Although NAM-1975 was an early Neo Geo release, it's certainly not short on fun. Released in 1990, it took a simple shooting approach and built an interesting war theme around it. Simple mechanics and a level of playability that wasn't too common in the genre made for an amazing gameplay experience. Now SNK Playmore is bringing back its classic arcade shooter and fans of the genre should find plenty to like about this straightforward yet wildly addictive coin op.
The gameplay in NAM-1975 is simple and intuitive — think Operation Wolf, but with your character on-screen. Moving your soldier requires nothing more than pushing the joystick around in all directions. And as your soldier moves, so too does your targeting reticle. It's this cross-hair that will control where your machine gun fire and explosives go. For additional depth, you'll even be able to upgrade your main weapon and explosives by picking up power ups dropped as you take out enemies and enemy vehicles.
The force-scrolling levels and constant barrage of enemies and attack vehicles give you plenty of targeting action throughout. You'll find yourself constantly firing your main weapon and carefully choosing where and when to use your explosives. To make things easier, the game even gives you an evade move that allows you to tuck and roll around enemy fire. This move becomes particularly useful as you progress deeper into the game, especially during some of the later boss fights. The key issue with NAM-1975 from a gameplay perspective is one which impacts many arcade titles of this type: it can become slightly repetitive, making it better suited for sampling in short bursts rather than mammoth play sessions.
There's a smoothness to the play controls in NAM-1975 that makes the game a breeze to play. That's not to say that there's not plenty of challenge to be had, but the game lets you spend more time concentrating on the activities you'll be facing instead of fumbling for the controls. With all of the complicated control schemes found in today's games, it's nice to take a step back to the arcade days and just enjoy a game that places simplicity over saturation.
Since this is an earlier Neo Geo release, don't expect the visuals to set the world on fire. Having said that, there's plenty of detail in the sprite work and the areas themselves all look quite crisp and detailed. There's quite a bit of variety between the various levels, so you're never going to see the same scenery twice — a nice approach given the cookie cutter style of many arcade games of the time period.
You can't help but love a good chiptune soundtrack and NAM-1975 features an excellent one. It's moody, upbeat, and pretty much everything in between. You're going to get a lot of variety as there are new tracks for each area, and the sound effects are equally impressive. The voice overs are well done, but don't expect a lot as you're generally only going to get a dose in-between areas.
NAM-1975 might not set new standards for originality, but what it does do is offer up a fun shooting experience that should scratch the itch of any old school arcade fan. The level designs and enemy patterns offer up a fun and challenging shooting extravaganza, but it's the balance and variety that will keep you coming back for more. Sure, it's not anything ground-breaking and the action does become slightly repetitive over time, but NAM-1975 nevertheless provides an enjoyable experience which will resonate most keenly with players old enough to remember the coin-op epics of yesteryear.