1943: The Battle of Midway is a vertical scrolling shooter. Soon after launching from your carrier, you will engage in combat with enemy planes that will fly about the field before leaving. Some of these planes will fire bullets or other attacks.
Your airplane has a limited quantity of fuel, which depletes slowly as the stage progresses.
The arcade version has 16 difficulty levels, set by the owner of the machine. The default level is 8, and higher difficulty levels will increase the number of bullets fired by enemies.
To quickly determine the difficulty, at the start of the game, move your plane to the bottom of the screen. If you see one or two shots, the difficulty level is at least 10. If almost all of the planes fire to the side when they're at the bottom, then it is on or near the maximum level.
As the game progresses, the quantity of enemies and their attacks increases.
There are three sizes of common enemies:
- Small planes, which fly about in all directions. In later stages, these craft will move more quickly or in more intricate patterns.
- Medium planes, which will fly slowly. Some of these airplanes will fly downward to avoid attacks.
- Large planes, which take many hits to destroy. There are two types in the game: the first you encounter will fall three times before destruction and shoots a fan of bullets. The second is weaker but launches two fighter craft at you.
Shots from enemies will cause damage to your plane. If you are hit and don't have enough fuel, your plane is destroyed.
A formation of red planes will uncover a powerup. This may either be a single weapon, a "Pow" symbol, or an aircraft icon. The Pow symbol may be shot to allow rotating it among the four weapons, while the aircraft will summon two wingmen that protect you from two hits and increase firepower while they are active.
At the end of the stage, you will encounter a boss. These bosses may be one of the following:
- A fleet of ships
- A massive airplane
- A fleet of airplanes.
To complete a boss battle, you need to destroy at least 70% of the designated targets. When you do, you will receive a bonus and your plane will be refueled at the carrier. You are allowed two chances to complete this section of the stage; there is no bonus or refueling if you don't inflict enough damage on either pass.
Aside from your basic attack, there are seven weapons that you can collect:
- Shot Gun: Short range and slow-firing, but destroys incoming bullets.
- Super-Shot Gun: Longer range + faster-firing; still destroys incoming bullets.
- 3-Way: Shoots in 3 directions, with slow-autofire.
- Auto: Fires a quick barage of 8 bullets for every shot.
- Shell: Fires shells that smash through small craft, with autofire.
- Cat: Fire the laser which is the most powerful weapon against enemies.
Note: Twin side-planes power-up:
- Some weapons really improve, while the rest don't change.
- Automatic: Each side plane gets one Automatic cannon each, totaling 4 cannons.
- Shell: Both side planes together launch another shell, totaling 2 Shells.
To avoid enemy shots or planes, you can press the other button to do a roll.