I was once asked by a colleague whether I emulated any games, and as this was back in the times of hearing about something but never getting around to doing it, I had to say no, I hadn't. I bring this up because, if memory serves, the game he then went on to play for a bit instead of work was 1943 - presumably because it was first on the list. It was a vertical shooter whatever it was.
Sadly, I didn't get into emulating as soon as I got home that day - must have had some other interest back then - but nearly 8 whole years later, here I am, playing 1943. The skies of the Pacific are swarming with Japanese fighters, the seas swimming with their warships, and your goal is to wreak havoc upon those forces. I'm not even sure that sentence made sense.
War is hell, 1943 is a bullet hell shooter, I'm not going to get very far at all but I am nevertheless looking forward to it.
I'm playing the arcade version online where, predictably, I'm not doing terribly well. Thank goodness for all those free credits.
You pilot the distinctive P-38 Lightning (not pictured above for reasons related to being blown up), alone or with a co-op partner, on your forays into formations of Japanese fighters diving and circling the skies around you. You don't have to worry about ammunition, but you do have a fuel gauge which serves as your health bar, so keep an eye on it.
With the number of enemies on screen at any one point - most of them firing towards you from kinds of angles - you'll need to keep an eye out for power-ups too, which come in the form of weapon upgrades and extra fuel. Things are kept simple with extra firepower at different angles and the like, so don't expect to be juggling missiles or anything fancy.
At the end of each stage is a boss fight against your target, usually a ship but sometimes a squadron of fighters. These are, as you might have guessed, heavily armed and armoured. You'll need to cause as much damage to them as possible, and you do have a screen-clearing option to inflict some damage on these bosses (and of course clear the screen of any nuisance fighters that might still be milling about), but to use one of these is to deplete your fuel gauge by a somewhat considerable amount - especially if you've not been able to refuel it.
Were I to have been playing this in a real arcade using real money, I'd be lucky to have reached a boss, and then furiously hammering change into the slot to keep the run alive (or, well, on life support). I was not having the best of times playing 1943.
I was having fun - this game is great - I was just nowhere near 'at one' with the controls and the shooting. You are really nippy with your movement speed, but if you're not equally reactive to get out of the way of an enemy's shot then you'll be burning through your fuel gauge, and thus your health, in no time at all.
From watching a video, I can clearly see that the fluidity of movement allows for all of the incoming shots to be dodged with grace (and panicked darts across to the other side of the screen, but still...). Was I able to control my plane in the same way? Not really. Blame controlling it with a keyboard maybe, but let's go with me being useless, as usual.
When you do have the controls down, it really is a bullet hell. Hands up, I forgot you could move up and down the screen at one point, but even after remembering the screen is there for my to fly around, you've got to pay attention to where the safe spaces are, or are likely to be, because the enemy won't wait for you and won't hesitate to aim for you from any direction.
The stages are perhaps on the short side, but there is so much going on in them, and they are so dense with enemies to destroy that you'll easily have a good time going through them. Sixteen stages in total, if you're good enough to see them all.
Arty screens show how good you were after a stage, assuming you managed to pass the mission - it's black, otherwise - and sitting here watching it allows the background art to really come through too. It's mostly sea, but seeing the odd Pacific island go by, with you on the top layer, the clouds underneath, really adds to the spectacle. It's no wonder why the 1001 book dedicates an entire page to a screenshot of it. Stick some explosions over the top and it's almost glorious, even when viewed as a still image.
1943 is easily worth playing and I do wish I was better at it, but I guess that just means I've definitely got a reason to go back to it from time to time.
There are supposedly level-specific cheat codes for fully upgraded weapons. Might come in handy, but I don't know what they are...
1943, developed by Capcom, first released in 1987.
Version played: Arcade, 1987, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1987 (Seahawk0027)