Code Name: Viper
Based on: Uh, pretty much just Rolling Thunder. That's it. OK, and Nancy Reagan, too.
So you say you groove to the idea of Rolling Thunder but hate newfangled technology and refuse to buy Namco Museum for PlayStation? Well, Luddite boy, you could always drop $5 on the NES version. Or if you're a real cheapskate, you could pick up a copy of Code Name: Viper for NES, quite possibly the most shameless rip-off ever to be spawned from the normally innovative loins of Capcom.
There's no doubt that Code Name: Viper is derived from Rolling Thunder -- it's got the same lanky characters, the same bi-level jumping, the same doors full of ammunition, the same slightly awkward and limiting control. And for kids who could never find the real thing (which was published, unlicensed, by Tengen in the midst of Nintendo's inexorable NES-era market control), Viper was probably the next-best thing. In retrospect, of course, one has to wonder how Capcom got away with such a blatant imitation of someone else's game when they raised such a stink over Fighter's History.
Of course, Viper did the usual arcade-to-NES conversion tricks of adding little gimmicks and details to compensate for the washed-out, scaled-back graphics. Not only can you find ammuntion behind doors but also hostages who give you a hearty "Thank you!" upon being rescued (it would seem that setting them free is sufficient to save them; no doubt they'll make it past the scores of armed guards and bottomless chasms and back to North America without additional help). And sadly, you'll also find the skeletons of those for whom... it's too late.
There's actually a tiny little bit of plot here, believe it or not; certainly more than Rolling Thunder's indecipherable cinemas featuring dancing Klansmen stripping Agent Leila to her underwear on a giant TV monitor. Viper took place in that brief, hesitant and hopeful period of American history between the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of Saddam Hussein in which the most evil enemy in the world was the South American drug cartel. And that's who Viper battles as he leaps from platform to platform and fires off bursts of bullets gleaned from behind random doors. In a truly silly and 2nd-grade plot twist, the true mastermind of the cartel is none other than Big Boss... er, Viper's commander, who led the soldier along for five levels without stopping to think that perhaps it could just maybe, possibly, be a bad idea to feed his subordinate clues to his own identity. It's like playing N.A.R.C. and learning that William Sessions was behind America's drug influx the entire time.
There is one major difference between Viper and its source material, though. Rolling Thunder starts to grow incredibly bizarre after a few levels (as if neon Klansmen weren't strange enough to begin with) with giant man-faced bats and men made of fire who dance merrily over scalding pits of lava. Viper, on the other hand, stays about as realistic as you can expect from an 8-bit video game. Which makes for a relatively consistent atmosphere, and some horrendously repetitive enemies.
Asinine plot aside, Code Name: Viper is pretty dang good. It's a shame about the ruthlessly derivative gameplay, though -- if Capcom had done this first it would have been a winner. But Namco's attempt came first (perhaps before even Shinobi, which doesn't count in any case because I don't like it very much), so if you want integrity from Capcom you'll have to stick to 1943 or Bionic Commando.