1942 – Classic Arcade Gaming

by Scott Ferguson

When I think of vintage video games and wasted youth, two arcade games tower over the rest – classic driving game, Daytona 500, and wartime shoot-em-up, 1942.

It’s the latter game I pay tribute to here, and one machine in particular. The Blue & White Cafe on O’Connell St, North Adelaide, was our late night chippy in my first year at Adelaide Uni, way back in 1988. It’s still there, an institution in the lives of all Adelaide Uni’s residential college students for at least 40 years. Most nights of the week we’d go down for a late night snack, one whole Aussie dollar for the minimum chips, with the mandatory chicken salt, and a few 20c pieces to sling into the coin-op cabinet.

“Then just when you think you’ve got it licked, the enemy start firing on you and attacking in all sorts of patterns”

The backdrop for 1942 is an aerial battle over the Pacific during World War II. This Capcom classic, first released in 1984, had a very simple narrative – a fighter pilot confronting wave after wave of enemy aircraft, on a quest to win the war in Pacific single-handedly. This was one of the great games of the 80s; smooth graphics, scrolling up the screen rather than left-to-right like popular games of the era such as Scramble, a realistic storyline and thanks to the 80s level of computing power, a fairly repetitive format. Take off from an aircraft carrier, straight into a loop and then it’s game on. Fighters drift in from the top left, then a few from the top right, not just making a beeline for you, but then looping around and trying to nail you on the way back. When the stream of five planes from the left appear, line them up for bonus points before they circle and disappear. Then just when you think you’ve got it licked, the enemy start firing on you and attacking in all sorts of patterns.

“it’s a stubborn bastard to shoot down and then pick up the POW”

Watch out for the bomber which rolls out midway through each stage, it’s a stubborn bastard to shoot down and then pick up the POW (no idea how you’re supposed to rescue them in a twin-prop fighter plane!) for a weapons bonus. A bit of side-to-side rolling with all guns blazing is strongly recommended – blast the crap out of anything which might appear before you even see it. There’s no penalty for wasting bullets, but there is a bonus every stage for percentage of enemy aircraft taken down. Finish the stage, have a breather, and off we go again. And so it gets harder, faster, more erratic aircraft, heavier enemy fire, varying terrain below to make it just that little bit trickier.

“It still draws me in and I’ll teach my son how to play pretty soon when he’s old enough”

In hindsight, this game must have been quite controversial in its time. A Japanese games manufacturer creating a video game about losing World War II. While there are no markings on the aircraft to signify the Stars and Stripes or the Rising Sun, it doesn’t take a genius to work out this is effectively US pilots shooting down the Japanese. I can’t imagine that will have gone down well with everyone at the time. Still, it made them plenty of money.

I loved this game, still do. It had a story, a war game without all the blood and guts. No fantasy, no science fiction, no mindless violence. Take me to a retro venue and I’ll seek this game out every time. It still draws me in and I’ll teach my son how to play pretty soon when he’s old enough.

Overall
3.7
  • Gameplay
  • Audio/Visual
  • Modern Playability
  • Arcade Smashability
  • Memories

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