No, this game has nothing to do with Hawaii Five-0.
Ninja Five-0 is a pretty low-key title. The game has gotten no marketing support, and most people probably haven’t even heard of it. All of this is a real shame, because the title is an excellent throwback to the days of hardcore old school action platforming. The player assumes the role of Joe Osugi, who is a ninja… and a detective. The Mad Masks have been unleashed and taken over ninjas, who are now evil villains that must be stopped. Joe has taken it upon himself to be the one to bring these corrupted ones to justice.
Ninja Five-0 plays as a hybrid of some of yesteryear’s classics. Being a ninja game, it is obviously influenced by such titles as Revenge of Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden. But there is a big old twist laid on top of all this. Joe comes equipped not only with all the powers of a badass ninja, but also with a grappling hook. The addition of the grappling hook mixes the gameplay of these ninja titles with another classic game, Bionic Commando. Through the use of his grappling hook and mad ninja skills, Joe has to stop terrorists, rescue hostages, take out fierce rival ninjas, and destroy the Mad Masks.
Joe has two weapons at his disposal. In addition to his grappling hook, he also wields a katana and an unlimited supply of shuriken (throwing stars), which can be powered up to deal more damage. Plus, when his Ninjutsu gauge reaches full power, he can unleash a devastating attack that will eradicate all the enemies on the screen. Mastering all of Joe’s weapons and maneuvers is of utmost importance, because Ninja Five-0 is not an easy game, by any means at all.
The game is comprised of six missions, each of which is in turn comprised of stages. Clear all the stages and you clear the mission. Each mission is topped off with a boss fight against one of the Mad Masks. The game starts off easy enough, with Joe stopping some terrorists who are holding hostages in a local bank. Later levels become more elaborate, such as an assault on an airplane held hostage, where the terrorists appear from the seats in the background. It’d be pretty easy to kill most of the terrorists in the game, except for that fact that some of them are holding hostages as human shields. You need to rescue these hostages in order to clear the levels (excluding the first level, which has no hostages). Attack the terrorists at the wrong time and you’ll axe the hostage instead, along with about a quarter of your life bar. Timing is everything when freeing hostages. You’ll have to wait for the terrorist to make his move, then move in and take him out before he gets off a shot. Along with rescuing hostages, Joe will have to collect keys to access certain parts of each level, and thus rescue more hostages. After Joe saves all the hostages, he can finish the level by going through the red door (which of course requires the red key). There are also corrupted ninjas to deal with. They move fast and pack quite a punch. On top of that, there are giant samurai monsters that throw fireballs and boomerang-like attacks with their massive katanas. Mix all of this together and you’ve got one hell of a challenging game.
Joe also has to face off against some excellent level design. He’ll be dodging fire jets, electric short circuits, and lots of spikes during his missions. Later levels prove to be extremely brutal. Mastering the grappling hook is an absolute must, unless you want to experience some extreme acupuncture. The grappling hook adds so much to this title. By using it, Joe can climb walls, swing over pits, and evade enemies in ways a normal ninja could only dream of. Joe can even swing around in circles like a madman, and use the momentum generated to reach higher areas.
This whole world is presented quite well on the Game Boy Advance. The backgrounds are well drawn and the sprites are very detailed, with a lot of animation. Joe himself moves very fluidly. The sound complements the game with a sense of urgency in the music. It’s a good thing the music is nice, because you’ll be stuck listening the same song in every level. The sounds effects are also quite crisp. The sound of Joe’s various weapons have a very nice ring to them.
Ninja Five-0 is rooted in the classics. The combination of old school ninja action with a grappling hook results in some extremely fun gameplay. If I haven’t hinted at it enough in this review, Ninja Five-0 is an insanely hard game. Beating the game will require intimate knowledge of the levels and a mastery of the controls. The title is a breath of fresh air in today’s environment of games that can be easily polished off. Plus, once you’ve finished the game, the Time Trial option will add some replay by seeing how fast you can clear each individual level. Ninja Five-0 is a quality title that fans of challenging games, action platforming titles, or both, will love.