Yeah, it's an incredibly blatant Ninja Gaiden ripoff, but I have a soft spot for this cart (don't ask me why). This is another one that the critics (Nintendo Power included - I think this game earned a cover feature) seemed to like, but that just didn't catch on with the public for some reason (lack of marketing, perhaps?). At any rate, VPD better than its obscurity would imply. For Quinn Hart (Vice Squad officer and main character), the day began like any other as he chased down a maniac in an armored truck. One thing led to another though, and poor Quinn soon found himself caught up in a sinister plot involving the BEDA corporation, aliens (!), more than one clone of himself, and the obligatory biker-looking Chick in Distress.
Cinema scenes (strikingly similar to the NG cinemas) unveil the latest developments after every significant point in the game (usually after you finish off one of the many bosses). The opening cinema details something
about a sinister "Project Doom", that Quinn Hart will soon discover. It's
not an overly fabulous plot, and it seems silly, but the story is actually quite detailed and adds intrigue to the game.
About 80% of the gameplay is standard side-scrolling (albeit well-done) action. You run through nice-looking levels, better than the NG series generally, armed with three weapons: a whip that handles more like a sword (what? since when do special agents carry whips? Nope, this is nothing like Ninja Gaiden...alright, I'll shut up already) a gun, and grenades that look suspiciously like safety lawn darts (the kind they recalled after the lead ends thunked into one too many kids' skulls, you remember 'em). The variety of special weapons could be wider (come ON, he's a vice squad officer and they didn't even issue him a laser? What kind of top-secret government organization *IS* this, anyway??..), but the gun and grenades are adequate and there are usually enough lying around to allow the player to use them more or less with impunity. Having to switch between the other weapons and the whip is a pain; NG's Up+B weapon-firing scheme was much better. In addition to the usual ducking, shooting, and jumping, Quinn's got a really neat "run while ducking" maneuver that I've yet to see copied in any other NES game. The variety of enemies is pretty good (as opposed to the NG series, where adding the same movement scheme to a different sprite is considered a new enemy), and the challenge is high without becoming too nerve-racking. As in the NG series, unlimited continues take the edge off the frustration, but a password feature is desperately needed.
The interesting part of this game is the other 20%: there are two Spy-Hunter-style driving levels and two Operation-Wolf-style shooting levels, which unfortunately lack gun support. While not really difficult enough to qualify as anything more than an amusing interlude, these levels are just that: an interesting way to break things up. The shooting levels are pretty inane, but the driving sequences are a lot of fun (if a bit short). Fans of Spy Hunter and Ultimate Stuntman won't be disappointed.
There's some nice multi-layer scrolling at a few areas in the game, which
is pretty rare on the NES. The character sprites are pretty average though,
and the enemies are rather undetailed and stiff. The music and sound
effects aren't anything to jump for joy either.
It's a knock-off of about six games that adds no real elements of its own. Who cares? Vice: Project Doom is a quality effort; had more games like this been made late in the NES's life, it may have stayed popular even longer into the 16-bit wars. VPD is definitely worth the pittance that most resellers charge for it (after all, if someone hadn't ripped off 'The Honeymooners', do you think we'd have 'the Flintstones'? More importantly, would we care? Ok, maybe that wasn't the best analogy...you'll still like this game though).