Having beaten both games, now would be a great time to give my thoughts on both of these classic arcade games. I figure I’ll go with 1942 first, and then Narc. Both of these were played through MAME, not on an actual machine, but still, I’m going with an arcade game here.
1942 is one of Capcom’s greatest Shumps, beyond a shadow of a doubt. The game is a top-scrolling shooter putting you in the cockpit of a fighter plane (oddly, a P-38 Lightning, which wasn’t developed until 1945, but anyway), fighting in the Pacific Theater as US forces island hop their way across the pacific – with each collection of stages named after a major World War 2 battle.
I must confess it was a little odd to play a game that had you fighting in the Pacific theater against the Japanese, manufactured by a Japanese company, but I eventually moved past it. The game is not structured like your average shump – the game has 32 levels, with most levels structured not by a boss you defeat at the end of the but rather by your distance traveled – you end the level by landing on your aircraft character and then taking back off again for the next mission.
The enemies in the game have a decent variety. There are bosses, which are generally variations on the concept of a super-bomber, and beating them is basically just a matter of figuring out the bullet pattern and working with it, without having to contend with peripheal enemies. Otherwise, on all of the levels you’ll end up facing a variety of small fighter planes and the occasional larger fighters and bombers coming from the rear. The smaller enemies generally try more to ram you, but some will fire a bullet or two at you.
The game is fairly difficult – it took me about 60 continues to beat the game, but it’s not cheap. Whenver I die, I feel like it wasn’t because the game was screwing with me, it’s because I messed up – I zigged when I should have zagged. Some enemies will drop power ups that will help you (whether a screen-clearing bomb, firing two additional bullets or two wing-men who will fly alongside and help during the main body of the level – they bug out during boss fights). Also, if things get hairy you can do a loop to give you a few second of basic invulnerability – but if there’s an enemy or bullet where you are when you finish the loop, you die (though you can shift position horizontally and the level keeps scrolling), and your wingmen can’t loop either (so they’re generally toast). In general, I’d say it’s a very good game, and worth picking up whether on Mame or to get a console port of the game.
Next up, Narc. Narc is a fairly infamous game, due the game’s violence and drug content (we’re talking about the original, where you just seize drugs rather than using them like in the remake). It was also featured semi prominently in the Foot Clan’s lair in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. It’s also a complete load of crap. It is shit on a circuit board. Prior to watching this review, I looked to see if AVGN had revewied Narc, so I could see if it was worth my while to review it or to just imbed his video. He hasn’t, so it’s all up to me here.
The game has you playing as a cop out to bust Mr. Big, the (un)originally named crime lord who is flooding the city with drugs. You go through various stages, seizing drugs and drug money, & killing or arresting criminals. Here’s the problem. There are no bosses in the game, with the exception of Mr. Big in the last level, who I’ll get to. Instead, each level introduces the enemy, all of whom are horrifically cliched – Evil Pimp, Evil Gang Member, Evil Cocaine Dealer, Evil Pot Smoker, all of whom have more weapons than your standard Rambo movie, and all want to kill you, and who all die fairly easily, being that they are, essentially faceless goons. Yes, by the way, I said Evil Pot Smoker – either the game is insanely tongue in cheek, or someone at Midway at the time the game was made was the kind of person who referred to Pot as “The Demon Weed.”
The game runs into several major flaws. First up – the characters don’t animate the gorgeously detailed sprites for each of the characters (that is a plus, by the way) move very, very quickly and take a second to reverse direction or turn up or down, consequently moving like they’re gliding more than they’re walking. Additionally, every level is insanely the same – kill people until they drop a key card, use the keycard to go to the next area, proceed to the level exit. It’s like Doom and Quake, except 2D (and not a platformer) and insanely dull. The screen also rapidly fills with tens of infinitely respawning generic enemies, who also die very quickly, which becomes (depending on the level, and thus the more common generic enemy) either insanely annoying or insanely frustrating.
While you can take enemies into custody instead of killing them – it takes a second or two to take them into custody – you have to move over them, and stay there (without doing anything) while they perform the animation of going on their knees and putting their hands behind their head. Meanwhile, more enemies keep respawning on screen and shooting at you – turning you into a bullet magnet. It’s not worth it anyway, as you get more points for killing the crooks than arresting them. This leads me to my next gripe – both of the cops you can play as, one wearing red and the other in blue, are white. On the other hand, there are a couple recurring black mooks (and the boss is black as well – at least in his first form). So, you’re playing white cops who will be gunning down black suspects, often choosing violence over taking them into custody. Oh, and while your cops have pictures of their faces when you choose which one you’re playing as, they go through the level wearing gloves and a motorcycle helmet – basically a faceless automaton. Call me over-sensitive, but considering all the other allegations of racism around the War on Drugs you’d think they would have realized that having a white jackbooted authority figure practically dressed up as a stormtrooper gunning down Black people might not be a good image?
This brings me to the Boss, who at first appears to be a black guy in a 70’s pimp suit with a longer life bar. I call him The Boss instead of Mr. Big because he is the only boss in the game. You beat him… and then he transforms into another form, a gigantic alien head that shoots laser beams at you. If I were 10 years old I would have rolled my eyes at this. What makes all this worse is that your standard weapons do essentially no damage to Mr. Big – only your rockets will do damage, and if you run out of lives, you have to start the fight over from the beginning, whereas at previous levels you could pick up where you left off – while you could carry a unlimited amount of rockets and often would pick them up throughout the game so that when you reached the Final Boss you’d have a massive amount of them – if you died and had to continue you came back with only 3 rockets, which was not enough to beat the boss. That’s bullshit. That means that if you make it all the way to the final boss and run out of lives, you are absoultely fucked. Not only would putting any more money in to continue be a waste of money, but any money you put in trying to get to this point was wasted as well. That is absolute bullshit. This game is shit. More than shit, it’s thrice-shat.
Do not play this game, in any form ever. If you’re considering getting a console port of this game because you have some nostalgic memory of it, don’t. If you’re considering getting it because you think it’s to video games what Reefer Madness was to film, don’t – this game isn’t even “So Bad It’s Good”. This game isn’t good sober. This game isn’t good stoned. This game is absolute crap and if it weren’t for the fact that I was playing a MAME rom, I’d cap this review off with filming myself taking a NARC cabinet out to a firing range and blowing it straight to hell, putting it up on YouTube, and then embedding the video! Don’t Play This Game!