Sunday, July 13, 2014

Gun-Dec / Vice: Project Doom

   Vice: Project Doom (aka Gun-Dec / ガンデック) was developed by Aicom and published by Sammy for the Famicom in April of 1991. It came to the U.S. in November the same year. It's gameplay is vaguely similar to Ninja Gaiden which was released three years prior; but it lacks certain elements such as wall-jumping and powerful, flashy magic attacks. Nevertheless, it is an action game and it incorporates several genres into the standard formula. The music is absolutely phenomenal to boot.

   Aside from it's side-scrolling, hack and slash levels there are stages such as the opening one that blend arcade shooters such as Namco's Xevious (1982/'83) with top-down racing games like Konami's Road Fighter (NES;1985/91), and even first-person shooting levels much like SNK's Mechanized Attack (NES;1990). Interestingly enough, the developer Aicom (which many internet sources seem to suggest was founded by former employees of Jaleco) after their departure from Sega Sammy Holdings, Aicom later would become Yumekobo with funding from SNK. Aicom/Yumekobo would go on to develop titles for SNK exclusively, such as Biomotor Unitron (NGPC;1999), it's sequel Kikou Seiki Unitron (NGPC;2000), and a handful of other titles from 1998 until 2000.
Stage 2 Boss Fight.
Stage 5 Boss Fight.

   As far as gameplay goes in Vice, you can either slash or blast your way through the various enemies that beset you. Equipped with a sword, gun, and grenades you must make your way through eleven levels in total; each split into two sections and a third which is reserved for a boss fight. Utilizing all three of your weapons adds a bit of strategy to a simple genre. When fighting certain bosses you will find that a specific weapon is more effective depending on their pattern, provided you have enough ammo for the pistol and enough grenades which you can replenish via enemy drops throughout each stage.

Stage 3 Boss Fight.
Stage 6 Boss Fight.

   The shooter levels are somewhat annoying since there you seem to run out of ammo the most; and since it's auto-scrolling you must be quick to pick up the power-ups. Using the D-pad isn't really the way these types of games should be played either. The grenades do come in handy here, but they do not kill all enemies on screen which is a minor setback, but overall it is a decent change of pace. I found myself looking for hidden things by shooting out windows but this only depleted my ammo supply. It would have been nice to at least have infinite ammo here considering you are not able to use your sword as backup.

Stage 4-2; the first shooter level.
Stage 11-1

   There are only two driving stages in the game and the difficulty curve is astronomical. The first stage is very simple, take out each car, try your best to avoid obstacles that almost always seem be in the way - but they don't actually damage you, just slow you down. At the end of the line you catch up with the first boss; just avoid it's shots and the uh, cars that it fires at you.

Stage 1-1 Boss Fight
Stage 10-1
   The other driving level however is riddled with obstacles that will damage you if you cannot manage to clear them out of the way with your vehicle's weapon. There is also an exponential increase in enemies, which is reasonable considering it is late in the game. With that said, I believe it presents the player with solid challenge to overcome directly before the final area of the game.

Stage 6-2
Stage 7-2
    Each of the normal platforming levels are designed extremely well and the graphics are some of the best on the system in my opinion. From stage 1-2 and onward, each section presents it's own set of unique challenges. The backgrounds are superb; the enemies are well placed, even though they do re-spawn which ramps up the difficulty factor. With proper timing, any astute master of classic action games should be able to overcome all of this game's trials and tribulations.

Stage 7 Boss Fight.
Stage 8 Boss Fight.

Major Spoilers Ahead:

Stage 9 Boss Fight.
   It has a very science fiction plot, which is both bizarre and interesting. In a somewhat dystopian future, an alien race has been living in secret for centuries utilizing clones to maintain their species longevity and their advanced technology to found the B.E.D.A. Corporation, which deals in electronics, weaponry, and pharmaceuticals - namely a drug called "Gel" (referred to as "Stuff" in it's English release among other,small changes due to censorship) the aliens use as food that causes horrific effects when consumed by humans. Your character, Quan Hart, is one of these clones destined to assume his place amongst the rank and file of the sinister B.E.D.A Corp., and your love interest, Christy is caught up in the mix. the dialogue in cutscenes is often cheesy, but at least it is coherent and adds to the wonderful, outlandish atmosphere of the game.

Showdown with your clone.
The Final Boss.

    In conclusion; Vice: Project Doom proves to be an excellent game that is incredibly varied and a test of the player's skills. It's action-platforming levels are superb, both in terms of graphics, gameplay and music. It's later driving stage is a tad difficult when compared to the first; though not impossible - but I felt it added to the game's overall experience. It's first-person shooter stages contribute to it's versatility, despite having to use the D-pad to move the cross-hairs.  Though often overlooked and given very poor reviews upon it's initial release, I believe this game is a must-have for any retro-game collector and fan of action-platformers from decades past; if they haven't already gotten their hands on it.