NAM 1975: A Reverent Review by Bobak!
NAM 1975 is one of the original releases for the Neo Geo. At the initial launch, players had the option of buying their home system with either Baseball Stars Pro or NAM 1975 (this was changed to Magician Lord only in the US). Both games were lots of fun, but in my mind NAM 1975 has survived well enough to be considered a classic.
The premise is interesting. Dr. R. Muckley, an ex-US scientist has been kidnapped with his daughter and taken into NAM's backwoods. It is your job as a part of an elite special forces unit to go and rescue them (these words are lifted, more or less, from the intro screen). In abstract it sounds like your average run-of-the-mill video game plot; however, it is executed surprisingly well. Invoking the feel of the movie "Apocalypse Now," the game paints a dark, dreary and deadly serious mood as the soldiers go further and further into their suicidal mission. Most games would create a dark plot and more or less loose it in the duration of the game. NAM 1975 surpasses expectations and carries the feel all the way to the end without letting up, or going too far and becoming absurd. But what is all the good writing in the world if there's no game to back it up?
GRAPHICS (or, the bad news first):
Of the early Neo titles, I remember being the least impressed with the graphics of NAM 1975. While the intro-screen and cut intermission graphics were well crafted, the shots of the actual game were so-so. Upon first glance, the game looked like an updated hybrid of Operation Wolf and Cabal. SNK had actually released the successful shooter Mechanized Attack two years earlier with graphics superior to those of NAM, which created some disappointment. Yet in context of the game, I realized that the graphics worked well with the gameplay. The graphics were kept simple to make differentiating targets easier. By keeping the enemies relatively small, even more enemies can cram onto the screen and mow you down. The speed and challenge of the game keep you from looking all the carefully at the background and instead keeps you concentrated on who you should blast next. In those times that you do have a break, the game cuts to the nice intermissions. Am I calling the graphics good? No, I'm calling them adequate. They could have been better...like most of the earlier Neo Geo games, graphics are the weak spot (or at least the part that aged the least gracefully).
MUSIC/SFX: "A Nightmare Awaits Me"
What NAM 1975 lacks in graphics it gains back in sounds and music. There is quite a lot of spoken dialogue during the intermissions and (unlike nearly all early Neo Geo games) the voice acting is quite well done. The narrator actually sounds like a haggared combat vet lost in a world of violent confusion. Don't underestimate that point. If, for example, SNK had decided to hire their usual voice acting talent (ie, the one programmer who can sort-of speak english), the introduction would have seemed silly and downright stupid. Unfortunately, for a few of the lesser characters, they did use their normal hacks -giving some of the intermissions some credibility issues ( I smirked at the Japanese accent coming from Dr. Muckley's "American" daughter). The music that is played throughout the game is ranges from appropriate to memorable -invoking the feel of a dramatic war game. All throughout, the continual sound of bullets, explosion of grenades, and the shrieks of dying soldiers keep it interesting without drowning out the music. My one caveat is one that seems to cross apply to many early Neo Geo games: the sound and music come across a tiny bit muffled. While it doesn't harm the game, it seems to have kept the music and sound from having their full impact (thereby further immersing the player in the game). Is NAM's music up to today's standards? Of course not. Games like Metal Slug have blown away the sound barrier in terms of sheer sound carnage and memorable music. Yet NAM 1975 was quite advanced for its time and maintains its poise even today -which is quite a feat.
PLAYABILITY: "Do I have to go back to the hell again?"
NAM can be one tough game at times. It combines a cursor gun site with the side to side movement of your character moving at the bottom of the screen. The control of the soldiers is tight, which is important when moving your guy out of the way of heavy enemy fire; but the aimer moves a bit slow -which makes it difficult in later levels to dodge a shot and return fire quickly (which is an important tactic to learn against bosses). At times there are so many bullets/grenades/missiles coming at you and you suffer what can seem like a cheap death. I use the word "seem" because, ideally, you should be able to thin out the enemy ranks enough in the mean time to prevent them from all shooting at you. While this skill keeps you out of the situation 95% of the time, it seems that more often than not you'll find yourself looking at a hail of bullets and thinking "Cheap!" Then again, like all Neo Geo games, this one was designed to be an arcade quarter muncher. Bu the game is never boring, and the power ups are quite fun -so it'll keep you playing all the way through. As a final thought, I do find the final boss to be a little bit of an overkill -once you start fighting him you loose the ability to continue as he fires an unbelievable hard to avoid hail of bullets, grenades, and lasers -if you do die, game over. No continuing from earlier in the level, game over -period. You see him chuckle and blow up the world and then see yourself crouched in a corner and holding your war record as the game ends. After going through this three or four times in a row you'll find yourself NAMed out for a bit. That makes a good transition into:
Other than the ridiculously difficult final boss, NAM 1975 has excellent replay value, even today! This fact and this fact alone makes the case for why I consider NAM to be a classic. With two player simultaneous mode, you can play the game for hours with your buddies, blasting away your enemies and cursing at the game when the last boss wastes you both. While some might play this game to see how far they can get on one credit, I love playing it just to blast people and let off some stress. As I alluded to above, its a game where you'll play it for a while, get tired -shelve it, and then play it again some time later. If only I could say the same for other games (like The Super Spy).
NAM 1975 is a good, solid game to have in any library. Among the Operation Wolf clones that made it to home systems, it leads the way. Since its an older, common game, it can be had for a reasonable price. I recommend picking it up if your on a budget, collecting good Neo Games, or just in the mood for a good old fashion shooter. You won't be disappointed.
Bobak!: Is a blind nun who was born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan before going on to seminary at St. Mary's outside Chicago, Ill. Tragically, a minor stroke robbed her of nearly all her vision, but through perseverance and faith, she is still able to function relatively normally. She currently teaches at a school in Yellowknife, NWT.
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by Kazuya_UK - Courtesy of Kazuya's
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