blow everything on the screen up, it's that simple. What's nice about Joint Strike is the variety and quantity of the stuff you get to blow up. There's a nice variety to the levels and the boss fights are strong. They do repeat a little bit they make sense within the context of the game.
The multiplayer in the game works well as you just fire up a game and invite someone over PSN. Once again the machinations of the PlayStation Network work against the game as I get the feeling it's probably a bit easier to get things hooked up over Xbox Live but it still works well. The co-op gameplay is the game's major strength as well as it's weakness. Playing online with John was a blast as there was no lag and the joint strike weapons add a lot to the gameplay and you have to work with your friend to use them correctly (i.e. not just dropping them willy-nilly on bosses...sorry John). The game does ratchet things up a bit when you have a friend to keep things interesting.
The downside is that the game's quarter munching origins show up in the game. As someone who is very "aggressive" in the game I found myself dying at a much faster rate than John did. Unfortunately when I was out of lives I had to sit and watch John play the game. While this is very much true to the arcade experience, in this day in age some mechanism for bringing the other player back would have added a lot to the game. This feels like a bit of a missed opportunity for Capcom that would have taken the game in a new direction.
There are a few other niggles like the fact that there's no continue option once you expend all your lives which makes finishing the game a bit of a chose. Again this is tied to the roots of the game and while I see the point of maintaining consistency with the past it would be nice to have continues so that people could play through the game without constantly having to restart and replay the earlier levels of the game. Give achievements/trophies for those who have the time to master the game but the rest of us would love to be able to grind through the game when we have a spare hour.
Other than a few small gripes the game is a lot of fun and Capcom has done a fantastic job of bringing the series into the HD generation. The game is priced well and it's a lot of fun to play both in single player and multiplayer modes. It would have been nice to have some features that would have catered to the non-hardcore but hopefully that will get fixed in another edition of the game.
Full of retro goodness, Joint Strike is a flashback to the sore thumb days of old. It does feel like Capcom did miss a few opportunities to change the format a bit, especially on the multiplayer side but the game will be sure to entertain fans of the old series.
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