1942: Joint Strike First Hands-On

The classic vertical shooter is heading to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network with 3D graphics while paying homage to other games in the series.

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Among the games Capcom unveiled at its Digital Day press event this week was an Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network remake of 1942. What makes this port of the classic vertical shooter different--aside from its new title, 1942: Joint Strike--is a host of features ranging from full 3D graphics to a liberal number of elements lifted from other games in the series.

Visually, 1942: Joint Strike looks to make full use of its new home on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game still features the same top-down perspective as the original, but with a full 3D engine and graphics. Besides presenting the game in HD, Capcom and Backbone also decided not to crop the screen on widescreen televisions to reflect the game's original narrow field of vision. This is both a blessing and a curse, as you can see much more happening on the screen (while admiring some of the neat effects, like the way the sunlight is reflected off the water), but it also means having to deal with a 16:9 aspect ratio's worth of enemy fighter planes.

Joint Strike will support both single-player and two-player co-op gameplay modes, which is supported online and over Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. While teaming up with a friend, you'll be able to use new weapons, power-ups, and Joint Strike attacks. Our favorite from the time we spent playing was the chain lightning attack, which connected a destructive band of lightning between the two players, allowing them to spread across the full screen and take out anything in between.

Fans of the series will notice Joint Strike doesn't strictly follow the source material. A variety of features from the other games in the 194X collection have been plucked to make this version of 1942 a better representation of the series as a whole. While many of the borrowed elements, like enemy planes and sound effects, are subtle nods to different games in the series, some are far more obvious. One such example is multistage boss fights, which weren't featured until later games in the series but have been adapted for use in Joint Strike to add more variety to the battles. Another example is the setting; while the original focused mainly on fighting over the sea, this game had us spending a great deal of time flying over land and naval yards.

While the side-scrolling and vertical shooter genres are often regarded for their advanced difficulty--a legacy of their origins in quarter-powered arcade machines--the developers want to appeal to a variety of players with this version. That's why they're including four different difficulty settings in the game. However, it's still uncertain whether unlocking the majority of achievement points will require playing at the top skill level. One thing we do know about unlockables is that the original version of the game won't be included.

1942: Joint Strike is scheduled for release this summer on Xbox Live Arcade (800 Microsoft points) and PlayStation Network ($9.99). We'll be sure to keep you updated on its ongoing progress.

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