...19XX - Capcom

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19XX - The War Against Destiny

Reviewed by Malc

"You can't escape your destiny" is a term some people like to use. I'm not one of those people I'm afraid, preferring to sidestep trivial stuff like that and make my own destiny instead.

However, 19XX does its best to seal your fate. Not as immediately hard as it's predecessors (1942, 1943 [+Kai], and 1941 in that order, stupidly) it starts off quite leisurely. Cruising in a vertical fashion over a seascape, downing lots of little annoying planes, everything seems in place and typical of the series. The usual suspects are present, and it's only as the levels progress you begin to see it's own style and innovations. Like it or lump it, what I call the "Gigawing-Pink-Bullets" factor becomes evident later on. In 19XX's case though, there's little of the unfairness and unavoidable traps that Gigawing is so guilty of. In fact, I'd be better describing the style of play as more Don Pachi-ish, another earlier proponent of pink-bulletism. The only real problem I have with this is the fact that every modern shootemup seems to be like this, without fail. In it's defence though, there's plenty other ways to be shot down in 19XX, what with homing missiles, lasers and other leaden miscellanea being flung your way.

Inventive is a word I'd use to describe the game too - expanding on the earlier game's premise of "realistically" themed traditional enemies, to provide some astounding examples of futuristic military might. It's set sometime in the future you see, hence the XX.

But, as you can probably work out, this war didn't actually happen, since we're sitting here comfortably on our arses.

In the main, enemies can be much larger, especially the bosses, with a lot of morphing going on when they change configurations. A bit like what Strikers 1945 does when large mechs jump out of burning bosses.

On the subject of Strikers 1945, there are noticable similarities between the two series in other ways (spot them yourself) but generally I think 19XX comes out on top because of the longer, more convoluted main levels. None of this "quick, get to the boss" situation that Psikyo's levels feature.

Graphics then. High resolution and immense amounts of detail, drawn in a very clean undithered fashion. Good sense of scale, with your fighter fairly small, allowing for lots of play area. Massive explosions, absolutely superb boss death animations, astounding background design, and huge end of level guardians. Together with the themed palette shown on many levels, It's a seriously good looking game - a great advertisement for 2D art. You'll never see something with polygons being this intricate and detailed.

Sound? Excellent spot-fx, crisp and noisy. Music on the other hand is a mix of appropriate military pomp, a couple of laid-back loungey efforts, and insane bongo-ing. I'll never understand why some shmups have slow-themed tracks playing in the background. Vertical scrollers especially - they need manic tunes for their decidedly more intense gameplay. Not it's best aspect, proven by the fact I can't remember one tune to hum afterwards. Play a Gradius game and it'll be in your head for weeks.

It all adds up to create a fantastically playable, immensely enjoyable late shooter from 1996, one which is sadly not yet available to play legitimately on a home format. It would have been good to have it on the Capcom Generations 1 with the rest of the series, but it didn't happen. So, at the moment the only way to play it is find it in an arcade, buy the board, or make do with MAME. I won't bang on about the pros and cons of emulation here, but take it from me, after playing the game again on MAME, I'm keeping an eye out for the pcb. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Right, some of the technical mechanics before the levels proper:

A smallish range of planes, 3 to be precise, count em. I tend to go for the double fuselaged Lightning, or for a change, the Mossy.

The back-to-front Sinden doesn't get much action though, as I simply don't like the way it looks, and it moves too fast for me.

I'm sure there is some signifance about the special weapon for each - but you'll notice when playing the game, the three addons featured here popup for collection whatever plane you use. Maybe each plane has a particular strength or bomb-effect with the marked items - but I haven't investigated that yet. I'm sure someone will no doubt elucidate me.


There's not an awful lot of weapons to collect, but they do the job. In addition to your normal bullets, you can bolt on the following powerups. Collecting the same type makes that weapon stronger, as you'd expect.

- Laser - powerful, narrow pulses good for bosses, but can be of limited use in main level areas.

- "Vulcan" style shot - red blasts with a medium spread of fire. Probably the most useful of the three.

- Missiles, widest spread, but tend to miss enemies between them. I prefer them to the laser though.

- Smart bombs. Not just your bash the button and take a breather bombs - Capcom has added a facility to power them up. If you just hit the button and release, you'll get a fairly decent explosion. Good for scary moments. But, if you hold the button down, it'll do a smaller quick blast, then a power counter will start - which goes through 3 sweeps.

Holding the bomb for as long as you can will result in a huge nuking of the screen - nice! In 2-player mode, you'll find that the game makes the other player wait when bombs are going off - don't know why really, but it does help to stop you wasting your precious bombs!

Lastly, there's a lock-on weapon. Holding the fire button down for a few seconds will engulf your chosen plane in a sort of green radial fire, and letting go will shoot a lock-on missile up the screen. (see left pic)

If it attaches itself to an enemy (aim for this big ones:) then repeated pressing of the fire button after this will launch green energy bursts directly onto the lock-on area. (see right pic) Did you understand that? It's not as complicated as it sounds, but a nicely technical addition to your repertoire.

Every so often, shooting down larger enemies will result in medal icons being dropped, pick them up for points. Although, bearing in mind the hi-score system faults, which accumulates your score even if you use continues, what's the point with points in this game? Why try and do well with 1 credit and get a hiscore, if some worse player with more cash can beat it?

So there you go. Have a squint at some of the levels now. 'Ware spoilers, there's some smart set-piece surprises in the game which I've revealed. Play it first and come back and check out the levels later:)

Malc 9/10



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