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Published July 29, 2008

The Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network may have rekindled interest in dusty coin-operated classics like Pac-Man and Galaga, but at their worst, they’ve also served as reminders of why arcades died in the first place. For every Everyday Shooter or Geometry Wars, there are dozens of me-too shooters that serve only to congest the online catalogs. There seem to be two ideologies currently battling for virtual shelf space: nostalgic celebrations of gaming roots and experimental indie pet-projects. 1942: Joint Strike is a solid example of why the latter is winning.

Revisionist history

Backbone Entertainment’s revival of Capcom’s 194X series does many things well. Decent graphics (much truer to the original inspiration than their Commando retread), responsive controls, and smooth online play are always welcome, while the slower pacing makes the second-player wingman easier to keep track of than in your typical “Bullet Hell.” However, even though this 30 minute tour through the Pacific Theater will keep your trigger fingers busy, your mind will wander elsewhere – perhaps to the lush jungles and crumbling cityscapes of Assault Heroes or the monochromatic skies of Ikaruga. Joint Strike just cannot compete in terms of clever level design and enemy variety (TWO boss palette-swaps?!).

1942: Joint Strike is a decent time waster, but the game’s value hinges almost entirely on nostalgia. And as much as I revere 1944 (and the Strikers 1945 homage), this remake does nothing to evolve the series. Don’t let the name brand lure you away from games more deserving of your 800 space bucks. ESPECIALLY during this August!

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