Nov 21, 2007
Despite being the staples of modern arcades, there are hardly any lightgun games on Nintendo formats. Ever since they went all out and created a bazooka instead of an ordinary gun peripheral for the SNES, everyone has steered well clear. There was nothing on the N64 and nothing on GameCube, while PlayStation and Dreamcast had so many of the things, you could choose from about 20 different types of third-party guns along with the official ones.
But now that we have a Nintendo format that seems purpose-built for shooters, perhaps we’ll see a few more of these arcade conversions popping up. And if they’ve had as much care and attention lavished on them as Sega’s Ghost Squad so clearly has, then bring them on.
Ghost Squad is a conversion of an arcade game that takes less than 8 minutes to complete. In the old version, you point the gun at the massive screen and blast away at terrorists until you either die because you got shot too much, or you make it all the way to the end with a high score. If you complete a mission, there are two others of similar length. Each have multiple branching routes, so you won’t get exactly the same scenes every time, but it’s going to cost you coins every time you want to try a new combination.
For the truly dedicated, there’s a memory card system that records your data and tracks your progress on any Ghost Squad arcade machine you find. But the cost and rarity mean it’s just an occasional treat at gas stations and movie theater arcades.
Of course, nobody does great arcade conversions any more, because nobody makes great arcade games. Or so we thought until we spent some time with Ghost Squad on Wii and discovered just what an insanely addictive, stupidly satisfying game it really is. The home version is great in a way that few people will ever be good enough to discover in the arcade: infinite continues and the fact that you don’t need coins to play, you can explore it at your leisure and die as much as you need to. Going through all three missions counts as full completion of the game, and you can fail on any of the boss sections or intermediate timed challenges without ruining your chances of seeing the ending.
After a few practice runs, you’ll be getting good enough with the Zapper to pick off the enemies when they run into position for an ambush in the next scene, and you can really start toying with the game. The cool thing is that it grows as your ability increases. Each completion adds an experience level to your character, unlocking a new weapon. It also bumps up the difficulty, so if you’re wondering why bad guys take a couple more shots to put down with your new machine gun, it’s because they’ve all bought some body armour since you last played.
The evolving challenge adds enormous longevity to what is still a basic on-rails shooter. The enemies pop up from behind objects and shoot at you if you don’t kill them in time. There’s no hiding or dodging, but the bosses and sniper challenges give a bit of variety to the action. As stale as the concept of the game might be, the reward of a new weapon, upgrade, costume or bizarre slice of comedy is great incentive for replay. It only takes a few minutes, and you can upload your high scores to a worldwide leaderboard. Who knows, perhaps that new assault rifle will be just the thing for scoring all head shots this time. Maybe the double kill bonuses will make the shotgun the weapon of choice now that it’s upgraded. Just one more go...
As well as all that, you can play a competitive two-player game over the same levels. The Zapper is definitely the peripheral of choice, as it won’t make your arms ache quite so badly after a long session. There’s also a training mode that shows off some startling accuracy after the Wii Remote is calibrated. The main game has a cursor for you to steer around, without which it would be doubly hard. But the training mode takes that away and gets you playing by eye. Staring down the barrel of the Zapper, picking off targets with pinpoint precision, is a great way to hone those skills.
Ghost Squad is pure arcade - the kind of thing Sega used to do all the time on Dreamcast. If you’ve ever contemplated dropping a second coin into its big daddy, you shouldn’t hesitate to consider the Wii version.