I live in the past. I love it there. It’s where I was born, you know. And it also means I’m a total geek-boy retro gamer, so even the quickest and dirtiest revamps of classic coin-ops get my gaming fingers flexing.
So a mobile port of Capcom’s awesome shmup of yesteryear, 1942, is right up my alley.
1942 wasn’t just a clever name. Set during a romanticised World War II, this was a remarkably ingenious idea when it flew into the arcades of 1984. Shoot-‘em-ups were huge at the time, though almost all of them were futuristic or space-based in nature. The idea of flying a (very loosely) historical plane against the enemy air force was a stroke of brilliance, though the idea has been severely tamed by time as the mobile adaptation soars into view.
But the essence remains pretty much the same. You’re now given a choice between three different aircraft, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The plane featured in the coin-op (a Lockheed P-38 Lightening) provides an even mix of speed and power, and it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself of the old days by sticking with the original.
To be fair, the levels in the 1984 arcade game weren’t exactly varied, so it’s a little difficult to tell whether this mobile adaptation is following the same path. Suffice to say they’re about as unadorned, which is both good and bad. The graphics have seen an overhaul, with a little extra detail and quite a few more colours, but by modern standards the level designs are very sparse.
All you’ve really got to look at are the enemies. While this is undoubtedly the most important part of the visuals, some background interest would liven up the experience a great deal. The weapon upgrades allow for a small variety in your attack power, and the game’s trademark loop-the-loop manoeuvre is still included when you need to escape from a particularly dense barrage of slow-moving enemy fire.
The audio has seen a similar update, with some pretty decent background music matching the action rather impressively, which is something that does help to bring the 25-year-old game up to current expectations.
If there’s an area where the adaptation falters it’s in the screen size. Or, more over, in the screen dimensions. The width of the play area is noticeably constricted, and a lot of the bullet patterns mean that there’s often not even the slightest gap for you to speed through. True enough, in bullet hell games those gaps are miniscule, but 1942’s adaptation hasn’t catered for the change in screen size.
But it’s difficult to criticise the quality of the conversion. After all, this is an old game, and one that wouldn’t tax a pocket calculator these days, so even the most basic mobile would be able to run a pixel perfect version of the scrolling shooter.
The problem here is that, as it turns out (and loath as I am to admit it) 1942 hasn’t aged all that well. A direct conversion does the game no favours as it throws the slow game speed and sparse level designs into stark contrast against 25 years of shoot-‘em-up evolution. Of course, a complete refurbishment wouldn’t be 1942 at all, so it’s a fundamental flaw in concept that shoots 1942’s score down.
It's one of those retro remakes that many will feel should probably never have been made.