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Discussing vintage Shinobi games

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I don't remember that the last level doesn't allow continues, as I was never good enough to get there. :lol:

The furthest I have got is the first stage of what, on the arcade game I downloaded on the Wii VC, is the fourth level. So the stage after beating the boss who consists of a giant face going up and down a wall. Before you face him, you have to destroy about twenty inca-like statues which are pushing you towards an electrocution line.

Hope that rubbish explanation makes it clear. :) I don't think I'll ever get further, despite the saved game state with a bout fifty credits in it. After a few metres I always panic when about six ninjas materialise out of nowhere on either side of me, and there goes my magic, so nothing to save me the second time it happens.

I think I only used magic on my run-through on Mandara (the Buddha bit). EDIT: nope, I remember, I also used it on Black Turtle towards the end. The rotating Buddhas of Mandara are a pain in the 'arris because they have an invincibility frame on the first hit. So not only are they creeping towards you but for one hit you do no damage!

The trick there is to hammer jump and shoot at the same time. This means you are hitting the floor-level and second-tier statues, one after the other. So no shuriken are wasted, but it cancels out the invincibility frame.

Second trick is to die. Yep, you heard that right! For some mad reason, the devs made it easier if you lose a life, as first time round it takes 7-8 hits to destroy a statue, but only 5-6 after you die once. So deliberately die first time around. Use your magic when there are only about three columns of statues left, too, so they are all taking hits.

The bosses are really odd in arcade Shinobi. Ken-Oh is hard because - like Lobster - you can only hit him in one small part of his helmet (hurr-hurr) which is just below the apex of your jump, so needs good timing. Then Black Turtle (Ninja helicopter!!!)'s easy as long as you hang back to avoid his rockets. Then Mandara's absolutely rock-hard, Lobster's easy, and Masked Ninja's a bit of a push-over too, as long as you're patient.

There aren't many games like this where the levels are torture, then the boss is a bit of a pussycat.

For the level after Mandara - which is Masked Ninja's level - it's pretty straightforward with those flying Ninja dudes. Creep forward and make sure you turn and walk away from them as they fly-in, no need to use magic. They are triggered the same as the Frogmen in Black Turtle's level, so just make sure you back off once you 'activate' them.

Don't try to kill the flying guys, there's no point as they leave the screen. There are some jumping ninja though (green ones and blue ones) who are pretty tough at this point, especially towards the end of the green bamboo level (the one after the one you're on). Just get quick at positioning yourself towards one set of them (not in the middle) and melee them as fast as poss. Remember, melee is your friend: it has faster recovery than projectiles and does more damage.

The NES version of Shinobi, sadly, is rubbish. It looks rubbish and feels slow. Ken Oh is very hard to kill, and you can't see his health bar. Worse, in his blue overalls, he looks like a mechanic. Either my rom or the game has a bug - when I tried to use magic it didn't kill anyone, but the screen and enemies (and Joe himself) all froze, but I was able to fly over all the enemies and complete the stage, as none of them moved.

It's a shame the NES one was crap, simply because billions of people owned the system, and a good version of the game would have meant more sales and a bigger profile for the franchise. It's such an odd franchise, mucked about on a scale unheard of outside of Sonic - the arc and MS games are one thing, Revenge and Shinobi III (which is in reality Revenge of Shinobi 2) are another, very different set of games, then Shadow Dancer arc and MD are both different from each other and the other set of games, the GG games are different again and the PS2's Shinobi and Kunoichi are different again! (and utter turd) :)

EDIT: The Saturn game isn't worthy of mention. But now I have. Damn it!!

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That's interesting about the rotating statues. I always wondered why I struggled so badly the first time then was able to do it with no problem. It's rather nice of them to make the arcade game that way, although I can imagine the frustration if you know the game works like that and get to that boss with only one life left. I bet that was a massive temptation to put another coin in.

I haven't played the PS2 games, but I imagine them to be the bog standard 3D fighting games.

Really getting tempted to toodle into Akihabara and pick up the PC Engine version and the GG ones (finding a GG should be no problem). Fortunately for my wallet and shelf space I'm going on holiday tomorrow, but this thread might well get an update next year with some thoughts.

