1943: The Battle of Midway – Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Release Date (NA): October, 1988
Genre: Shoot’em Up, Vertical Scrolling Shooter
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
To celebrate Nerd Bacon‘s 2 year birthday, we’ll be playing original sequels for the entire month! On today’s list is 1943: The Battle of Midway for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. This arcade port was a smash success for Capcom and is one of the primary reasons for their early and lasting success in this industry. Simply put, 1943: The Battle of Midway deserved every accolade it received as tough-as-nails enemies kept the game challenging, and occasionally frustrating, all the way to the “very end.” And by “very end,” I mean “level 2” because that’s about as far as an inexperienced shoot ’em up player is going to get. No offense though, that’s just science.
The game’s title may be a bit confusing and have you asking yourself, “If this is a sequel, what’s the original game titled?” Good question. The original title in this short series is called 1942. That’s easy enough to remember, right? But then they throw a nasty curveball with a 1987 remake of the arcade version of 1943 titled 1943: Kai, followed by the third installment titled 1941: Counter Attack. Yeah, not so easy anymore, is it?? But that doesn’t matter because here in the states, we only had 1942 and 1943, so let’s just focus on these.
1943: The Battle of Midway sees a return to the pacific, and more specifically Midway Atoll. The Battle of Midway was one of the most important battles in the US’s campaign as it marked a major turning point in the war against Japan. It’s a little odd that the game’s title references the year 1943 because the actual Battle of Midway was in 1942. But oh well. The game’s objective is to defeat hordes of enemy fighter planes and battleships using your P-38 Lightning fighter plane. Yes, you take on the entire Japanese fleet all by yourself, you bad mother you. It’s no easy feat but an experienced SHMUP player might be able to tear through all 23 levels.
You have only one life (YOLO) which is represented in the form of a fuel/energy meter that is constantly depleting. Taking hits or using your special attack will drain your energy meter, and once you have reached zero, any hit will kill you. Of course, you can refuel with power-ups and such, but perhaps the greatest challenge to 1943: The Battle of Midway is keeping your energy meter above zero. With extreme desperation, you will weave through a barrage of enemy planes and bullets to get a measly 10 more points on your energy meter (for reference, 10 points is not a lot). You’ll risk it all for more energy. Exchanging a set of lives for a single energy meter is a pretty smart way to add a new challenge to a similar game.
The gameplay starts out a little slow but ascends rapidly as your energy meter decreases all while the enemy hordes increase. It’s a total shitshow by the 3rd level. The enemy fighter planes move across the screen in formation and have pre-recorded flight paths, but their projectiles/missiles are all homing, so they’ll fire at your location wherever you are. As the level’s progress, not only do the sheer number of enemy planes increase, but they’ll enter the screen from all directions unexpectedly. Other than an increase in enemies, there is no real variety in gameplay.
1942 and 1943 grab their roots from the classic SHMUP Galaga, among others. Enemy fighters fly onto the screen in formation performing all sorts of aerial acrobatic maneuvers making them tough to hit, just like in Galaga. But that doesn’t make this game a copycat, as both games are excellent original titles ahead of their time. 1943 is a pretty simple and very uncomplicated game. You fly a plane and shoot at enemy planes while avoiding bullets. Easy right? Why are these games so famous and popular now?
What makes 1942 and 1943 so great and separates them from the competition is the quality at which they are made. The graphics are as vibrant as ever, especially 1943, making the game a true showcase of the NES’s capabilities and Capcom’s talent. And with precision tight controls, it never feels like a chore to play. The controls are truly perfect and not something to be overlooked when you slam this game into your Nintendo. But perhaps the best aspect is the soundtrack, which is masterfully crafted in all of its 8-bit chiptune glory.
The bottom line is that 1943: The Battle of Midway is an exceptional game but not a perfect one. The lack of variety makes for some seriously repetitive gameplay. The monotony begins to take its toll on you after a very short while; in fact, it’s noticeable after just 2 levels. But the responsive controls never make the game feel cheap or poorly made. Quite the contrary, actually. The game feels expertly made, one of many reasons for Capcom‘s success in the 1980s. Frighteningly challenging gameplay keeps your tempers high but keeps you honest. I highly recommend 1943, but only because the price is right (roughly $5 to $10 on the market) and the game is great, albeit a shortlived greatness.
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
Share This Post