1943 – The Battle of Midway – “Stage 1” (Capcom)

June 4, 2010

So June 4, 1942 was the famous Battle of Midway, one of two battles that ultimately changed the course of the Pacific War (the other being Guadalcanal). Significant doses of good luck, skill, bravery, and sacrifice, as well as the Japanese admiralty’s over-confidence lead to a decisive American victory during a time when the ultimate end of the war was far from predictable. 1943 – The Battle of Midway (1987) takes ideas from the epic battle and presents them in an arcade shoot ’em up that served as a sequel to 1942 (1984). Never mind the fact that P38’s were not present during the battle (or the fact that it took place in 1942 rather than ’43); the battle merely serves as color for a game about shooting down aircraft and sinking warships. The game is also fairly unique in that it allows players to choose how to power-up their aircraft at the end of each level (something a bit more developed in Jets ‘n Guns). While the arcade and NES versions have vastly different soundtracks, I prefer the anthem-style “Stage 1” theme from the NES version (1988) the most. The composer of this song is unknown.

1943 – The Battle of Midway – “Stage 1” (Capcom Sound Team)

The “Stage 1” theme to 1943 is a pretty simple track. After a short introduction for the P-38 taking off (the drums not only draw the player in but also replicate the sound of an aircraft engine), the first section of the song begins, which recalls the Air Force anthem and the feel of ‘flying high into the sky’ and the myth of blasting away through intense dogfights. The second half of the song sounds a bit more like a football anthem, really. In this sense, both parts of the main theme are stereotypically American in construct. A fairly catchy, enjoyable tune.

A couple interesting things about 1943. First, the Japanese title for the Famicom version is 1943 – The Battle of Valhallah. This may have been to either avoid references to Midway or to ambiguously reimagine the battle (I’m not sure, really).

Second, the 19XX series is odd in that it is designed by a Japanese company (Capcom) and depicts a war that is politically sensitive in Japan from the American side, shooting down Japanese aircraft. In fact, it was a myth that the Japanese version of the game reversed the roles, but this is not true (Wings of Fury, on the other hand, performed a palette swap for the Japanese release in the X68000 version). I have talked with some of my Japanese friends about this, and their general consensus was that when little kids play the game, they don’t think much about it, but only when they get older do they reflect a little.

There have been a very small number of remixes for 1943. One of the most well-known is tibone’s “Memphis Belle” from Dwelling of Duels (2007). The guitar doesn’t sound quite right to me (maybe a combination of high notes with low bass), and come to think of it, I don’t think guitar arrange is the way to go for 1943, but instead something a little more brassy might do. It made seventh place.


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