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Ah, classic demon-blasting mayhem...

DOOM

1992 saw the release of iD Software's Wolfenstein 3-D, the definitive first-person shooter. With Wolfenstein's immense success, iD set to work developing an even better shooter. In 1994, they released DOOM to the world. The game tells the story of a demonic invasion of a base on the moons of Mars, and the lone Marine who has to stop it. With its somewhat dark imagery and bloody battles between the player and the forces of Hell itself, DOOM immediately drew the ire of various parent groups, particularily Christian organizations, which felt that the presence of demons in a game (regardless of the fact that you were fighting them) was too inappropriate. But what nobody was arguing about was that the game itself was really, really good.

As they had with Wolfenstein, Nintendo wanted in on this. However, now that the success of shooters was firmly established, iD had a little more leverage with Nintendo than before, and managed to get this game through the censors wholly intact.

Plot

Unfortunately, the rendering engine is pretty chunky.
Well, in all honesty, the early shooters featured little plot-wise besides a backstory, with the occasional plot update occuring between "episodes." DOOM's story is thus, and I quote:

"You're a space marine, one of Earth's toughest, hardened in combat and trained for action. Three years ago you assaulted a superior officer for ordering his soldiers to fire upon civilians. He and his body cast were shipped to Pearl Harbor, while you were transferred to Mars, home of the Union Aerospace Corporation.

The UAC is a multi-planetary conglomerate with radioactive waste facilities on Mars and its two moons, Phobos and Deimos. With no action for fifty million miles, your day consisted of suckin' dust and watchin' restricted flicks in the rec room.

For the last four years the military, UAC's biggest supplier, has used the remote facilities on Phobos and Deimos to conduct various secret projects, including research on inter-dimensional space travel. So far they have been able to open gateways between Phobos and Deimos, throwing a few gadgets into one and watching them come out the other. Recently however, the gateways have grown dangerously unstable. Military "volunteers" entering them have either disappeared or been stricken with a strange form of insanity--babbling vulgarities, bludgeoning anything that breathes, and finally suffering an untimely death of full-body explosion. Matching heads with torsos to send home to the folks became a full-time job. Latest military reports state that the research is suffering a small setback, but everything is under control.

A few hours ago, Mars received a garbled message from Phobos. "We require immediate military support. Something fraggin' evil is coming out of the gateways! Computer systems have gone berserk!" The rest was incoherent. Soon afterwards, Deimos simply vanished from the sky. Since then, attempts to establish contact with either moon have been unsuccessful.

You and your buddies, the only combat troop for fifty million miles, were sent up pronto to Phobos. You were ordered to secure the perimeter of the base while the rest of the team went inside. For several hours, your radio picked up the sounds of combat: guns firing, men yelling orders, screams, bones cracking, then finally silence. Seems your buddies are dead.

Things aren't looking too good. You'll never navigate off the planet on your own. Plus, all the heavy weapons have been taken by the assault team leaving you only with a pistol. If only you could get your hands around a plasma rifle or even a shotgun you could take a few down on your way out. Whatever killed your buddies deserves a couple of pellets in the forehead. Securing your helmet, you exit the landing pod. Hopefully you can find more substantial firepower somewhere within the station. As you walk through the main entrance of the base, you hear animal-like growls echoing throughout the distant corridors. They know you're here. There's no turning back now."

What's truly amazing about the game is that most of the plot, demons and everything, got past Nintendo's censors, the guys who savaged Wolfenstein when it came to the SNES. They must have been pretty desperate to get another iD game on one of their consoles to just drop their restrictions like that. (For some reason, though they didn't censor most of the language, they changed the Episode 3 end-text so that instead of having "its ass kicked," the Spiderdemon is "defeated.")

Gameplay

However, the lighting effects are as nifty as ever.
Like Wolfenstein, DOOM helped to define just what a first-person shooter is. It introduced several new concepts to the genre, like significantly different types of weapons and lighting effects. It also was the first shooter to feature variable-height, textured ceilings and floors, dynamic landscapes, and orthagonal walls (walls not aligned along a grid.) It also kept up iD's tradition of large, complex levels filled with secrets.

The SNES port of DOOM is, design-wise, exactly the same as the PC version. However, the clock speed of the SNES means that, since so much processor is being used by the renderer, the game runs a little slower than usual. It's not enough to be a problem, but it can throw you for a loop if you're used to playing at normal speed. Also, one or two of the levels are missing (E2M2, for example,) but I think this is because they would cause severe renderer choke-up on the SNES. (E3M5 is also missing, but it shouldn't have caused any problems. My guess is that it was removed becuase it's named "Unholy Cathedral." Stupid Nintendo.)

Music/Sound

Hmm...is that green-painted cement or acid?
I've said it before (though not here) and I'll say it again: Bobby Prince is a genius. His tunes for DOOM are excellent, and fit the mood of the game perfectly, and the SNES versions are even better than their PC counterparts. Unfortunately, a few of the tunes from the PC version are missing.

The sound effects are almost all the same, though a few superfluous ones, such as the shotgun-pump sound for picking up a new weapon, have been removed, presumably for space reasons. Overall, the sound is almost as good as the PC version.

Graphics

Oddly, this doesn't constitute swearing or religious references by Nintendo's standards.
This is the SNES version's biggest problem. While the graphics are still excellent, particularily by SNES standards, the fact that the SNES only runs at 3.59 MHz severely limits what can be done with it, particularily with a renderer as complex as DOOM's. The screen resolution has been cut in half, making it hard to distinguish objects at a distance, and the floor and ceiling textures have been removed, so that you have to know ahead of time that red floors are lava and green floors are acid. Also, the number of textures in the game has been cut down, though the cartridge is only 1 MB and they could have just moved up to a higher ROM size. Frankly, although the graphics are better than those in the SNES Wolfenstein, this cartridge could have benefited from an accelerator chip allowing the renderer to run at full detail.

Conclusion

Well, I strongly suggest that you play the PC version instead (particularily with zDOOM,) but on the whole, I'm impressed with what iD managed to squeeze out of 3.59 MHz and a miniscule amount of memory, and particularily with how they got this game past the censors at Nintendo.

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