So I've got two bosses to go then?

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I haven't played the PS2 games, but I imagine them to be the bog standard 3D fighting games.

Actually no: they are very odd. It's almost like a fast GunGrave, but where you have to chain kills together to progress through the level. For a lot of the stages, you aren't able to touch the ground (or there's no ground beneath you) and if you fail to keep the chain going, you drop down and die.

It sounds interesting, but in reality it's just frustrating and dull, with tiniest mistakes being punished. Because kills are your means of movement they don't have any impact - it's not actually 'combat'. Worst of all, it's nothing like the side scrolling action games. If Metroid Prime is an example of the perfect 2D to 3D conversion, PS2 Shinobi is its evil mirror twin :ph34r:

Kunoichi is almost identical.


So I've got two bosses to go then?

Yep! Spoilers:

Lobster, who is very similar to Ken-Oh (but doesn't fire projectiles) then Master Ninja who has four forms which I won't spoil. They're hard to anticipate until you've learned them, so be careful and keep your distance!


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Great thread. Loving the detail, Treble.

I only really played the first arcade version, but I played it a lot. It was the top dog in the arcade for a while, the game everyone wanted to play. Some afternoons there'd be six or seven 20ps lined up, which meant six or seven people watching you play. I got good enough to one credit it with a fair few hand to hand bonuses, but only because I spent a lot of time on it. I bought it on XBLA and seriously struggled a few levels in. After a bit of time, I got back into the swing of things but not enough to finish it. I've been made soft by modern games.

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Cheers. I don't think a lot of retrospectives go into the mechanics of the game. To me, without knowing whether it still 'works' as a game in the modern era is key to whether I treat myself to a replay, or leave the golden memories in the past. I'll write-up the two versions of Shadow Dancer I've replayed played, today.

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Shadow Dancer (Arcade, 1989)



Playthrough: The pace of progress in the arcades stunned me as a kid. The arcade Shinobi ran on the Sega System 16 board and looked great; arcade Shadow Dancer (henceforth ASD) ran on the much more powerful system 18 (a pretty much forgotten Sega board, most notable for Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, one of the most prodigious coin-gobblers ever made) a mere two years later.

If there’s one constant in video games, it’s that power is nothing without artistic control, and ironically for a game that features a hound, this one’s a bit of a dog. You control Hayate this time around – scion of the original Joe Musashi – and once more you progress through urban locations, defeating thugs and mystical Japanese ghouls.

It starts going wrong with the look of the game: it’s a mess. The main sprite stands as if he has two broken hips and is dressed in the most ridiculous, Halloween outfit-version of the white garb you could imagine. Strutting around like a camp KKK member through the levels, you’ll notice how ugly the animation is – everything seems jerky, halting and lacking in character. Backgrounds are forgettable and even the most ‘iconic’ image from the game – the huge jet in the background of stage 1-1 – is blocked with foreground junk.

Enemy sprites are totally forgettable and the only bits that stand out are where they ape the original game, such as the leaping ninja (who still look passable). But the game play is the real letdown. As the series is essentially very simple, the enjoyment comes from clever enemy patterns and level design. Unfortunately, ASD has almost none of this - it’s awkward. The ninja dog thing is a decent idea (how do I get to the blokes behind the crates? Why, set the dawg on ‘em!) but even that’s a bit crap as the command to send is the same as fire, so you’re often sending him at armoured guys who shrug him off (this is fixed in the MD version – see below).

There is some fun to be had, but the slow walk speed, lack of weapon upgrades, high difficulty (the one-hit-kill is retained, but they’ve also made the standard enemies more of a pain to defeat due to poor placement and slow bullets) and iffy collision detection make the whole enterprise feel amateurish.

It’s really obvious that the guy behind Shinobi - Yutaka Sugano – is absent from the helm, and the new director (Motoshige Hokoyama) is not in the same league. Also, whose bright idea was it to take the inconically cool, unmasked, black-and-yellow (for danger!!!) Joe Musashi and turn him into a mincing Clan member Hayate in the first place?! Calm… calm Treb.

