Ghost Pilots 2, by Capcom!
1944 is the latest addition to the long line of Capcom's 194X. The first episode in the series was 1942, back in 1984 (stay focused, please), followed by 1943 in 1987 and finally 1941-Counter Attack, in 1989. 1942 was the first game to use the theme of World War II in a Shoot them Up: an amazing success occured. It was a small revolution in the vertical shooter kind, with quality graphics and excellent gameplay laying the genre's foundations. The three episodes were adapted to computers and consoles, meeting quite a success. However, we should distinguish between arcade and home ports: the firsts were running on a 'tate' screen (higher than wide, 3:4) while the adaptations used a 'yoko' size (4:3). 1944 changes from its predecessors by using in the arcades this 4:3 vertical scrolling action. After a dramatic intro with attractive graphics, you'll be flying a P-38 or a Zero, depending on whether you are P-1 or P-2.
The tone is set immediately: sixteen missions await you! And the first has you taking off from a beautiful beach on the Pacific Ocean, to fly over it in epic air battles. Global presentation of the game is neat, screens and other kinematics at the end of stages are licked and pleasant. The graphics of the game itself are not disappointing either. Sometimes we fly over the ocean, then plains, forests, mountains, and also above the clouds... The draw is fine, precise and the style incredibly catchy. It's a treat to watch the countryside below, varied and full of relief. Aircrafts, ships, tanks and other (unidentified) enemy vehicles are beautiful and beyond that, their animations are remarkable. This is substantially the same quality as in Strikers 1945 + on the Neo Geo, that is to say fabulous! Except that here, the backgrounds are even more alive and changing if damages are made: it's the icing on the cake. Plus, no slowdowns ever come to disturb the action. It is fluid and fast from A to Z, and the scrollings can vary in speed sometimes, when fighting a Boss for exemple, providing even more variety to the action.
The Bosses are beautiful, sometimes huge, and well animated too: the hundreds of shots they send are not enough to cause any slowdown, congratulations to the programmers! Musically,
it's Rock'n'Roll: sixteen different themes for sixteen levels, this is serious job. Frenzied electric guitars , frantic drums, supercharged bass... Capcom's musicians are unleashed! Some songs
seem to draw on known tunes from ZZ Top or ACDC, and it sounds pretty good. Of course, we have to forget the traditional military melodies but after all, why not. The sound effects are a bit
more conventional but perfectly adapted though. The gameplay reminds necessarily of Ghost Pilots, except that the plane is
much smaller and controls way more smooth! But be warned, enemy fire is richer and faster: Semi-Manic, semi-Classic basics offering a mixed gameplay that makes the game enjoyable and
addictive. Like in some Shmup where hitboxes are Shyla Stylez' clitoris size (for those who know). You have no 'lives' in The Loop Master: P-38 and Zero have a power
bar that can go through several shocks or enemy fires. It's up to you to manage your health, as you can sometimes recover life, and the Super Attacks makes you temporarily invincible. Also
collect the score bonuses, as extra lives won't be too much.
The game's difficulty becomes really high since the 5th stage, and if the levels are quite short, fights against the Bosses can take several minutes and can be expensive in credits! The basic shot can be upgraded, but only the gun is available: no exotic weapons, sorry! As in the old 194x, two escort aircrafts will join you if you collect the right item. These can be stored, meaning that your bonus planes accumulates. Once a small aircraft is destroyed, another comes to replace it - providing you have some in stock. Last subtlety, the swoop: press down the A button, and the aircraft takes some altitude, triggers a powerful attack and becomes invincible during a few seconds. Taking back its ancestors basics of play, this 1944 offers more than we ever had in the series: Fantastic realization, great replay value, and a perfect handling. That"s something nice to appeal the younger players, grown up with DoDonPachi and Esp Galuda, and delight the more experienced ones, looking for powerful old-school sensations in a velvet case.
|Beautiful, colorful, exotic... and lacking no depth! Enemy planes are nice and varied, and landscapes simply sublime.|
|Everything moves with smoothness, stages are bustling with life. Action is fast and all this without any slowdown, ladies and gentlemen!|
|Rock'n'Roll style, 1944's soundtrack is catchy. Sound effects are more simplistic, but fit very well.|
|16 stages, it's huge! However, they're quite short. There's two different planes depending on you're playing 1P or 2P. Anyway, action is catchy and offers a great challenge.|
|Like in Strikers 1945+, game is a mix between Manic and 'Old School'. The result is nice, requiring reflexes and strategies, with a simple but comprehensive gameplay!|
|1944 is a fantastic Shmup, pushing the CPS-II to its limits: Superb realization, various stages, taking action...|
SAME ON THE NEO?
The great rival of 1944 is Psikyo's Strikers 1945 Plus. Released simultaneously, this one is as good as Capcom's title, in a more 'Manic' style.