Ninja Five-O - Retro Reflections - TBT

Ninja Five-O by developer Hudson Soft and publisher Konami—Game Boy Advance (GBA) Throwback Thursday review written by Hamza. 2003.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Without any hesitation whatsoever, Ninja Five-O should be among the first names to recommend if someone were to ask you of any worthy GBA games. This game truly deserves to be called one of the best, if not the best. This nifty handheld is home to a-great many side-scrollers and platformers-  namely MegaMan Zero, Lady Sia, and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow - but Ninja Five-O in my view is probably the best of them all.

The gist is the terrorists and rogue-ninjas have taken over and captured hostages all over the map. The story is minimal and the objective simple: Rescue all the hostages, kill all the terrorists, go one-on-one with the rogue-ninjas, collect keys, exit. Rinse and repeat. This is not to imply the gameplay is repetitive: You never know when the enemy ninja is going to appear onscreen; you never know when a terrorist might turn their hostage in your direction the moment you send flying your shuriken or other projectile, thus resulting in an accidental killing of said hostage.

The aforementioned chief objective is given another layer: If a speech bubble appears over the hostage’s head exclaiming “Don’t shoot”, then you really want to listen, because there’s a chance you might end up accidentally killing them. The game will mark this as ‘rescued’ and won’t deduct any points. However, it is still better to finish a stage without any casualties. If not for the fact that you’re a morally decent human being who believes in doing the right thing, then at-least do it for the cute way they shout “thank you” and run away.

With only a few levels to crab-walk through and with each broken down into small sections, the fun of Ninja Five-O will last for about an hour. Thirty-five minutes if the player is super experienced. But since Ninja Five-O is quality over quantity, the game doesn’t overstay its welcome. Scattered throughout the levels are bolts that the player can pick-up. They serve as power-ups.

Throughout the levels our ninja can collect colour-spectrum-cycling bolts which can further enhance his powers and give him cool projectiles, like multi-shot flames. Obtained either through a box or fallen enemy – usually the rogue-ninjas – these bolts will change the colour of your costume and that’s how you will know what upgrade level you’re currently in. But the thing that sucks is one shot or strike from a sword eliminates that power and you’re pushed back to the previous one. During boss battles this is hardly a thing of concern, but before one I want my ninja to be well stocked, with that special lightning-speed ability and not a rookie with a saber.

Speaking of which, your attacks are basic. You get to perform a single slash with your sword that proves, er, handy in hand-to-hand combats and opening suitcases and crates. Your character can jump but I think he’s struck with the same disease of Cannotjumpititisthat afflicted Bionic Commando from the NES title of the same name. Luckily, the ninja has with him his trusty kaginawa, a type of grappling hook used by ninjas. He can use that to perform acrobatic-themed stunts and raid on the foes like lightning. The last part may not be true, but who the hell cares, this is Ninja Five-O!

In conclusion, Ninja Five-O is a solid title on the GBA and no, it’s not a ninja-version of Hawaii Five-O, but however despite its similarities to other platform games, I deduced that this game has more in common with Virtua Cop than anything else. Why don’t you give it a try and decide for yourself?

Score: 8.5 / 10

Note: Screenshots from all platforms that were available at the time can be found here at Moby Games.



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