Operation Wolf was a massive hit in arcades when it was released in 1987. Although the concept of light gun games wasn’t a new one, Taito’s imposing arcade cabinet (replete with uber-cool replica Uzi) certainly made a lasting impact on gamers worldwide. Predictably, it was ported to pretty much every home format in existence, including the NES.
First impressions of the NES version aren’t good. The visuals are, on the whole, abysmal. The task of taking the arcade original’s bold and colourful graphics and shoehorning them into the creaking NES hardware was obviously too much for the developers; the colour limitations mean that every environment is made up of what seems like three or four different shades and enemy sprites lack detail and shamble along thanks to some particularly stilted animation.
Aurally things aren’t much better, with weedy sound effects failing to make up for the lack of in-game music. This is one game that you may seriously consider turning the sound off for, lest the constant noise of tinny gunfire and flatulent explosions render you insane.
It’s only when playing a game like Operation Wolf on home hardware that you realise just how much of the game’s appeal was down to the extravagances of the arcade; without the Uzi, it’s effectively nothing. The NES original offered both Zapper and joypad support, with neither option really managing to satisfy the player. The original Zapper was notorious for its loud, clicking trigger, which also showcased an insane amount of travel. This meant that rapid firing was off the menu, and in a game like Operation Wolf you need to keep up your rate of fire if you really want to succeed. As you might expect, playing a light gun game with the joypad reduces it to an exercise in pointlessness; it’s far too fiddly and inaccurate to permit serious play.
This Virtual Console edition only supports the 'pad' option, which makes it even less appealing than the already dire NES version. With the new-look Zapper currently available in stores worldwide, you can't help but feel that Nintendo has missed a golden opportunity here. The game sucks, but I'm sure many people would have given this a chance had it offered Wiimote pointer functionality.
If you happen to harbour fond memories of the arcade version then please do not go anywhere near this dire conversion as it will bear no resemblance to the game you once loved.