This month’s Clash of the Classics is a shoot ’em up winner takes all, with our multi-game Trigger Zone taking on our latest Raiders title, Legendary Wings!
It may seem a little unfair to pit three shooters against one, but these two cabinets are on level ground when it comes to real estate. Since they take up the same amount of space in our arcade, we’ve got to make a tough decision somehow, so it’s down to this: Whichever cabinet is played more stays, and the loser retires to storage!
Trigger Zone (Capcom – 1987, Psikyo – 1997 + 2000)
Our custom multi-game cabinet Trigger Zone has been on the floor for nearly 11 years now, featuring a lineup of shooters including the all-time Capcom classic 1943 and two games from Psikyo: Strikers 1945 and Dragon Blaze. While we don’t operate many multi-game cabinets at Ground Kontrol, they’re sometimes the best way to feature a lot of games without taking up a lot of space. Trigger Zone employs the multi-JAMMA interface (developed by Ground Kontrol co-owner Clay Cowgill) to let you switch between multiple arcade PCBs connected to a single display and set of controls. Translation: Press the “game select” button on the control panel and when you see the game you’d like to play, insert your coin(s) and press Start!
1943 is, of course, the 1987 sequel to the highly influential military shooter 1942. Set in World War II, you pilot a U.S. military P-38 Lightning fighter plane against the Japanese forces across 16 stages, leading to a final battle against the Japanese battleship Yamato. The controls are simple: steer your aircraft with the joystick, use one attack button to fire your machineguns, and the other attack button for a special evasive loop maneuver, or lightning attacks that consume fuel. There’s a bit of variety in the stages, with most featuring air-to-sea battles with big boss aircraft carriers or battleships, and the others exclusively air-based affairs that pit you against a giant bomber at the end. It’s easy to see why 1943 (and its precursor) were so popular in the arcades, with multiple console ports and updates of each game bringing the action to later generations. The action is fast-paced without reaching the “bullet hell” levels of difficulty that came later for the shooter genre, and the precise controls mean it’s almost certainly your fault when your energy bar is depleted and it’s time to continue. Hey, no one said defending freedom would be easy!
The World War II theme continues – sort of – in Psikyo’s Strikers 1945. Set after the conclusion of World War II, Strikers 1945 sees a new global threat, CANY, appearing with high-tech weaponry and evil intentions. You select one of six planes to set out on eight missions, beginning in more conventional locales in Europe and ending with three stages that take the battle to outer space and the (spoiler alert) alien base! Released in 1997, a full 10 years after 1943, Strikers 1945 definitely offers more intense action and deeper (and stranger) gameplay. In addition to avoiding waves of bullets and attacking enemies, you have to keep an eye out for gold bars that cycle through shiny-to-dull, and grab ’em while they’re shiny to maximize your points. Instead of automatically exploding when you collide with an enemy ship, you power down, provided you’ve collected at least one power-up. Those extra layers of strategy makes Strikers 1945 an attractive challenge for players that have conquered more conventional games like 1943!
Another Psikyo classic, Dragon Blaze, abandons the usual military setting for an anime-inspired blend of fantasy and sci-fi. Choose one of four dragon-riding human warriors on a quest to defeat the Demon King. Each warrior-and-dragon combo offers unique capabilities, so you’ll want to try each to figure out which one works best for you. Like Strikers 1945, Dragon Blaze isn’t satisfied with an old-fashioned “just shoot everything and don’t get shot yourself” approach, instead featuring an interesting scoring system that rewards the risky behavior of dismounting your dragon and sending him (or her!) like a battering ram towards your enemies. Fortunately, your player doesn’t fall to the ground when this happens, and you can actually gain more valuable coin drops by carefully employing this technique. The most difficult game of this trio, Dragon Blaze demands great skill, but offers an entertaining theme and unique endings to reward dedicated players!
Legendary Wings (Capcom, 1986)
Released the year before 1943, Legendary Wings features a strange setting that mixes art inspired by Greek mythology with futuristic touches. It’s a more moderately-paced shooter with one major difference from the games in Trigger Zone: Some horizontal shooting! While vertical shooting tends to be more popular, Legendary Wings switches mid-stage multiple times to horizontal sequences, giving you a chance to see how your winged warrior fares on foot. In the vertical portions, you fire ahead of yourself and collect powerups while bombing ground-based enemies (and special targets to reveal power-ups and secret passages). Be wary of the giant faces on the ground, as you can be sucked into their mouths and enter a horizontal stage where you traverse simple sets of platforms and ladders while fighting a variety of enemies. These stages also offer some secrets as well, namely the ability to shoot through most of the walls to advance. Many gamers will likely recognize Legendary Wings from its NES port, as the arcade game is rarely seen. Legendary Wings never took off like Capcom’s other shooters, but it still stands up as a really interesting title that deserves a second look, especially by hardcore shooter fans!
Do you prefer a cabinet that packs three shooters with a lot of variety, or are you committed to classic gaming strictly in its original form? Take a shot and play Trigger Zone, Legendary Wings or both as much as you possibly can and help us decide which game should remain in service and which one will be (temporarily) decommissioned! Clash of the Classics ends Wednesday 4/20!