Review: 1942 (NES)

By Drew Wilson

1942 is an action auto-scrolling shooting game where you control a plane. While it was released on other platforms, it was also released on the NES. We take a look at this old game.

The game was released in 1986 and would be one of the earlier top down auto-scrolling games available.

The game basically features a little white plane that takes off of an air craft carrier. From there, you fend off the hordes of enemy planes as you cruise through the sky. You dodge bullets, pick up power ups and even take on a few bosses.

An interesting aspect of this game is the way levels are displayed. Rather than telling you what level you are on, the game will tell you how many levels you have left to beat the game.

Another interesting aspect is that one of the power ups brings up two smaller planes that fly on either side if your plane. This increases the overall width of each shot, allowing you to increase the odds of hitting an enemy plane. If one of the smaller planes that join you gets hit, it blows up, but you keep playing with what you have left. The trade-off is that it’s easier to get hit, but the bullets give you a greater chance at hitting an enemy.

Most, items you pick up come from the red planes that fly in a formation. If you take out all of the planes in the group, the power up will be revealed for you to fly into and get.

Another positive aspect is that if you have quick reflexes and enjoy a challenge, this game is certainly for you because the difficulty gradually ramps up.

There are, unfortunately, a number of downsides to this game. For one, if you hit the fire button, you’ll notice that the bullets don’t start right at the front of your plane. Instead, they appear a small distance away from the front of the plane. While that may not seem like much to complain about at first, once the screen starts getting crowded, you’ll eventually realize that it’s possible for a plane to fly between you and the bullets that you fire – rendering you almost defenceless towards the plane that’s right in front of you.

Another downside is that, sometimes, there’s so many planes on the field, the game struggles to draw all of them. This causes some of the planes – including yours – to go invisible. While your plane is invisible, you’ll still run the risk of getting shot down with whatever is supposed to be drawn there. Good luck with that. Enemy planes can change course.

An additional downside is that if you happen to be good enough to survive most of the game, you’ll notice that there’s a major downside to the scoring system. Your score can only handle 6 figure numbers. As soon as your score goes over a million points, the score will roll over and you’ll be starting with zero points again even though you are doing very well. When I played this game, this also affected how high I could get on the top scores list afterwards. Clearly, you were never meant to beat this game.

To follow up with that point, another downside is the ending – or lack thereof. If you somehow manage to beat this game, the only ending you’ll get is to enter your name on the top scores list, then you get a “Game Over” message before being put back on the start screen again. Quite an underwhelming reward for beating every level in the game.

The graphics were OK for a game of it’s time. There’s the art of each individual plane and the various landscapes you’ll see as you play. There’s the vast blue ocean, the green islands, the green continents, the vast deserts (which actually was horrible because you’re dodging bullets that is a similar colour!) and even get to see multi-coloured squares which are supposed to represent a city. The effort certainly was there in the graphics department.

The sound of this game was, unfortunately, another story. I didn’t even recognize that there was music playing in this game. I kept hearing beeping noises and I thought that’s suppose to indicate that I got something or I killed an enemy plane. It turns out, the random beeping and the white noise was, in fact, the music. While I wondered about the age of this game, I beat one level and got treated to a nice sound scape of NES music before going into the next level and going back to that dreaded beeping sound. Since the parts in between each level was so nice, I immediately knew the game designers could do way better in the music department, but all we got for in-level music is that beeping music. Sad. The sound effects weren’t that much better. It was almost exclusively either automated white noise or some filtered white noise used to indicate a larger enemy was killed. I don’t get it.

Overall, I would say that this wasn’t a good game to play in my view. If you’re into auto scrolling shooter games, you might be interested in this as a curiosity, but I don’t see this game getting much traction with anyone today. I was able to beat the game, but I had no desire to play this one ever again since. There are other glitches and bad programming idea’s, but I opted to only list the major complaints for the sake of brevity.


Furthest point made it in game: Beat the game.

General gameplay: 10/25
Replay value: 0/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 1/5

Overall rating: 34%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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