Shoot ’em ups from the arcade’s past – 1942

The Japanese flyer was two sided with the reverse having a few more screenshots and a description of the game. It’s a great illustration and Capcom’s marketing artistry would only improve. As for distributor, Romstar and Midway apparently handled that end for North America.

One of Capcom’s big hits during the 80s was a vertically scrolling shooter called 1942 set in the Pacific Theater of WW2 starting from Midway and ending in Tokyo. In it, players took on the role of a lone pilot facing off against the might of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Air Service fighting through 32 stages to reach the Japanese capital. At the start of every stage, the player would take off in a plane that looked like a P-38 Lightning from a carrier and engage a massive slew of planes on their way across the Pacific.

1942 introduced one or two elements that would evolve into customary pieces for Capcom’s arcade titles and later, many of its other games. Red colored planes that flew together in formation would occasionally appear and blasting all of them would drop a POW icon that would double the firepower of your plane (four bullets being fired instead of just two), award points, and if you were lucky, gave you two smaller planes that attached to your wings adding two additional guns to your firepower as well as lending you some protection from hits from the side. There were also occasional “boss” encounters with giant bomber-like planes, too, for an added challenge (though you’d have to fight them without the benefit of your helper planes if you had them).


And so it begins with a loop over the flight deck of your home carrier that miraculously meets you at the end of every stage. Only 32 to go!


In this game, the planes are often as deadly as the bullets, flying in crazy patterns and swarming all over the screen. Different planes also show up later on with more and more arriving to party as you get closer to the end.

It was an exciting addition to the arcades. The music was pretty spartan as were the special effects, but the action was top notch. There was a continue feature though it didn’t start you exactly from where you died…or kept your score as an added incentive to keep practicing. This was also during the era of where one hit ended your current life. No health gauge or shields, but you did have one special move — the loop which gave you temporary invincibility by escaping close shaves with bullets or planes. At the same time, you only have so many of these.

As with many of Capcom’s most popular hits, it was ported to a wide number of platforms since its debut in 1984. It would appear on platforms like the Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 all the way up to the Nintendo Virtual Console and Windows mobile devices over the decades. It would also be a staple of Capcom’s “Classics Collection” compilations which appeared on the PlayStation 2, the Xbox, and the PSP. Backbone Entertainment had even remade 1942 incorporating a number of elements from the later games in the 19XX series, releasing it in 2008 and a downloadable title on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.

1942 was a fun action game in the arcades and successful enough to kick off a new series for Capcom which would continue in 1987 with the phenomenal sequel, 1943: The Battle of Midway. Though the action could get a bit repetitive, this was the kind of tough challenge that typified old school arcades fed by endless streams of quarters and tokens. And Capcom was only warming up.


3 responses to “Shoot ’em ups from the arcade’s past – 1942

  1. Pingback: Shoot ’em ups from the arcade’s past – 1943: The Battle of Midway | World 1-1·

  2. Pingback: Shoot ’em ups from the arcade’s past – 1941: Counter Attack | World 1-1·

  3. Pingback: Shoot ’em ups from the arcade’s past – 19XX: The War Against Destiny | World 1-1·

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