ASD takes the Shinobi template and attempts to update it with a mediocre (bordering on poor) game. The core game is ok, the dog is a good idea, but everything else fails to excite. Thank god Revenge was just around the corner…

Rose-tinted memory: nowhere near as good as the original, but passable. 6/10

Replay: Basic gameplay, crude visuals and design make this one best consigned to the past 4/10


Shadow Dancer (Megadrive, 1990)



Playthrough: featuring yet another lead designer/director (this time it’s some bloke called Tomohiro Kondo at the reins) this one’s got the ninja cur, same basic move set and gameplay, but in every other way is an entirely different game to ASD.

As with the difference between arcade Shinobi and its MS counterpart, the smaller sprites give you a bit more room to react, and the use of the dog’s been tweaked. From wiki:

The game mechanics are roughly identical to the arcade version, with the main difference being the addition of a meter for the ninja dog that accompanies the player. In order for the dog to attack an enemy, the player must hold down the attack button until the meter is filled. The dog will only attack when he is barking towards a nearby enemy. This allows the player to sic the ninja dog on an enemy while standing and jumping, allowing for more versatility than in the arcade version (where the dog only attacked while the player was crouching).

…so this is definitely a step forward. Overall level design is an improvement over the arcade version of Shadow Dancer, although to be fair, it’s still pretty dull. In fact, Megadrive Shadow Dancer’s so bland that it’s almost totally forgettable. Ok, so it’s better than its arcade parent but that’s damning with faint praise, and if you look at it in a dim light with a squint and it’s indistinguishable from ESWAT and countless other early MD platformers. It wasn’t until Revenge that things start getting properly better, and this is a game easily forgotten. Tough, with solid mechanics and so-so gameplay, let’s consign it to early Megadrive history and move on, eh?

Rose-tinted memory: This was my first ever playthrough, amazingly

Replay: playable enough, but with unremarkable design throughout. 6/10

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Both of them really are utterly forgettable. Seriously, I completed the MD game two days ago and remember a boss that's a wheel of fire, and that Liberty Island bit I've shown in the screen shot, and that's yer lot.

Next up: Revenge and Shinobi III (aka The Super Shinobi and The Super Shinobi II)

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Revenge of Shinobi (Megadrive, 1989)



Playthrough: Revenge has an odd personal history for me: I imported an MD back in 1989, and asked for this and Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts for Christmas and birthday that year (my birthday’s Christmas Eve; tomorrow at time of writing, fact-fans). Sadly I was ripped-off by PC Engine Supplies/Console Concepts and never got them (or my Mum’s money back. £90, and this was back in 1989 remember – a huge amount).

So I came to the game almost a year late (after I could finally afford it) and with a bit of resentment in my heart, if I’m honest. The high difficulty and slow pace (of the PAL version) was also a bit off-putting, but I still thought it was a snazzy update to Shinobi, if still not as colourful or exciting.

I didn’t get to play it as originally intended – with the baddies as rip-offs of famous monsters and characters from Hollywoodland and beyond – and at the proper, NTSC speed. Now that’s a big deal – the PAL version really does crawl, as it’s a game with a sedate pace anyway – and the bosses-as-supervillains/heroes is a campy and fun addition. The game goes back to first principles and follows the gameplay template from the original: leaping ninja, thugs behind crates, mechanised horrors and far-eastern mythological terrors and adds to it with bigger bosses, more complex stages often filled with mobile obstacles, and new powers for Joe Musashi (sporting a less ugly and camp version of the white outfit that debuted in Shadow Dancer).

The double-jump and shuriken spray add a new tactical dimension, and the ninja magic is more varied and useful than before. The bosses in the very first iteration of the game – Arnie/Terminator, Godzilla, Spidey et al – are excellent reproductions of their famous counterparts, and the ones created as originals are pretty smart as well (my favourite being the brain in a jar).

For a full rundown of the variations of the game due to copyright infringement, see this spoiler (it’s pretty hilarious that they thought they’d get away with it!):

Because of copyright issues regarding certain enemy characters (many of which were based on cultural icons) there were at least four versions of the game in Japan and North America, with the later two also appearing in Europe.

