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What the Heck Is Vice: Project Doom?

by Neal Ronaghan - August 20, 2019, 6:13 pm PDT
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The latest addition to the NES games on Nintendo Switch Online is a Ninja Gaiden ripoff with an alien plot and driving stages.

Vice: Project Doom is one of the latest NES games hitting the Switch Online service. Unless you fit into a very specific wheelhouse of Nintendo Power subscriber, you probably have no idea what the heck Vice: Project Doom is. Good news: you’re not alone. Let’s dive into what this Sammy-published and Aicom-made action game is.

Aicom, the developers of Vice: Project Doom, was founded in 1988, made up of developers from Irem and Jaleco - two studios with NES development experience. Irem for games like Kung Fu and R-Type, while Jaleco made stuff like Bases Loaded and Ninja JaJaMaru-kun. Aicom was relatively prolific in a short period of time, releasing NES games you probably never heard of like Hoops, Totally Rad, The Mafat Conspiracy, and, well, Vice: Project Doom.

Before we get there, let’s wrap up Aicom’s history. By the end of the ‘90s, Aicom was bought by SNK and renamed Yumekobo. They mostly worked on Neo Geo Pocket Color games, including Puzzle Link and SNK Gals’ Fighters. Also the dungeon crawler RPG Biomotor Unitron, which looks like a real hidden gem on the Neo Geo Pocket Color.

The immediate comparison to Vice: Project Doom is that it looks like Ninja Gaiden but with guns, and that seems to hold up relatively well. Each level starts with a cut scene, similar in style to Ninja Gaiden, that tells the story of Hart, a member of the Vice unit who is trying to stop an evil corporation that is secretly run by aliens. For the most part, the levels are side-scrolling action where the player can switch between a gun, a laser whip, and grenades. A handful of levels fall into other styles, such as driving stages from a top-down perspective where you have to switch gears and shoot enemies as well as first-person shooting portions. It’s ambitious and out there even if, historically speaking, it just seems like it’s generally a mediocre game.

But honestly? I can’t totally judge it. I’ve never heard of Vice: Project Doom before a few weeks ago when Nintendo announced it as a Nintendo Switch Online game. This is an NES game from 1991 that is a true blue Ninja Gaiden ripoff that features a plot about a future company run by freaking aliens, vehicular combat, and Bayou Billy-esque shooting stages. That’s bananas and also what made me enjoy the early days of Virtual Console. Most of us are aware of the Marios and Zeldas of the world. Show us the Sin and Punishments. The Chew Man Fus. The Ufourias. The Catraps. I want to see the offbeat games of the past that might not ultimately be that amazing, but are weird footnotes or tried crazy things. So welcome, Vice: Project Doom. I’d like to play you for at least 15 minutes.

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