NINJA FIVE-O / Konami / Gameboy Advance
Various other retrogaming sites I have come across in the past have championed Ninja Five-O as an excellent throwback platformer and perhaps the premier sleeper hit of the GBA. Despite everything that the game has going for it, and the fact that it is basically intended as a love letter to me and all other appreciators of Badass Platforming, I am very sad to report that Ninja Five Oh did not make me shoot a load all over myself.
The game is like a tribute to all the legendary Badass Platformers, with an emphasis on ninja games. Shinobi seems to be the primary influence here, but there's a bit of nearly all the major classics lurking around in one influence or another - even some Bionic Commando in the swinging grappling hook that you use to rappel up to higher platforms and twirl yourself around. Unfortunately, it's that grappling arm that is the centerpiece of what turn out to be a fair share of gameplay problems. The control is too annoying, and it really hampers the later levels where you have to constantly use it to make precise, finicky rappels upwards along various platforms and pegs.
The game has some other issues as well - there's only one repetitive piece of music that plays in every single stage, and there's also a very limited amount of levels (which they seemed to try to make up for by just making each of them punishingly hard). Don't get me wrong about this one - I appreciate what it was trying to do and all the things it did right along the way, it is certainly better than expected for what was essentially a throwaway budget release. Unfortunately it's hard to perform miracles and the game still in many ways looks and plays like a budget release.