Capcom's 19XX series is quite fondly remembered, for offering some unique and very solid gameplay over the five installments it has had so far. At least, that mostly counts for the later four, but not so much for the first.
Although not as bland as Exed Exes, 1942 does not really offer too many novelties other than its Pacific War theme. It's another vertical shooter, and the only two moves you've got are standard shots and a nifty loop which allows you to avoid incoming fire.
Like most shoot 'em ups, holding down the fire button will make you fire very slowly, so you'll have to do continuous tapping to get the most out of your weapons. Initially only three shots can be on-screen at the same time, and you'll have to collect power-ups to get more.
Likewise, the loops also have a limit and you can't pull off many consecutively without first finding certain items. There are also power-ups which grant you other bonuses, like double firepower, or two support planes which fly along your sides and each fire when you do.
The game has 32 stages, of which each four take place in a different location of Japan. Unless you die you won't even really notice you're going through the stages however: much like Xevious, the game continuously keeps scrolling, with no breaks between the levels.
The game can be quite relentless with the amount of obstacles you have to dodge, and you'll need to reach the next level to be able to continue anywhere other than the start of the current one. Thankfully your plane moves quite a bit faster than that slow ship in Exed Exes, so you can actually dodge and keep destroying enemies at the same time rather than almost exclusively dodging.
The Virtual Console Arcade also offers the usual configurable options, so you can increase your amount of lives and all sorts of other things to make it a bit easier if you do have trouble. Strangely, there aren't many bosses in the game – you'll only fight four in total, and all of them are the same enemy, just with a little bit more health every encounter.
All in all, however, 1942 isn't really too special. It started a mostly great series, but in this first game there's not much variety in the levels, which all drag on a bit too long. There are no real fun, stand-out moments, and even with the difficulty turned down it can still get frustratingly hard at times too
1942 isn't much of an improvement over Exed Exes, offering only a small amount more entertainment and dragging on a bit too long. It's nice to see how the 19XX series started, but if you're not really nostalgic about them it's probably best to simply wait for the sequels, as each of them is better than this one.