Giant Bomb Review

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1942: Joint Strike Review

3
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1942: Joint Strike is a decent shooter that offers some replay value--but only if you're into moving up online leaderboards.

Is it just me, or did someone at Capcom wake up earlier this year ago and say "hey, wait, don't we own the rights to a bunch of great arcade games? Let's start remaking them!" In my mind, that's the only possible explanation for the attention Capcom's been paying to its back catalog lately. 1942: Joint Strike is an all-new vertically scrolling shooter that operates in much the same fashion as the previous games in the 1942 line.

Joint Strikes are an interesting way to work cooperatively.
The big difference in Joint Strike is that you're not playing this on some vertically oriented arcade monitor. You're (ideally) playing it on a widescreen TV. Rather than stick to the classic presentation, Joint Strike fills the width of the screen. It's a little weird at first blush, as you don't really see as far in front of your plane as you might have in the previous games. But since this game was built this way from the ground up, it isn't really a problem.

The game has you moving through five different levels of World War II-tinged shooter action, each ending with a boss fight against some hideously oversized mechanical monstrosity, like a giant tank with a ton of turrets, or a giant boat with a ton of turrets, or maybe a giant plane with a ton of turrets. In addition to your base weapon, you can also drop a limited number of bombs and fire a limited number of missiles. You can also switch out your weak starting weapon by collecting power-ups that can give you a spread shot, a laser that blasts through multiple targets, and so on.

1942: Joint Strike is at its best when playing with another person. You can do that locally or online, but however you do it, it's better when you can communicate with the other player. That's so you can properly coordinate your Joint Strike attack, which sends a blast from one plane to the other, damaging everything in-between. It's an interesting attack that requires both players to work together for proper positioning.

Five levels might not sound like much in the way of game length, and you're right, it's not a very long game. There's maybe 30 minutes of content here, but it's stretched out by the game's stubborn refusal to let you continue from where you left off. You'll start out with a set number of lives based on your difficulty setting and high scores can earn you some more, but if you run out, you'll have to start over from the beginning.

It's in your best interest to dodge whenever fire is heading in your direction.
While it isn't a terribly long game, at least there's a sense of variety to it. The formations of incoming planes change up well enough to keep you guessing, and taking on various ground- or sea-based enemies also keeps things fresh for at least one full playthrough. Once you've seen it all, it's time to start working on your score. The game is very multiplier-focused, and the multiplier you get for a kill depends on how close you are to your targets when they go down. So if you're right up in the grills of the opposition, you can earn up to 16 times the normal rate per kill. This, as you might expect, requires a bit more skill and finesse than just hanging back and blasting everyone from a distance, offering a decent risk vs. reward scenario for people who obsess over leaderboards.

All in all, 1942: Joint Strike is a good, solid scrolling shooter. It's tough, but not so tough that it will only appeal to genre crazies who can only feel emotion when it's filtered through a bullet hell pattern. In fact, I have a feeling that staunch advocates of the shoot-'em-up may find this game to be a little too basic for their tastes. But if you're somewhere in the middle--perhaps an old 1942 fan who wants a decent nostalgia bump, Joint Strike fits the bill quite nicely.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
14 Comments
Posted by Mercanis

Jeff writes "but not so tough that it will only appeal to genre crazies who can only feel emotion when it's filtered through a bullet hell pattern".

O Jeff, you understand certain niche gamers only too well.

Posted by duxup

The NES 1942 games were just never as good as the arcade games and I felt the same when I tried Joint Strike.  It's not bad, but it is just not as fun as the arcade versions I played so long ago.

Posted by calf_exercises

Good review jeff (as always) I think Ill give this one a miss

I am really looking foward to the Mercs 2 review

Posted by Godzilla_Sushi

I liked the widescreen in the demo at first. But it feels wierd playing with so much more space to worry about. Very chaotic. Well, not more space, but different space...basically, giant planes, still a threat.

Posted by Nerje

I was a pretty huge fan of 1942 a good few years ago, so I'll definitely be grabbing this one.  My XBLA collection has a vertical shmup-shaped hole in it.

Posted by Branthog

I think I'll be buying this over the weekend. I wasted a lot of nickels on 1942 in the arcade when I was a teenager (the 1990s). This is one of those games I feel will hold up. Of course, it would hold up a lot better if I were standing up playing it, with a soda and a tub of popcorn and raisenettes sitting on the other controller next to me in a loud flashy arcade.

Posted by schnitz76

I was just about to buy this after playing the demo, but by the time that I got to the end of the demo my hand hurt so much because of all the button mashing that I decided that I didn't need any more of that.  I wish I could hold down the fire button for however long I needed to shoot (or if that is possible then I wish I were smart enough to have figured that out in the demo).

Posted by Bumbuliuz

It´s a good game. Im still trying to get over level 3 though. Hahahah

Posted by selfdestroyer

I'm a huge SHMUP fan but this ver. of 1942 seem a bit slow.. Screen scrolling seems faster than plane movement. But its still a good addition to XBLA.

Posted by Anthony_Galindo

I've found this game to be one of the hardest available for XBLA yet. It's just a few notches below Ikaruga in terms of difficulty. Having said that though, I don't regret my purchase and never get too angry that I have to start over because the game doesn't use continues. Usually by the time I've died I've just about had my fill of vertical shooter for the day and just play something else. Played in this manner I haven't had a problem with the game's lack of content.

Posted by pedantics

Big fan of this release - the visuals are slick as hell, and the deliberate pacing (which has always been true of the series) along with well balanced difficulty make this perfect as a relaxing, jump in and out time killer. As far as old school updates go, this is one of the best, and a no-brainer for 800points.

Posted by artofwar420

Yup, it's not as meaty as you might expect, BUT it's a 194X game, it still feels like one. If you liked those games, which I did, then you'll enjoy this one. Don't let the review oversimplify it's "easiness", while it's no "bullet hell" game, it's no burger in paradise. This game wears its arcade badge proudly. Other than that, Jeff is spot on.

Posted by tgammet

It's a shame this remake didn't get nearly as much polish and care as BCR. I was really looking forward to playing it a lot more when they were both announced.

Posted by Oemenia

Great review, but yeah, length kills it