Sunday, June 6, 2010

1943: The Battle of Midway

On this day - June 6 - in 1942 the United States Navy defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy in the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II - the Battle of Midway. To me that says - it's time to bring up the arcade shooter 1943: The Battle of Midway on the MAME cab and finally play it through to the end! And of course put it up here for you guys.

This vertical scrolling shooter was released by Capcom in June of 1987 as a sequel to their popular classic 1942 - I guess that's why they called in 1943 even though the historic battle took place in 1942. You are piloting a P-38 off the coast of the Midway Atoll fighting your way through 16 levels of Japanese fighters (complete with boss battles at the end of each level) to overtake and destroy the Japanese battleship Yamato. You have your joystick for movement, one button for firing your main weapon, and one button for special attacks or the trademark 1942 loop-de-loops.

1943 kept all the great gameplay of its predecessor and kicked it up a notch on several fronts - the graphics and sounds both got a little boost of course, but the best upgrades are in gameplay features. In 1942 if you collided with a plane or bullet even once that was it, one of your 3 planes was dead. But in 1943 you get a life bar and each collision or bullet hit takes some of your health off until it depletes to zero and you explode - and there are various opportunities to replenish some of your health by shooting down an entire fleet of red planes and then grabbing the POW powerups that appear. This is a nice improvement in my opinion. And if you are OK on health you can shoot the POW powerup and make it a super-weapon powerup like triple-shot, rapid-fire missiles, scatter-shot, etc. that you can pick up and use as your main weapon until it wears off and reverts back to your normal machine guns. Of course it is tough to mentally scroll through all these strategic options and make the appropriate shots while 2 dozen pissed off Japanese fighters are buzzing around you trying to take your ass out. If you're like me it is more common to just shoot all the red and then just grab whatever happens to pop up as soon as you can.

Another feature that I like is that like a lot of story/level arcade games it allows you to continue by pumping in more quarters but the score resets to 0 with every continue (because artificially inflated high scores from continues are bullshit). And there is absolutely no way you are going to complete this game without pumping in about $20 or so worth of quarters. The action quickly gets more and more hectic and the last few of the 16 levels are just insanely difficult.

AND unlike 1942, 1943 allows you to play 2-player simultaneous so it can be fun for 2-player action too - it's co-op but you each have your own scores so it can still be competitive too. Since this game is played from the U.S. side of the battle and you win if you destroy the Japanese fleet I've wondered how well that was received in Japan (where it was created!). I guess the Japanese kids were OK with that because it was apparently pretty popular there.

So bottom line - an excellent upgrade to a classic game and one you can pick up and play anytime - I just wish it wasn't QUITE so difficult. I give it a 8.7. Click HERE to download it into your MAME ROMs folder and give it a try. If you like it you might want to check out some of Capcom's later 1942 sequels - of which there were like 5! But on the off chance that you don't actually stick with it long enough to finish it (like I finally did today) here is what you would see at the end right before the credits roll:

"In 1943, the U.S. Navy sank four Japanese striking forces in the Battle of Midway and brought the victory in the Pacific War to the United States. It was made possible by two eminent pilots who detected the Japanese fleet during a routing mission." - note how Capcom referenced 1943 instead of 1942 and referred to it as a 'routing' mission instead of a routine mission.

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xarn said...

Cool, I remember loosing to that game quite a few times in the mall's arcade. Now I'm gonna have to get it and finally win with my unlimited credits. (Okay, so I'm a big cheater-head.)

MadPlanet said...

That's cool, I don't remember ever even seeing a real one - I've only played it on MAME. There is no way in hell you would finish unless you keep hitting "5" and pumping in virtual quarters. But if by some miracle you are able to complete it on 1 quarter I want to know about it!

MadPlanet said...

and I should say I don't know if that final screen about US defeating the Japanese in the battle shows up in the Japanese version since I only completed the US version. But I've played the Japanese version (Midway Kaisen) and it DOES still have you fighting Japanese zeros and bombers so it looks like they didn't change it up which I find a little odd.