Review: 1942: Joint Strike is Capcom's latest retro reimagining and it brings the WWII shooter series into the 21st century with 3D graphics and online multiplayer while still maintaining the classic gameplay style.
Capcom has been doing something a bit different than most companies when it comes to releasing retro retreads on the digital download services like the Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare and the PlayStation Network. Instead of dropping a nearly unchanged "classic" title on the networks, Capcom has been going back and rebuilding some of it's biggest brands from the ground up. Bionic Commando, Street Fighter, Mega Man and the subject of this review, 1942.
1942: Joint Strike is Capcom's latest retro reimagining and it brings the World War II shooter series into the 21st century with 3D graphics and online multiplayer while still maintaining the classic gameplay style. And it does that by combining elements from the arcade/NES original version of 1942 and it's sequel 1943 to create the wholly original 1942: Joint Strike.
This Frankenstein mashup comes about by taking the barrel roll from 1942, the weapon set of 1943 (including a 3-way shot and a laser) and adding in new stuff like a hit counter (that activates the new Joint Strike attacks). This is all bolted on to a 2D top-down shooter that requires the player to press the A button every time the need to shoot at an enemy (just like in the original games). There's no rapid fire option here and I'm not sure whether the developer who thought that up is a sadistic so-and-so or a certifiable genius.
But 1942: Joint Strike is what it is and fans of the series will feel right at home sliding into the cockpit of a P-38 Lightning and taking on the Japanese fleet. Fans of more modern shooters may want to look elsewhere (like to Treasure's Ikaruga), if the idea of a shooter that would be at home on the NES makes them nervous.
What sets Joint Strike apart from it's NES ancestors are it's 3D graphics and new "movie reel" presentation. The new graphics enemy planes reminiscent of the NES originals while giving them a nice spit and polish feel. While the game feels older, it never looks old, and in fact, it often looks very nice. The graphics especially shine when the game shows off its fancy movie reel motif. At the beginning of each level, the action is rendered in a style that resembles scratchy black-and-white film stock. But when that first enemy plane flies into view, the colors flood back into the world. The effect is rather striking.
Finally, the Joint Strike subtitle comes into play with the two-player simultaneous mode. Once each player's hit counter goes high enough, they can unleash Joint Strike attacks like unleashing a screen clearing bomb or a giant batch of missiles or a lightning attack that links both planes and destroys anything in its path. The Joint Strike mode definitely has its moments and is the perfect antidote for when the single-player mode has lost its thrill.