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1942: Joint Strike, XBLA/PSN
Review by LewieP
I won't pretend to be a huge expert on the 1942 series, but I have played my fair share of various entries in the series both in the Arcades and via "Capcom Classics Collection" on the Xbox, which has the original 1942, 1943: The Battle of Midway and 1943 Kai.
194X is a series of vertical scrolling shmups, and the common theme across all the games is "There is a war, and we need someone to single handily win it for us, and you're the pilot for the job"
The thing about the 1942 series, is that it's fairly old school as far as shmups go, there's none of the modern level design and scoring system you would find in something like Ikargua, and the pace is fairly relaxed compared to say Triggerheart Exelica, and Joint Strike is no change. It's half way between a modern remake of the original 1942 and a new entry in the series altogether.
It's relatively underdesigned. There is a pretty basic combo system, and and upgrade system with two tiers and three branches, and the odd bonus level thrown in after a boss fight, but aside from those, it's just wave after wave of enemies, followed some pretty solid boss fights at the end of each level.
The enemies range from fodder that go down in one hit to bigger, more threatening airships, tanks and turrets. They all have really cool designs, and are animated very nicely.
In fact, the whole presentation is very slick. The diagrams that pop up to show you the boss's weak spots before the fight fit perfectly. There a bunch of little throwbacks to the older games too, like how enemies flash white whenever they are hit.
The levels all start out with a washed out grainy look to them, to remind you it is set in the 40s, then the colour fades in. It 's a really pretty game. Lots of levels artistic direction is taken from previous games, but the new 3D engine looks fantastic, and the water has to be seen to be believed.
Norihiko Hibino, the composer most well known for his work on the Metal Gear series and other Kojima titles, provides a soaring orchestral backdrop for the action. Spot on.
The difficulty might be a little unforgiving to newcomers to the genre, but it would be worth persevering I think. I have played a whole load of shmups, and it took me 3 attempts to be able to beat the first level without taking a hit, so seasoned shmupist like myself will probably feel right at home in no time.
A few bad things now.
The framerate is pretty weird. In my time with it, it has been locked at 60 frames per second the whole time during actual gameplay, but it stutters at some weird times, when nothing is actually going on on screen. Just before the traditional "DANGER" message pops up before a boss fight, the game stutters, and the same in the in game cut-scenes. Speaking of which...
It has some really annoying in engine cut scene bits. Nothing happens in them, there is no dialogue or action, the game just decides to take control of your ship for a while, and then zooms in and watches you do a barrel roll. In the middle of the level. I would forgive it if it looked as badass as similar things in other games, but really they add nothing to the game in my opinion.
There is a 2 player coop mode, but I haven't played it, since I am antisocial.
All in all, it's pretty great.
If you have tasted all the shmup flavoured goodness that the XBLA has had to offer so far, and want more, you can't go wrong with this. If you are sick of shmups now, then there is not really a whole deal completely unique to be found here, so I would say steer clear of it. If you are new to the whole genre, then this is a fairly uncomplicated offering, and certainly not the hardest around, it would probably be a great entry point.
1942: Joint Strike, XBLA/PSN
Update: For clarification, I was playing the XBLA version.
Ratchet & Clank: Tools Of Destruction, PS3 - £14.99 delivered
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, PS3 - £14.99 delivered