|System: X360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Backbone Ent.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jul. 23, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
During the '80s the top-down shooter was a staple of arcades. Manufacturers slapped plenty of eight-way joysticks onto arcade cabinets so gamers could get their fix - which usually involved piloting a ship through space or blasting away at aliens and asteroids. Perhaps that's why Capcom's 19xx series stood out. It played it safe with a fan-favorite genre - the first entry, 1942, was a top-down shooter. However, it experimented with conventions. Instead of futuristic outer space, 1942 dipped back into history, putting the player in the middle of World War II. Instead of a spacecraft as the vehicle of choice, Capcom threw players into the cockpit of a fighter plane.
That simple historical twist on a familiar arcade genre resulted in an instant classic for Capcom. The company put out five more entries over the next sixteen years (tweaking gameplay mechanics here-and-there) and ended the series in 2000. Now, gamers have a chance to relive the original game in downloadable form. 1942: Joint Strike carries a small price tag ($10) and faithfully updates the classic twitch-based gameplay of the original with a few bonuses (both in graphics and multiplayer) that should please fans and newcomers alike.
The 19xx series has never been big on story - you're just one man against an entire army of fighter planes - and Joint Strike continues this tradition. You're thrown into the action and expected to know what to do. This idea begins to make sense as soon as the first set of planes comes near you; you quickly realize it's kill or be killed.
To take on wave-after-wave of enemy craft (which includes fighter planes, battleships, tanks, and helicopters), you've got your main weapon: a standard machine gun. This can be upgraded by picking up power-ups that change it into everything from a rocket launcher to a laser turret. Collecting sequential weapon power-ups widens its spread and increases your firepower. Charge shots can be performed by holding down the fire button for an extended period of time and then releasing it. However, these shots only have one charge level; you can't build up to higher, more powerful blasts. If you want rapid fire, tough luck. Joint Strike is meant to play like an old school arcade cabinet, so you have to continually hammer down the fire button; there's no ability to simply hold down fire and rest your poor finger.
Even those with the itchiest of trigger fingers are going to run into a jam - sometimes the screen fills with so many enemies it can be overwhelming. But hey, that's what bombs are for. You start each life with three, and a simple tap of the bomb button unleashes an explosion that helps clear the screen. The other powerful attack you have in your arsenal is the joint strike. You can store up to eight of these attacks, which dishes out a torrent of missiles at unsuspecting enemies. The joint strike meter can be refilled and is weighted toward offensive players - the quicker you kill more enemies, the faster it refills.
Each of the five stages in Joint Strike follows the same pattern: you try to survive waves of attackers and make it to the final boss. Once the boss is beaten, you're cleared for the next stage. To keep you from hanging near the back of the screen (and removed from the action), the developers instituted a multiplier mechanic. The closer you get to an enemy before you destroy it, the higher your multiplier. Multipliers (which go up to 16) give your score a boost. For example, if destroying a certain plane type normally nets 500 points, getting a 16 multiplier from it turns it into a 8,000 point kill.