One of the saddest parts about the arrival of new game systems is that when people upgrade they often miss some of the most advanced games for the old system. For example, the Atari 2600 saw some of the best and most advanced games towards it’s end. It is a shame that so many missed games like Pengo, Stargate (Defender II), Pac Man Jr, Solaris, Secret Quest, Fatal Run, and Pitfall II (just to name a few). The NES had it’s fair share as well. These included games like Ninja Gaiden III and Megaman 4, 5, and 6. Even lesser known were games like Shatterhand, Totally Rad, and Vice: Project Doom (the latter which is the focus of today’s review). While Vice: Project Doom came out late in ’91, the NES was making games all the way up into 1994 and beyond.
Vice: Project Doom has a decent story to it and employed cinematic graphic novel style cutscenes similar to the Ninja Gaiden series. It has elements of both pulp and noir. It stars a private detective that starts his journey in Chinatown attempting to track down the origins of a strange and dangerous drug of alien origin. The game also involves a corrupt company called “BEDA” and nefarious cloning of aliens. The game manual says the following about the main character you control:
“Vice officer Quinn Hart has been on the force for several years. He has an uncanny knack for getting out of tight spots; some of the other officers joke about him being ‘super human.’”
Strangely, the game has a slight anime feel throughout as you fight self propelled mechs, creative characters, and people in body armor. Enemies include men on pogo sticks, guys in pumpkin suits, and the odd sniper. The bosses, while not gigantic, include a cool assortment of monsters or monstrous machines. Their patterns are creative and fun to figure out.
The first thing you notice when turning on the game, is the lack of a real title screen. That is actually a cool thing. Well, just like in the movies, you start with a nifty car chase before seeing the name of the game appear. After thinking, “well this sure seems like Spy Hunter,” you see some cinematics that are all too reminiscent of the Ninja Gaiden games. When the next level starts, you may even be wondering if it IS Ninja Gaiden. Not only is the gameplay very similar, but the baddies you will encounter include squatting soldiers with bazookas on their shoulders, obnoxious leaping pumas that bounce you around like a ping pong ball, and of course, birds that attack in an all too familiar (and tramatic) boomerang pattern. There is even a train stage where the lights go on and off which reminded me of Ninja Gaiden II.The game also includes some stages that play very similar to Operation Wolf. Vice: Project Doom is almost like a better version of Bayou Billy as it employs 3 different kinds of stages (driving, shooting, and side-scrolling). Okay, so the game is not extremely original. But that appears to be one of its only flaws. And hey, for those of you who thought Ninja Gaiden III was too hard, you can pretend this is the true sequel to Ninja Gaiden II! The game is almost as good.
But some notable differances do exist. The weapon system is more remeniscent of Contra Hard Corps for Genesis or Gunstar Super Heroes for the Gameboy Advance as you start with three different weapons and must choose the right weapon for the right moment. The katana is neat as it slices up and behind you at the same time it slices forward. It has you “covered” so to speak. The second is a short range gun that shoots very quick. The third is a powerful hand grenade that can reach quite far. What makes the game so fun is that it is not a brainless “walk and wield.” There is memorization and strategy. You must think of each part as a separe entity with all three weapons in mind. There is no “candles” to break to obtain powerups. Coins and ammo simply fall out of enemies as they are dispatched.
Graphics: Simply put, they are some of the very best I have ever seen on the system. The first stage has such a high level of detail that it seems to outdo some of the early generation games on the Genesis, NEC TurboGrafx-16, and even SNES. The animation is nifty, but the detail in every stage is staggering with little slowdown or flicker. The second stage wowed me the most, with giant statues and detailed brick walls. The environments are mostly typical stuff including trees/foliage, caverns, and the odd factory or facility. The driving and shooting stages look pretty good too with their top-view and front-view change in perspectives. The cut scene portraits are detailed and seem to have a professional polish and style remeniscent of modern games on the DS.
Sound: It doesn’t have the awesome music that is in the Ninja Gaiden games. The tunes aren’t too bad though. I liked them more with repeated play-throughs. The sound effects are nothing too special, and I don’t recall any digitized voices of any kind.
Obsessive Compulsive Completionist notes: It is not too difficult to get through the stages. You do get infinite continues making it fairly stress-free to complete. There are also coins that fall out of enemies that you can use to get 1-ups.