Doom is coming. Doom is here.
PUBLISHER: American Sammy
RELEASE DATE: November 1991
Vice: Project Doom may as well have been called Ninja Gaiden: Let’s Get Silly. Vice borrows liberally from the storied trilogy, including but not limited to: barely animated cut-scenes that bookend each level; similar enemies, including ninjas that jump out of nowhere and unleash shurikens and flying birds that patrol the length of the screen; interchangeable weapons; and rollicking devil-may-care soundtrack. But where Ninja Gaiden took itself very seriously (and for good reason – have you seen this intro?!),Vice‘s plot, main character, and well, the entire game is over-the-top and ridiculous; the Saints Row to Grand Theft Auto to make a minor (and somewhat flawed) analogy. By giving Vice a cheesy action-movie feel, the game is freed from the “Ninja Gaiden rip-off” tag, allowing it to be a solid action experience in its own right.
You play Quinn Hart, a self-described “no-nonsense sledgehammer of the law” whose searching for the distributors of the drug “Gel.” The story isn’t as engrossing as Ninja Gaiden‘s, but the cutscenes are worth watching for Quinn’s one-liners.
Use a whip, a gun, and grenades to take on the leagues of assassins. The whip is your main weapon, and unless you’re trying to kill an enemy in the distance, it’s all you really need; the gun and grenades work well, but they have limited ammo and the whip has greater hit range. The majority of the game is quick side-scrolling action, but the occasional driving and shooting segments pop up where the story needs them. Multi-genre games are ambitious, and often run the risk of botching the controls. Not so here. Every aspect controls like a dream, particularly the side-scrolling. Quinn moves fast and tight, and his quick response to button inputs is some of the smoothest I’ve experienced on the NES, next to Mario. Sounds hyperbolic, but what can I say, I was impressed.
Like Ninja Gaiden, Project Doom gets difficult fast, though not unbearably so. The former inflicted mountains of pain on the player with repeating waves of enemies. If Ryu took damage, he’d fly backwards, often to instant death if he was near a chasm or a pit. In Project Doom, enemies are plentiful, but they stay dead once killed. Quinn gets knocked backwards when hit, but he’s able to recover quicker than Ryu; instant deaths are more of a rarity. Quinn’s heartier too. After a few hits of damage, his life-bar will still be at the half-way point. Perhaps Project Doom is easier than Ninja Gaiden, but to me it feels fairer. Aicom removed the cheaper aspects of the latter series to make for a more well-rounded experience.
A better analogy to compare Ninja Gaiden and Project Doom would be an elegant action film like The Matrix versus an over-the-top, kill/explosion-fest like Commando. Ninja Gaiden, like The Matrix, is a more satisfying experience overall, complete with a good story and one of the best soundtracks of all time. Project Doom, like Commando, is brash and ridiculous – and potentially more fun, depending on your mood. Trash art.