Friday, June 1, 2012

Review: Ninja Cop/Five-O

Growing up in the 80's and 90's as I did (Yes, I'm old), and being a connoisseur of action films of the lowest budget and highest epic content amount.  American Ninja, Maniac Cop, Ninja 3: The Domination, Karate Cop... When I think back to the movies that a younger me loved, full of cheese and violence and incoherent plots, two words pop up over and over, words that excite a young male in ways that only "dinosaur," and later, "cheerleader," could really match.

Ninja, and Cop.  With rare exception the two of these separately meant that you were either getting black clad acrobatic butchers with explosives and swords, or a lone cop playing by his own rules stacking up bodies like he's going for a high score in lawsuits against the force.

"Through simplicity, awesomeness." - Lao Tsu

It was this training that made me stop when I saw this game, and wonder, can such a thing really live up to the title?  Can a thing called Ninja Cop really be as epic as all of my 80's film experience would have made me expect? Is it, in short, awesome?
No. No it is not.

It is facemeltingly fucking awesome.  The name itself evokes images of gangs with ninja taking hostages for no reason, stalked and killed by a masked, sword-wielding police officer who is honed to the edge of being a pure killing machine, and that's what you get.  It's like Shinobi, only far better.
Yes. I said that.

Railing kill!

Ninja Cop (known as Ninja Five-O if you get an NTSC region copy) is literally what you'd expect if a Cannon-era action film was made into a gameboy game.  You play the Ninja Cop Joe Osugiand get a choice at the start of three levels: Bank, Harbor, or Airport.  Each level is split into 3 regular stages and then one boss, in a fairly typical arrangement with enemies to slice and dice, hostages to rescue, and keys to attain to unlock the end of each stage.  Each level is filled with the sort of multicultural gang that could only form in a video game: Men in suits with guns and knives and TNT; terrorists with machine-guns and ski masks; Ninja of various outfit colors (none black), and giant 9' samurai robot... things... with boomerangs and cannons.  You show me another game so bad-ass and insane that they give samurai robots cannons.  And make no mistake, these guys will mess you up.  If you get blown up, expect to get treated to your wrecked, ON FIRE, body slowly cooking as a reminder of how hard you just failed, grasshopper.

Smell that? It's your failure!  As well as your cooking flesh.

Fail you will, too, because this game is not easy.  Most enemies follow simple move, aim, shoot patterns, but some take hostages which forces you to hit them when they lean out to shoot.. or if you have enough health you can decide to kill both of 'em.  None of the enemies take many hits, but most are put in spots that force you to decide on a good approach... the standard "badguys" keep steady fire up when they see you, the samurai can utterly wreck your ninja in a few hits... and the enemy ninja simply assault you with swords, leading to some really fast and flashy combats with swords and ninja stars flying everywhere.  It is a game that isn't just a straight slaughter, and there's a level of satisfaction in very kill.

No caption. Just giant samurai robot awesome.

The controls are tight and easy to get used to, the ninja leaping, climbing, and attacking right on cue. If it looks like you can grab something, you can, so levels are a breeze to clamber through.  If a thing is too high, or an approach is too dangerous by foot, there's a grappling hook you can use, allowing you to swing, flip, and attack from it. The grappling hook will take a bit to get adjusted to, but in the end is what really makes the game amazing.  The first time you hook a floor, flip up and over a platform, flip off the hook, land, and slice a guy sending him falling over a railing... if you don't take pause and go "Oh, wow." You have no soul, or were never a 10 year old boy watching ninja movies.

Yes, I yelled Kiiiiya! Don't judge me.

Did I mention sword hits will send people spinning away like in a Hong Kong flick? Because they will. It's awesome.  All this game needs is a guitar for you to wail on.

Weapons are what you'd expect. Ninja stars can be upgraded to fireballs, and the sword can be used to slash or in a sort of rotating leaping slash like Ninja Gaiden.  They're not innovative, but like everything else in the game they're effective and well implemented.  Once you get the hang of the controls and the hook, you'll be slicing through levels with ease.  If it doesn't show, I can't recommend this game enough.  From the tight controls, bright and entertaining graphics, to the crazed and chaotic fights that come up, this is one of the best games I've played on any system.  In terms of platformers it's a work of art, and ranks up with some of the true classics, reminding me of some of the Sega greats like Shinobi.  If you like ninjas, cops, or platformers, get this game. Get this game NOW.

First upgrade - Faaaabulous outfit. Second upgrade- Fireball to kill people who make fun of purple.

It is a fun, fast, and simply satisfying game that shows how good a simple concept can be when its done right. You NEED to own this game.

Because if you don't, Ninja Cop will know. Ninja Cop will find you.

Find Ninja Cop on ebay | Amazon | Get a reproduction on

Released: 2003-04-15
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Hudson Soft 


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