The Grapple Hook is Back
Ninja Five-O (also called Ninja Cop) is a surprisingly good platformer for the GBA. This game consists of a combination of Ninja Gaiden with a twist of Bionic Commando. With this, the player takes control of some kind of ninja cop type character. What is better than a cop with a sword and shrunkens trying to stop terrorists dead in their tracks?
For the most part, the play control isn’t that bad, but it could use just a little bit of tweaking. The player has two options for attack. The “B” button is used as a ranged attack as it throws an unlimited amount of shrunkens. Hitting the “R” button will make the character perform a sword swipe that is more powerful than the thrown items. This sword attack can be tapped multiple times consecutively to link together a fluid combo. The player also has the option to view his surroundings with the use of the “L” button in conjunction with the D-pad. The “A” button is the jump button. However, if the player hits this button again while in the air, the character will release a grappling hook that can be used to hang and swing from multiple ledges and even the ceiling. Once the player has grabbed a ledge with the grappling hook, he can then begin to swing by moving back and forth. Once enough momentum has been gained, “A” again will be used to release the grip of the hook and send the character flying in the corresponding direction. This is the main mode of transportation in the game. In addition, the player can grasp and hang on to the sides of ledges with his hands and pull himself up. This maneuver will be heavily used in the game. The player can also slide along the ground by ducking then pressing the “A” button. This move is faster than crawling and will be very helpful during many boss battles.
One move that is slightly confusing is the wall jump. The player can jump in between vertical parallel walls by using the grapple hook. The flaw is that it is difficult to gain momentum while on the wall. If the player doesn’t jump at exactly the right time, it results in a one-way ticket straight to the ground. This wall jump move should have just used the button combination of facing the opposite way on the D-pad then a tap of the jump button. There is also one other pain when using the grappling hook. The fact is, sometimes you will wish that you just had the ability of a double jump instead of a grapple hook. The game would have greatly benefited if the player could perform a double jump, then unleash the grapple at will. Since there is no double jump, you must always grapple the side of a platform, swing until enough momentum has been gained and release at the appropriate moment. Also, if the grapple is not released at the proper time, the character could be sent flying in an undesired direction. This can cause some frustration as you are just trying to perform a theoretically simple task. If a double jump was introduced, many of the game’s ledges could have been reached without the need of a grapple. This would allow for faster transportation and would desirably speed up the game play.
The game works in a similar fashion in each stage. The player must find a number of different colored keys to unlock specific doors while saving hostages from the clutches of terrorists. First, the player must find the unlocked door. Inside, a key of a specific color will be found allowing the door of the same color to be unlocked (a blue key will open the blue door). Once inside this new door, a new key will be found that permits the player to move further into the level. This pattern continues until all the keys are found and the main level exit opens. While looking for these keys, hostages must be saved. Hostages are being held by terrorists at gunpoint and a dialogue bubble will appear over their heads exclaiming “don’t shoot.” The player must time his attack perfectly to avoid killing the innocent. If timed well, the attacker will be killed resulting in an innocent saved. After the end of a few levels, a boss battle will develop. Bosses are big but aren’t terrible difficult to defeat. Scattered throughout the level are orange suitcases that contain items. If a lightning bolt item is found, the character’s power will increase. Once this new level of power has been gained, your attacks become stronger. For example, when you are a level one, you throw throwing stars. When you reach level two, you will throw a spread of three fireballs. And when you are in level three, you will unleash a very powerful laser beam. However, after you gain a level and get injured in any way, you lose your power. So it is in the player’s best interest to obtain as many power-ups as possible while taking the least amount of damage to be the strongest that you can be.
The backgrounds and sprites in this game are noteworthy, but there aren’t that many particle effects. The main character could have benefited from a few more animations too. When you are hanging off the edge of a ledge, he just hangs there. He should be at least slightly swaying back and forth to add a little more life to the character. Also, the running animation is bit odd. Instead of running one foot in front of the other, he kind of shuffles his feet like you would when playing defense in a basketball game. Since he is kind of hopping around, it can seem like he’s moving with rather jerky steps. This character could keep this movement if walking slowly, but when you want to run at full speed, he should look like he is running in one smooth motion. This game doesn’t really contain a whole lot of variety in the music department. Pretty much you hear the same sounds repeatedly throughout the game. This game could definitely benefit from a few new tunes.
Most gamers will appreciate this game for its classic game play. Ninja Five-O is enjoyable because it brings back the grapple hook while incorporating simple but great game play. Once the game has been beaten, a new difficulty mode will be unlocked along with a Time Trial mode. This brings extra challenges to the game after it has been completed. It isn’t much, but at least it’s something. However, this game has one of the best opening cut scenes on GBA. You’ll want to watch this movie almost every time you boot up your game because it shows the ninja doing what he does best. This game shouldn’t be overlooked because it will satisfy gamers’ needs by presenting a great combination of action with old school traditions. Play this game if you want to relive Ninja Gaiden in a new way or want to play a pleasing platforming adventure.