As one of the earliest Neo Geo releases, NAM-1975 occupies a rather unusual place in the console's library. It's relatively well-known because it was the first glimpse many of us saw of the raw power contained within SNK's arcade (and home) hardware, but like so many launch titles it hasn't aged all that gracefully in the decades since.
The best way to describe NAM-1975 is an Operation Wolf-style shooter but your character is visible on-screen - this means you can avoid incoming fire by moving left and right. As you move your targeting crosshair shifts as well, so when aiming you have to be mindful of where your character is at the bottom of the screen in relation to unfriendly fire. Alternatively, holding down the fire button keeps your character rooted to the spot, allowing the crosshair to be moved on its own. There's also a special spring button which allows you to dash quickly in either direction; combine this with a down-left or down-right push on the analogue stick and your character will perform a cartwheel which allows them to evade enemy fire.
While the core concept of the game revolves around mindless carnage, there are some elements which prevent things from becoming too samey. You can pick up three different weapons types – Balcan (machine gun), Flamethrower and Missile Launcher – from downed enemies, although these have limited ammo. You're also issued with a finite number of grenades which are handy for taking out tougher opponents; like the guns, there are other types to collect, such a Spark and Napalm bomb. In a neat twist, when you save a female hostage they will sprint down to the bottom of the screen and gladly add their firepower to yours, remaining by your side until you either finish the stage or get killed.
As you might expect from a very early Neo Geo release the visuals in NAM-1975 are quite basic, with small sprites and rather bland backgrounds. On the positive side, the main character boasts some impressive animation and the music and voice overs are generally decent. It's perhaps unwise to expect a Neo Geo game from 1990 to dazzle you in terms of presentation, but NAM-1975 is comfortably overshadowed by many Mega Drive / Genesis and SNES titles supposedly running on inferior hardware.
As part of the ACA Neo Geo range NAM-1975 comes with a wide range of features and options, including save state support, screen filters and the ability to tinker with the difficulty and the rate at which score-based bonuses are dished out. Online leaderboards are also included, and you can choose to play the game in "Caravan" mode, where you have a set time to rack up as many points as possible, or "Hi Score" mode, where you are confined to a single credit. The game's two-player mode is perfectly suited to the Switch's Joy-Con controllers, meaning you can start a co-op session wherever there's room to set down the console; it goes without saying that NAM-1975 is much more fun when played with a friend.
NAM-1975's status as a Neo Geo launch title means that while it's fun in short bursts, it's a long way from being the best the console has to offer. The action gets repetitive after long periods of time and in terms of visuals, it's quite a dull game in places. Still, if you're a fan of old-school coin-op blasters like Operation Wolf and Dynamite Duke then this is well worth a look, and the enhancements made by publisher Hamster Corporation are excellent, as always.