Today on Retro Spotlight, we’re looking at underrated classic that people don’t often mention when talking about Gameboy Advance games. It’s a game that combines elements of Sega’s Shinobi and Capcom’s Bionic Commando, and creates a perfect meld of the two. You’ve got crazy grappling hook mechanics being used to traverse levels, while using a samurai sword that’s on fire to mow down enemy after enemy, all while avoiding spike traps, flamethrowers, and other normal hazards that every Ninja Cop should be on the look out for.
Everyone in the Retro gaming community is aware of both games, so the idea of a Frankenstein game with all of those elements is a dream come true! It’s also one of the more expensive games to try and get your hands on as it had a pretty interesting development history. Considering the game didn’t see a massive release, or even exposure in general. It’s a true hidden gem in every sense of the word.
Let’s jump right into what makes the game so interesting!
The game was developed by Hudson, the same people behind Bomberman, and was published by Konami around mid 2003 for the US market under the name – Ninja Five-O. The release was noticed by… well, nobody. It ended up across store shelves for a few weeks, and was taken away quickly after not selling particularly well. When it came to the UK and Europe, the game got a name change, but that was about it, it sold about the same and vanished from store shelves the same as America. It never even saw a Japanese release, so it’s a bit baffling what Hudson and Konami intended for the title.
You are put into the boots of Joe Osugi, an Anti-Terrorist Ninja tasked with rescuing hostages and beating all the bad guys terrorising various parts of the city. You start off being able to choose from three stages, which have sub levels and a boss at the end, with more to be unlocked once you finish them. The levels are quite diverse, banks, airports, and caves, every area that a classic Die Hard villain has terrorised in the films. You are given a big level of freedom to explore and choose your own paths through the levels, rather than just going forward with no real change in direction.
You and Joe aren’t unarmed though, you’ve got some pretty neat Ninja tools on hand to fight the forces of terrorism. Unlimited supply of shuriken, and power ups that’ll give you the ability to shoot fire, lasers, and work sort of like a Alien Swarm fashion, the more you collect, the more insane your powers get. Once you get hit however, the level decreases and you have to build it back up. You even have a nifty pair of binoculars that let you scope the area ahead and plan for your next session of bad guy takedowns.
The bulk of the fun comes from Joe and his grappling hook, as it’s clear a lot of love was put into how this baby works. Somewhat difficult to pick up at first, but once you get it down, you’ll feel like a brightly coloured Spider-man in no time. To be fair, if any of the portable Spider-man games had this grappling hook, we’d be praising another Spider-man game alongside the ever so loved Spiderman 2. Once you get it down though, you’ll be flying all over the place, using your flaming sword to mow down hordes of bad men with bad intentions for the general public.
Ninja Cop is a game that everyone who loves 2D Action games should play. Fan on Contra? Shinobi? Alien Swarm? Gunstar Heroes? Give Ninja Cop a go. You won’t regret it and will be put back into a place where gameplay sold a game more than whatever celebrity is on the cover. It’s a perfect example of a title, that if released on the SNES or Mega Drive, would be a much more talked about title today. Don’t wait and grab the game today if you can and sit down and enjoy some mindless fun.
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