On a system with as many classics as the NES it’s only natural that some games will slip through the cracks. Whether it’s a lack of marketing, low print run, or sometimes even the death of the publisher there are a number of games that go unnoticed. Vice Project Doom is one of them.
Vice Project Doom was released by American Sammy in 1991. In the future the B.E.D.A is producing advanced weapons and equipment. However they are a front for an alien species that is plotting to take over the world using their new drug, Gel. While created as food for the aliens it also has the side effect of turning humans into mutants. Detective Quinn Hart is sent to investigate and also find his missing partner Reese, with a little help on the side. Although its mainly a side scroller Vice Project Doom is a mélange of elements from at least 4 other games and miraculously pulls off every single one to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Structurally similar to Ninja Gaiden down to the cutscenes between levels Vice is every bit as good as Tecmo’s classic. The majority of the 11 levels are comprised of side scrolling action levels. Quinn Hart has access to 3 weapons you can switch between at any time: a whip (looks more like a sword to me but whatever), a magnum, and grenades. Other power-ups exist that will refill health and ammo and for some inexplicable reason collecting 100 coins will give you an extra life, which just seems out of place. The action is constant and like all great platformers the controls are impeccable. The story will take you to an exotic array of locales such as South America; variety is definitely its strongest trait.
That variety comes in the form of 2 first person shooting levels and two vehicle stages. As much as I hate to make constant comparisons, they apply here. The driving segments are near identical to Spy Hunter however they are nowhere near as frustrating due to the constant stream of extra life and lack of instant death traps. The shooting segments are reminiscent of Operation Wolf and are excellently paced, neither too short or too long. The designers may have cribbed elements here and there but they made sure not to repeat their mistakes as well. Rather than dreading their presence the differing styles are a welcome distraction from the typical hack and slash action.
So why wasn’t it more popular? I don’t know! Even I only noticed it around 1993 or so when I saw cheat codes for it in Gamepro and picked it up at a flea market. It certainly isn’t the presentation. Graphically Vice is on the same level as many of the classic releases from that year such as Ninja Gaiden 3 and Mega Man 4 with many neat little touches, such as the scaling trash during the driving levels. The music is also very nice, matching the fast pace of the game. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.
Although forgotten by time I’m here to shed some light on it. Vice Project Doom, although derivative, is every bit as good as the old classics that are held up in reverence. It occurred to me that Sega is more than likely the rights holder due to their acquisition by Sammy but I doubt anyone even remembers this game. At least you have me to recommend it if they won’t.
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