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.
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.
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.