Ninja Assault – PS2 – Review

Arcades may be dying, but
that hasn’t stopped companies like Namco from releasing new coin-operated
machines.  Most of their arcade games find a future home on PlayStation 2,
which was the case with Time Crisis 2, released for Sony’s uber-console last
year.  Namco’s latest light-gun shooter, Ninja Assault, has decided to join
Time Crisis 2, making it the third light-gun shooter that Namco has released
for PS2 in the past 12 months.  The arcade-to-PS2 translation is just about
perfect.  Unfortunately, the game itself wasn’t perfect to begin with, and
without the need to fill an arcade machine with four quarters every time you
die, there’s little stopping you or anyone else from beating the game in less
than an hour.

get back to the game’s length a little later in the review.  This game isn’t
bad at all, it’s just so ridiculously short that it’s not worth buying.  But
it does have enough redeeming qualities that make it worth renting or playing
in the arcade.  Therefore I will concentrate on the better aspects first,

I’m willing to bet that
most gamers have never played Ninja Assault before.  Some of you probably
didn’t even know it existed until this review appeared on our site.  If you’ve
played a light-gun shooter before, then you already know what to expect from
Ninja Assault: more of the same.  There is no innovation here, just
faster-paced gun-slinging action that’ll give your index finger a solid
workout.  Enemies consist of evil Ninja-like creatures that will stop at
nothing to ensure that you insert your whole wallet into the arcade machine. 
Of course, at home you don’t have to worry about that sort of thing, but the
game is exactly the same.  The difficulty can be altered, making it harder or
easier, depending on your preference.

Ninja Assault can be
purchased with or without the GunCon 2 (Namco’s proprietary light-gun
controller).  The difference in price is minimal — $60 for the game and the
gun, $50 for just the game.  Why anyone would want to buy the game separately
is beyond me, especially when that’s the only way to acquire a GunCon 2.  Even
if you already have a GunCon 2 from one of Namco’s other PS2 shooters, I’d
still recommend that you get another so that you and a friend can enjoy the
gun-firing action of Ninja Assault together.  Without two guns, one person
must use the standard Dual-Shock 2 controller, while the other gets the fancy

Although not as fun to
play without the GunCon 2, shooting fans will be pleased to know that Namco
has greatly refined the analog control by adding an intuitive lock-on feature
that automatically targets the nearest enemy.  It sounds small and
insignificant, but the lock-on feature has made Ninja Assault much more
enjoyable.  You still have full control over the crosshairs, and can move them
around at a nice, speedy pace.  The thing is, Ninja Assault’s enemies move
much faster than your typical House of the Dead zombie.  Normally, killing
every foe would be an excruciatingly difficult task.  With the lock-on
feature, all you have to do is move the crosshairs over the nearest enemy and
fire away!  The game automatically switches to the next target once the first
one is dead.  While battling fast-moving bosses, the lock-on feature makes it
easy to shoot those hard-to-reach areas, most of which would have been next to
impossible to hit otherwise.

The downside to the
lock-on feature is — yep, you guessed it — it makes the game easier.  A LOT
easier.  Without it, it would have been too hard, and not nearly as fun, but
with it, you’ll exit the game almost as fast as you came.  Beating it won’t
take you more than 60 minutes, and that’s only if you procrastinate or play
through it on a higher difficulty level.  The lower the difficulty level is,
and the more continues that you have, the sooner the game will end.  New
scenarios will be opened up upon the game’s completion, but they’re nothing
more than rehashed variations of the arcade mode’s levels.  There’s a level
select/time attack mode that can be unlocked, among other mini-games, but none
of these add to the game’s value.  None of them are spectacular enough to make
you stop and think, "Wow, this game is worth $59.99."  For that price, you’d
be better off going to the arcade.  There you’d get a bigger screen, a bigger
gun and you wouldn’t have to worry about what to do with the game when it

Reviewer’s Scoring Details

Gameplay: 6.7
Ninja Assault’s
most redeeming quality is also its worst enemy.  The gameplay is good, fast
and fun, but it ends almost immediately after it begins.  Truth be told, the
so-called "bonuses" are nothing more than a collection of rehashed stages from
the arcade mode.  If this game had been longer, it would have been worthy of a
much higher score.

Graphics: 4 
PlayStation 2
graphics, these are not.  Ninja Assault was not developed with the PS2 in
mind.  I’m not sure what type of hardware was used to power the arcade
version, but the washed-out backgrounds, weak-looking characters and blocky
environments make Ninja Assault one of the least visually impressive games of
the year.

Sound: 5
Ninja Assault’s
sound is a usual mix of gunshots, monster-like noises and average music.

Difficulty: Medium
By most accounts,
Ninja Assault is easy, but if you tried to beat the game on its hardest
difficulty level, you most certainly wouldn’t succeed.  It’d take a lot of
practice to master that one.

Concept: 5 
You know how some
people seem like they’re not all there?  You talk to them, and the things they
say don’t make much sense; their sentences aren’t complete and they don’t
always sound very logical.  That’s kind of what it feels like to play Ninja
Assault.  In many ways it’s this great person–er, game, but there is so much
missing from it that it makes you wonder if the game was dropped on its head a
lot as a child.

Multiplayer: 6.7
Two people can
blast their way through the game simultaneously, making this a fun way to kill
an hour or two on a boring weekend.

Overall: 6.5
No one should be
expected to buy a game that takes an hour to beat.  I understand that the
developers wanted to bring Ninja Assault home to PS2, making it available to a
much wider audience.  And I’m sure that there are some diehard light-gun fans
who will be thrilled to own the game, even if they don’t play it very much. 
But there’s a certain level of gameplay standards that have to be met before a
game is truly worth purchasing.  Not much can be expected from arcade
shooters, all of which are intended to be short games.  At $1.00 a game,
that’s acceptable.  At $60 for the whole enchilada, it’s hardly worth adding
to your Christmas wish list.