Operation Secret Storm (NES) review
"I'm not sure what surprised me more: the fact I only had to deal with seven or eight enemies before encountering the level's boss or that I was fighting the national bird of the United States in Iraq! Perhaps Color Dreams was slyly protesting America's decision to leave the Middle East with Saddam in power by having players beat up a symbol of their country to show they had the mettle to take out the "DICK TATOR". Or perhaps, the programmers were idiots. Considering two later bosses were a genie on a magic carpet and a demonic creature, I'm leaning towards the "idiot" hypothesis."
When I think of the wars America has been in, one stands out in my mind as the greatest of all time: our first conflict with Iraq in the early 1990s. The reasoning is simple. Troops from my hometown were being deployed overseas or something like that, so there was going to be a local parade one fine morning to honor what they were doing. At school, we were told that due to the significance of this event, we would be allowed to skip our first-period class to view the parade and offer our well-wishes. And so, thanks to this magnificent war, I was able to ditch the Algebra II class I detested for one day. I was on cloud nine!
And since that's about all I really remember about that war, it ranks as number one in my book -- even better than the one where we kicked the South's butt to regain Colonel Sanders' secret chicken recipe or something like that. As you might guess, I was shocked upon realizing there were actually people out there who didn't have such a positive feeling about this conflict.
Those dastards happened to work for Color Dreams, recently featured by me thanks to their ability to create gaming gems like this. Apparently, they felt that by letting Saddam Hussein remain in power, we didn't finish the job. And sure, if you look at more recent events revolving around us manufacturing a number of vague and possibly misleading reasons to enter a second conflict with Iraq TO FINISH THE JOB, a weak-minded individual might concede they had a point. Not I, though -- our first conflict with Iraq got me out of Algebra II for one day and, therefore, was a resounding success and that's that!
To their credit, Color Dreams did try to change my mind with Operation Secret Storm. In this game, you control a lone American agent as he liberates Iraq with good old-fashioned fisticuffs. I was impressed because.....let's face it, legally ditching class is cool, but single-handedly beating down the entire population of a nation is flat-out awesome! As an added bonus, the box art features an image of Saddam wearing a tag referring to himself as a "DICK TATOR". Deep in the recesses of my brain, I can still hear Beavis and Butthead chortling over that one.
Sadly, things go a bit downhill from here. Well, technically, they plummet with the velocity of an anvil being dropped out of an airplane – but since this is Color Dreams, it's not like I had any illusion I'd be playing something good. Even with my unbelievably low expectations, though, things went downhill. I mean, when you've played a game and think its best quality is the derogatory and stereotypical way it portrays Arabic people just because that was the only thing the programmers succeeded in pulling off, you just aren't going to be left with a positive impression.
Your gung-ho mercenary awkwardly executes punches and kicks at his opponents in the hopes of liberating them from life. They reciprocate. As the person controlling all this stuff, you'll likely be wondering exactly what's happening, since nothing really works like you'd expect in a beat-em-up. Occasionally, your character will lose a heart due to taking damage. Here and there, you or one of the enemies will recoil, indicating they've been hit. Amusingly, your character has a gun, but brought no ammo, forcing him to scavenge bullets and the occasional grenade from the levels. Good invasion planning, my man! Even more hilariously, shooting a foe doesn't seem any more effective than simply punching them and might even be an inferior way of attack. Once, I fired at an enemy halfway across the screen and he recoiled backwards right into me and immediately connected with a life-draining punch. I don't think things were supposed to work out quite like that.
All in all, it's quite confusing. The controls are a bit sluggish and it seems like the main key to winning fights is to punch the other guy first and keep punching him until he dies (while hoping the programming doesn't let him slide by you and hit back), which becomes impossible when two or three foes (some with projectile weapons) are attacking at once. While I wouldn't advocate the strategy of closing your eyes, tapping the "B" button fiercely and praying to a random deity in many games, in Operation Secret Storm, it seemed as effective as anything else I did to avoid damage in fights with multiple opponents. There just isn't any strategy to those fights. They're coming after you to cause damage, so you have to beat them to the punch. That's about all there is to it.
It doesn't help that the levels tend to be short and dull, composed of a handful of battles followed by (sometimes) a boss. In the first stage, all I did was fight a robed guy, punch out an apparently naked dude and then get into a couple of confrontations against multiple foes at once before running into the boss -- a giant eagle. I'm not sure what surprised me more: the fact I only had to deal with seven or eight enemies before encountering the level's boss or that I was fighting the national bird of the United States in Iraq! Perhaps Color Dreams was slyly protesting America's decision to leave the Middle East with Saddam in power by having players beat up a symbol of their country to show they had the mettle to take out the "DICK TATOR". Or perhaps, the programmers were idiots. Considering two later bosses were a genie on a magic carpet and a demonic creature, I'm leaning towards the "idiot" hypothesis.
If Color Dreams had waited just a handful of years to release this game, they could have used my Palestinian roommate Kareem from college as a foe. One year, Kareem joined our university's boxing club and participated in a bout. Dubbed "The Beast from the Middle East", the only thing that could keep him down was his habit of going through a couple packs of cigarettes per day. Sadly, that did happen as he quickly gassed in what wound up being a loss. A chain-smoking Middle Eastern pugilist with a powerful punch (but no stamina) would have been far more entertaining than ANYTHING the Color Dreams people came up with for enemies.
Sadly, Kareem isn't in this game, Neither are entertainment or fun. Just another day at the office for Color Dreams, as they once again proved their proficiency at creating unlicensed games that should have simply been unreleased was second to none during the eight-bit days.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 13, 2009)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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