Cripes, Namco needs to throw a subtitle on this thing...something along the lines of, "Ninja Assault: Light Gun Collection 2." It borrows (well, steals) enemies and style cues from The House of the Dead, the chain combo system from Elemental Gearbolt, boss battles from Vampire Night, mini-games from Point Blank...even music from the TurboGrafx 16's Ninja Spirit. That's why I feel dirty saying it's a pretty darn-good game. You're not going to find any original ideas here, and the stew of borrowed elements keeps Ninja Assault from having an overriding style of its own--it actually feels a whole lot like Vampire Night without the stone-faced, House of the Dead-style voice acting. But capping shuriken-toss-ing enemies hidden in dense forests and other anime-inspired venues is just plain fun once you get used to the idea of a gun-toting ninja. Unless you're a crack shot with a light gun or don't have a problem with dialing the difficulty down, you're going to run into some bumps here, especially as the enemies get smaller, quicker and start attacking from multiple sides at once. It's the same deal playing with the control pad--the auto-aim is extremely helpful, but trying to handle multiple bogies is frustrating. Conquering the four main game paths unlocks new mini-game chapters that are worth the effort. That is, if ninja-themed shooting-gallery games get you as excited as they get me.
I have a soft spot in my heart for light-gun shooters, dating back to when Duck Hunt was all the rage. While Ninja Assault's gameplay and dopey premise (ninjas with guns?) do little to distance itself from contemporaries like The House of the Dead, still found myself perforating supernatural ninjas every chance I could, f guess that means I enjoyed myself, didn't I? Maybe the multiple playable characters had something to do with that, or perhaps it was the throbbing techno soundtrack. The extra weapons I unlocked beating the bonus games didn't hurt either. Yeah, Ninja Assault is a silly, simple game at heart. But I'm OK with that.
Namco's wellspring of gun-game inspiration must be running dry, as this game about trigger-happy ninjas clearly proves. (Seriously, since when did ninjas pack heat?) Beneath that bizarre premise, however, lurks an above-average shooting title that feels a lot like Sega's The House of the Dead games. This is an arcade port, but you won't blast through it all in an afternoon. I kept coming back to unlock the multiple scenarios, mini-games and secrets. I did have to dock it a few points for its dated, lackluster graphics. It might have been a snazzy coin-op in 2000, but modern games have higher standards. If you need a gun game, buy Vampire Night instead.