|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Coyote Console||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Majesco||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 20, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
As new war games find their way onto the DS, it's always interesting to see what new ideas are being explored, both in terms of presentation and gameplay. Operation: Vietnam falls somewhere between an arcade title and a strategic action-shooter. The combination feels slightly familiar, yet manages to bring in enough new elements to make for a satisfying action title.
After running successful military operations for weeks on end up and down the Nung River, - note: the same name of the fictional Vietnamese river used in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now - luck eventually runs out for your small squad of soldiers. On one such mission, a Viet Cong rocket rips into your chopper, sending the helicopter and your men careening to the ground in a ball of flame. Crash-landing in the middle of enemy territory, you awaken to find the chopper pilot dead and your men missing. Once you've rescued the rest of your squad members, it's payback time as you cut through the thick Vietnamese jungle to fight VC insurgents and liberate civilian villagers.
Aside from the Apocalypse Now reference, the developers sprinkled subtle bits of humor throughout the game. Some of the dialogue between your squad members is mildly entertaining, as they whine, crack jokes, or whip out cliché war phrases such as, "I ain't got time to bleed." Villagers tend to communicate in broken English which is occasionally humorous. The best surprise of all, however, comes at the game's first boss encounter when the VC commanders quips, "Ha Ha Ha. Soon GI all your base are belong to us." For those you who aren't hip to gamer humor, "all your base are belong to us" is an "Engrish" phrase which sparked an internet phenomenon among the gaming community around 2001. It appears, due to horrible translation, as dialogue text in the Japanese video game Zero Wing. Operation: Vietnam developer Coyote Console wins huge bonus points for finding a way to work the phrase into this game.
Operation: Vietnam is played from a birds-eye-view perspective which brings back fond memories of playing Guerrilla Wars on NES, though at a much slower tempo and with obviously better graphics. Over a 20 mission campaign, you'll control a squad of up to four soldiers through the thick jungle terrain, into villages, along riverbeds and mountains, and eventually into a cityscape where the heart of the VC forces lie. Missions range from mowing down enemy forces, rescuing POWs and villagers, and taking out VC encampments to recon and assassination ops.
Each of your four soldiers has their own unique equipment which comes in handy at different times in the jungle. Sarge, the commander, wields a semi-auto machine gun which fires in rapid bursts. Doc, the medic, has a weak pea-shooter, but health packs are used more effectively when he's selected. Scopes' sniper rifle has an excellent range, and it can take out VC with one hit. He can also see landmines that are otherwise invisible when other team members are selected. Hopper's heavy rocket launcher is slow to reload and hard to aim against moving targets, but it deals out a lot of damage. In addition to each soldier's primary weapon, anyone in the group can utilize fragmentation grenades to trash bunkers and groups of enemies, health packs to restore health or revive unconscious teammates, and smoke grenades for calling in air strikes to take out tough units.
Controlling individual soldiers, and the entire group, is awkward at first, but it doesn't take long to get the hang of things. At first, you're on your own, and you simply move your soldier around using the control pad. Firing your main weapon, throwing grenades, using health power-ups, and calling air strikes is all done using the four main buttons. An aiming crosshair extends out the direction you are currently standing or moving in. When an enemy is within range, the crosshair will turn red and automatically lock on until you either move in another direction or your enemy is defeated. The aiming system starts to run much more smoothly once you've had some time to test it out. Once you have a full squad at your command, you can switch your main character on the fly. Your squad mates will follow along behind you single-file and blast away at foes as they come within range. Using the touch screen, you can set each member to behave differently depending on the situation: they can stay where they are, follow you, or actively seek out and destroy the VC.