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Vice Project Doom review: this lost NES gem is certianley worth a look

Updated on July 18, 2015

My video review for Vice Project Doom on youtube

A scan of my NES cart of the game

Note all images in this hub were either scan or capture by me using a capture device. The game itself belongs to it's creators Sammy.


One of the worst games that came out of Konami during the NES generation was a game called the Misadventures of Bayou Billy (note I’ll leave my video review of Bayou Billy at the bottom of this hub if you want more info on my feelings about that game) based on a Famicom game that was quite easy, breezy, and enjoyable (or so I am told I don’t own a Famicom) but when it was time to make an American version Konami did there best to see how they could screw it up, and manage to do it quite beautifully. In the end it was a turd of a game. Billy promised us 3 types of gameplay and failed miserably on 2 out of 3 and only earned passing on the smallest simplest one. However there is another little known NES gem that did what Billy set out to do but unlike Billy it’s actually a fun and enjoyable game. That little unknown gem is called Vice Project Doom.

A lot of hard core old school gamers know this gem, but a lot of people outside that circle don’t. It’s not a game that is talked about has much has it should be. It definitely should go up there with the likes of Ninja Gaiden, Contra, and the Castlevania series for good 3rd party NES games. Let’s start talking about what makes Vice Project Doom such a great game.

Vices cut scenes were unique for a game of this age

This and the Ninja Gaiden games are the only games I know to have this type of story element in an NES action game.
This and the Ninja Gaiden games are the only games I know to have this type of story element in an NES action game.

Story

Most NES games story lines are found on the instruction booklet or quick scene at the beginning of the game. Basically rescue the girl, or blow up aliens, and sometimes rescue the girl while blowing up aliens. Vice though takes its story approach off of another NES classic Ninja Gaiden and actually having a narrative and cut scenes that look like they very well might be out of an NES Ninja Gaiden game (there not has colorful or well animated though but they still do a good job telling the story) basically the game follows a man named Hart. Weather Hart is a mercenary, PI, cop, or some kind of government agent is never said but he and his team manage to find themselves in a case involving black magic, bio mutants, cover ups, and an evil organization that likes to model its main office based on the biblical tower of babel. The narrative is somewhat dark and the story line intriguing that said its still shows it is an NES game you still got to go and rescue the girl friend. That said points on how this twist ends has its definitely different then the ending to any Mario game when you finally find her, and fact the game ends kind of dark and tragic and Hart ends up being a bit of broken man at the end makes it way different then the story lines that come out of that era.

Graphics

For a NES game released in the 2nd half of that console life span Vice is a pretty good looking game, it’s not great but it’s pretty good. The cut scenes are quite beautiful and the characters are well drawn and animated for NES standards at least. The backgrounds are quite beautiful and well known and the sprites are fairly large with enough details to be passing. I won’t say it hasn’t aged it still looks like an NES game after all, but I have seen far worse then Vice.

Vices graphics look good for an NES game, but it's still an NES game.

Sound

The music is passable for an NES game, but it’s not very memorable but then it’s not memorably bad either. Each song sets the tone well and the music that gets loop in the cut scenes although not the best are far from the worst. In the end often times when it comes to 8-bit soundtracks being average can be good and Vices is just that.

Gameplay

Ok I am going to split the gameplay sections into 3 different types of gameplay and describe them based on the ones you encounter first.

Driving

Yeah if you take time to watch my Bayou Billy review you know one thing while the rest of Bayou Billy is a god awful piece of feces the driving sections took a game from just merely being bad to being psychologically tortures. Vice starts off with a driving stage and shows how a good driving stage should be done, and it does it by being a lot simpler then Billy and modeling itself after the classic arcade game Spy Hunter. Basically it’s a top down shooter stage that is fast pace, fun, and gives you plenty of lives so you can screw up without having to worry about dying. The controls for these parts are quite excellent and they are just a fun vertical shooter stages that are a blast to play. If there is one complaint about the two driving stages is that they are ridiculously short and end before they even feel like even begun. But I’ll take that complaint over Billy’s which were long, tedious, frustrating, and probably the worst driving stages I have played in a video game.

Vices are top down side scrolling games

That looks more like a sword then a whip to me.

Well it doesn't look like the whip Simon Belmont uses anyways.
Well it doesn't look like the whip Simon Belmont uses anyways.

Platforming

Ok Billy was more of a fighting game while Vice is an action platformer. Your just jumping over pits but you’re not stomping on enemies instead you got a laser whip to wale on opponents (looks more like a beam sword to me but the internet says it’s a whip) a gun that is useless, and grenades that although hard to use do come in handy in some situations. Your main mode of attack will be that whip it’s fast and usually takes care of most enemies in a few short attacks.

The game still uses that NES trope of having to be difficult in order for a person to feel like they got their money out for their purchase. That said Vice never pushes this too far, unlike Ninja Gaiden it’s not out to make players feel like they need to crawl up in the fetal position and cry out for their mommies. But expect game overs and deaths quite often. Deaths don’t set you back too far usually and game overs just send you back to the beginning of the current stage. Fortunately most stages are fairly short so being sent packing back to the beginning usually isn’t too laborious a challenge.

If I have one thing to complain about this part of the game it is the bosses. Some are really hard while others are just a cake walk. And no it’s not a beginning of the game boss is easy, end of the game boss hard, they go up and down like a roller coaster when it comes to difficulty. You never know if you’re about to hit a boss that will take a while to figure out and beat, or if you’re about to fight a boss that just involves getting close and waling on it with your laser whip/sword.

Shooting Gallery

Yeah the shooting gallery segments are about the only area where Billy did it better then Vice Project Doom, but only because Vice’s reticle feels a little bit sluggish. Still these are fun shooting gallery stages has you take down enemies firing bullets and throwing hand grenades. And for the most part it’s fairly easy, I just wish the reticle moved a little faster and smoother but it’s far from being a deal killer.

Will this ever be on the Wii's Virtual Console

The answer to this is probably not. The game was made by a company named Sammy who makes Pachinko machines now. That said Sammy does own another company that makes games, that little company is called SEGA. So with SEGA having supported VC in the past and giving Nintendo Sonic exclusives you think this would be a no brainer. Unfortunately a few years ago IGN called Sammy’s head office and asked if Vice Project Doom would ever hit the virtual console. Their response was Vice Project what??? Yeah Sammy doesn’t even know they own the rights and who does so I am not optimistic about this ever hitting the VC. Which is a shame it’s a great lost gem of an NES classic and deserves to be played every bit has the Ninja Gaiden games that have hit the VC in the past.

I give vice a 4.5 out of 5

5 stars for Vice Project Doom

Final Recommendation

If you like classic old school games you owe it to yourself to go out and look for Vice Project Doom. It has 3 gameplay style and does all of them really well. It’s got a nice little bit of narrative that most NES games at the time did not. Put it all together and you have a nice little package which is certainly worth a pick up if you can get at a good price.

my review on Konami's Misadventures of Bayou Billy.

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