Fitting return for the Shinobi franchise.
Sometimes losing feels somewhat undeserved.
The Shinobi series was one of the top ninja game series during the ’80s and early ’90s. The last Shinobi console game got respectable reviews on PlayStation 2 in 2003. The last appearance on a handheld system was unanimously slammed by many critics. The developer was a small studio, 3d6 Games, who is now mercifully out of business. Just search for The Revenge of Shinobi GBA on YouTube and you will be disappointed. SEGA’s franchise has been dormant for over eight years.
For the past decade Shinobi has only made appearances on Playstation 3 and Virtual Console through classic game compliations and retro downloads. Fans have speculated on internet message boards about the fate of SEGA’s ninja. I am reviewing this game with an open mind and nervously hoping that the franchise can have a solid portable title worthy of the Genesis Shinobi game legacy.
The story begins in 1256 AD Feudal Japan. After the intro level is completed, the military transports Jiro to 2056 AD to help them fight the evil Zeed Corporation. This is the same Zeed from the original Genesis games. The cut scenes tell the story with minimal dialogue and fast paced action sequences. The cinemas can be skipped by pressing the B button.
The game starts by showing you the control scheme. Double tap Y for a double jump. X releases the Grappling Hook for climbing. Click the Right shoulder button to Parry. Parrying is helpful to avoid projectile attacks. Wall-climbing is required in every level. Hold B to charge up an attack. Pressing A releases Kunai daggers. D-pad controls Camera positon.
The stylus is only used to select between the four ninja magic options. Some levels require using a specific ninja art to get past obstacles. For example, The Water magic increases jumping height and recharges kunai daggers faster. Some platform levels require this specific magic to reach higher platforms.
A trademark of the best Shinobi games is an awesome soundtrack. The Revenge of Shinobi featured an soundtrack from Yuzo Kochiro, who composed Streets of Rage 2. The music composer had a monumental task before him. I had low expectations for a portable game soundtrack, and I was surprised. The music was composed by Norihiko Hibino who has contributed to the Metal Gear Solid game series. The sound has an Asian flair with a techno edge, and is not annoying after several hours of retrying a level.
I have to be honest and admit that when I play ninja games, I die a lot. Expect pitfalls, flames, and walls covered with spikes. The negative factor is the constant challenge. Sometimes the deaths are cheap, but mainly the player has to be comfortable with the control scheme. The game requires practice in the training Dojo to make progress in the levels.
The gameplay is without a time limit, but the game’s clock keeps track of the length of time spent in each level. Score is affected by progress in game, and points are subtracted by getting hit and losing health or taking too long in levels. You earn bonus achievements like defeating bosses in under two minutes.
There are several bonus modes that extend the life of this game. StreetPass mode allows you to use play coins to unlock thirteen Challenge maps. I tried Challenge level seven, and Shinobi was wearing his original arcade game outfit from 1987. There are hidden items in the levels. The unlockables are artwork, music, and special weapons. I unlocked a Golden Axe weapon for Free Play mode.
There are a total of eight levels filled with alien creatures, mutations, and robots. The second level boss fight has Shinobi jumping from tops of cars while attacking a giant armored military vehicle. My favorite level is titled Afterburned, and it is named after a classic SEGA arcade flying game.
My favorite metal monster is called Mechaladon, and its sequence is funny and memorable. There is a sense of humor to all the action sequences, so the frustration from the high difficulty is eased with the funny situations. Trivia and quips are displayed while a level is loading.
The game helps give you hints with arrows that point the way when jumping on certain platforms. At some points you can perform sneak attacks on enemies and bosses by pressing the X button at the right time.
In conclusion, I recommend this inspired effort from Griptonite. The developers were respectful to the franchise, yet the new gameplay elements make the experience unique enough to not be another retro rehash. Buy it and support quality third party developers, or at least rent and add it to your Gamefly list as soon as possible. I would like to see a 3DS sequel next year. A new generation of gamers will become fans of SEGA’s Shinobi this holiday season.