When bringing up the topic of vertical shoot ’em ups, it’s nearly impossible not to mention Capcom’s seminal 194X series. Since the original 1942 was released way back in 1984 the series has spawned a number of sequels and has been ported to practically any system you can think of, minus the iPhone. That changed tonight however as 1942: First Strike is now available on the App Store.
1942: First Strike is said to be inspired by the game 1942: Joint Strike that graced the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network a couple years ago. While those games were slightly mundane gameplay-wise, they at the very least showcased some excellent 3D high def graphics that really brought the classic franchise into this new generation. This is not the case here. The iPhone version features tiny plane and enemy sprites and boring backdrops. It’s colorful, but not very interesting. The music is really quite excellent, but the sound effects lack any substance and destroying enemies is met with a whimper rather than a boom.
I could excuse the disappointing graphics if the gameplay was entertaining, but sadly this isn’t the case either. The major fault of 1942: First Strike is in the controls. The gameplay area is fairly wide, which makes the screen scroll left or right when you fly in those directions. The sensitivity in the scrolling is just way off and creates a totally disorienting experience. If a row of enemies is coming towards you, and you need to scoot just a smidgen over to line up your aim, likely that will send the playfield scrolling too hard and your plane slamming right into enemies or incoming fire. Adjusting the sensitivity or using tilt helps a tiny bit, but not really. It’s just not something I could get used to, and it ruins a game that requires high precision.
Even if the controls worked better, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. Enemy attack patterns and your own special weapons are all garden variety, and if not for the controls, the game would likely be too short and easy. There are a couple things to like about the game, though. As mentioned the music is well done, as are the different menu graphics. Some nifty full motion cutscenes are shown prior to beginning levels or fighting a boss, although they seem to repeat often.
None of these good marks outweigh the bad though, and at best 1942: First Strike feels like a Java game that might have impressed on mobile 5 years ago. It’s unfortunate and surprising that such a beloved franchise received such poor treatment.