Ghost Squad is a blazingly brilliant arcade port despite taking its smooth time to reach home consoles
Ghost Squad, developed by AM2 and released into the arcades for the Sega Chihiro back in 2004, is the latest in the long-line of lightgun shooters produced by Sega. It features you (and a friend if possible) as two counter-terrorist operatives sent in to disarm the insurgency threat by force, saving hostages and disarming bombs. Much of Ghost Squad otherwise can be played like Virtua Cop. The game has you relying on your trusty UMP45 from start to finish, which can be acquitted to fire in burst, single or spread (though spread is limited). Levels are decided based on what routes you take throughout the stages though (based on options given at turning points) and your own raw accuracy and skill during the penultimate boss battles.
This Wii port of Ghost Squad has long been anticipated as such, given there has been no such luck for a home version until the three year gap between the arcade and Nintendo version being reviewed today. As such, it restores much of that glory found in the cheesy but exhilarating goodness offered from Sega's Ghost Squad (or ineptly pronounced "Goose Squad" by the announcer). From the camp characters and ropey dialogue to the various mini-games between levels and the data card levels system all making up the arcade content of Ghost Squad's manic gameplay.
And for good measure, Sega's also added two new modes – Party mode and Training mode to add to the available goodness.If you played Ghost Squad originally, the arcade mode will feature the game as how you remember it. Once you've completed your profile creation and seen the instruction video on how to use your gun, you'll notice there are three stages that can be chosen in any order you wish, much like In Virtua Cop. These stages range from a Grand Villa rescue and defense of the president on Airforce One jet, as well as the breakout of a kidnapped doctor in the South American rainforest.
It doesn't sound like much and they take around 10-20 minutes to complete each but vary based on which routes you take and the success of completing the various mini-games you're tasked with completing. These mini games involve carefully freezing hostages by holding the Z button and dispatching terrorist threats at the same time, battling your enemies from a surprise attack in a quick time event and disarming a bomb by remembering wire colour patterns – to name just a few. It must be said that the mini-games are an under-rated feature in irregulating the pattern of play given the repetitive nature of most light-gun games.
Though Ghost Squad doesn't subvert the commodities of the genre too deeply as there is a great deal of reflex based shooting required during play and it's still visceral enough to please the regular crowds at the same time. The biggest difference between other lightgun shooters and Ghost Squad appears in the end stage bosses which all play with their own gameplay modifier to boot. On the first stage for example, you're expected to defeat the Havok by shooting down his helicopter using a one shot reload missile launcher. For each stage you complete you're rewarded experience points that unlocks new costumes and weapons.
The stage however also moves up a level opening up the number of areas to options to take on your next playthrough as well as increasing the difficulty on the whole. Critically, the arcade mode is a prompt and thrilling experience but replay value can be found in rediscovering areas of each stage that you previously missed and improving your score on the higher difficulty levels. Though as mentioned prior, you can unlock a variety of costumes, handguns, shotguns and rifles that alter the experience of Ghost Squad given you intend to give it a second playthrough.
Past the arcade mode there is a four player co-operative party mode (which is the same as arcade except lacking the data card system and including bizarre gameplay modifiers such as ninja mode) and the typical inclusion of a training mode. Both of these extras act as throw-a-way inclusions to make up for the short lifespan of Ghost Squad however the former party mode solidifys the effective position of Ghost Squad as Wii game to play when friends are over.
Training mode features three games: Shooting match, Quick Hit and Combat Exercise that are said to help improve your skills for when playing the actual game. Shooting match serves as a target practice mode where you're expected to fire your weapon as close to the centre as possible in order to score the highest points. It is a brief game, best use for serving as the actual calibration of the Wiimote's accuracy on the whole. Quick hit has you destroy as many blue and red targets as possible and is designed to help you prioritise your shots and improve your reflexes as you aim to shoot fast moving bull's-eyes while avoid the cross marked targets.
Finally combat exercise is an evaluation mode where you test your skills in practice against human targets. Like said, they're throw-a-way modes and the challenge and depth of training mode doesn't quite match even that of Time Crisis 2 released over five years earlier on Playstation 2. That said, the Wiimote cursor is removed which vamps up the challenge (especially if you weren't relying on calibrating your Wiimote for accuracy). So the biggest problem with Ghost Squad is, as suspected, the short lifespan of the game itself.
There really isn't a whole lot to the game and while it undoubtedly is an arcade light-gun shooter people would enjoy to replay, it wouldn't be replayed ten to twenty times within one week like the arcade mode ambitiously believes with the data card feature and levels system. Despite this, Ghost Squad is a very easy game to complete and unusually lacks the challenge found in a Sega arcade title, especially compared to other light-gun classics such as Virtua Cop and Vampire Night. It has to be said also, this is one of those games that is best experienced with a Wii Zapper. Without it the experience isn't anywhere near as entertaining and buying two could rank the price up of Ghost Squad by a good £20-£30. Fortunately the third party Zapper stocked alongside Ghost Squad is cheaply available and high quality for what it's worth.
Although Ghost Squad was pictorially high quality for an arcade release of its time back In 2004, this version is showing its age and doesn't make entirely best use of the Wii's capaiblities. Regardless, it is still very solid. The sound and music is forgettable however which is a bit of a shame though the cheesy voice acting and sound effects are complete throw-backs to the ninties arcade scene Ghost Squad descends from. Rounding this review up, I recommend Ghost Squad. It is a blazingly brilliant arcade port despite taking its smooth time to reach home consoles. The abundance of features or improvements is a drag given thespace Sega have had to polish this light-gun shooter, but its still lightning fast fun and well worth playing with friends over. Go give it a try.