  • Software revision 1.00 (1989): Enemy characters resembling Rambo, The Terminator, Spider-Man, Batman, and Godzilla are present. Both Spider-Man and Batman are actually fake representations of the characters conducted by a shapeshifter who alters his appearance after sustaining a certain amount of damage. Additionally, Joe Musashi's face on the title sequence resembled that of actor Sonny Chiba dressed as his character Hattori Hanzō from the Japanese TV series Kage no Gundan (Shadow Warriors).
  • Software revision 1.01 (1989): Batman is replaced by a winged Devilman-like creature. Godzilla and Spider-Man remain unmodified, the latter now morphs into the Devil when defeated. The "Gunner" enemy soldiers with flamethrowers are also changed to bald men with headbands, altering their original likeness to Rambo (although Sega had the license to the character for their Rambo III console games, they did not use it for this game).
  • Software revision 1.02 (1990): The fake Spider-Man is now redesigned into the licensed character from Marvel Comics, acknowledged by a copyright notice (Sega already had the license to the character for their game The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin). Since he is now the real Spider-Man, he doesn't morph into the Devil and actually leaves the battle when enough damage is inflicted, with the winged Devil entering to replace him. Godzilla still remain intact.
  • Software revision 1.03 (1990): Godzilla is replaced by a skeletal dinosaur. Everything else remains intact from the previous revision, including the licensed use of Spider-Man. This version was used in the Genesis 6-Pak cartridge.
  • Software revision 1.04 (2009): Since the licensed use of the boss Spider-Man was for a limited period of time, the game was subsequently prevented from being re-released years later. The 2009 release for the Virtual Console features a new specific software revision (1.04) that omits the Marvel copyright notice and replaces Spider-Man with a pink palette swap of the character that still behaves the same as the licensed Spider-Man.[2] Joe Musashi's design in the title screen was also altered to remove his likeness to Sonny Chiba.

Revenge is a class act throughout. The music (by Yuzo Koshiro) is recognised as brilliant; the levels are well-designed and interesting; the bosses are great (particularly the Godzilla of the original – absolutely stunning sprite!) and the gameplay’s tactical and fair, with very tight mechanics. There are only two downsides: the palette is dull, full of browns and steels. Sega really had tried to cloud-over its lovely blue skies, and the gorgeous palette of acid greens, vivid reds, deep blues and bright yellows from the original have all but disappeared. Ah well, that was the fashion at the time (the look of the game is very reminiscent of Robocop – both the movie and the game).

Secondly, it’s very hard. Very, very hard. I played it to completion on Easy and using save states and some parts took me ages – learning the patterns is essential, but even then sometimes the screen is filled with bullets and bombs that can’t be hidden from or crouched under – completely unfair at points, in all honesty. Making pixel-perfect jumps (and trusting to luck) characterises a lot of sections. A particular pain is the missile carrier level, with the electric sparks on the floor. Oof. The final battle with Neo Zeed is also ridiculously tough. Whether this gameplay style infuriates or excites is down to taste, but the difficulty means it’s more halting and less free-flowing than the other, quality Shinobi games until the levels are ‘mapped’ and you can speed through like a true ninja master.

Now, I know this will ruffle a few feathers but I actually think the difficulty of some levels means it hasn’t aged as well as some of you would imagine. Before you get annoyed with me for criticising one of your cherished games, I urge you to replay it – all the way through – and see if you change your mind. Hopefully it remains as good as you remember, but the purpose of this exercise is to be truthful about how things age and our memory dulls – you owe it to yourself to re-experience Revenge and judge it equitably. Regardless, this is a superb game and worthy of the Shinobi name.

Rose-tinted memory: A very well-crafted platformer, possibly too difficult for its own good. 7/10

Replay: A fantastically well-designed platformer, but as the capricious difficulty makes progress halting and disrupts the game’s flow, it’s definitely too difficult for its own good! 8/10

n.b. please read the retrospective in Retro Gamer. It’s a fascinating article and very well-written. Also, after replayed arcade Shinobi since I’ve scored it a 7, I have to re-evaluate and say it’s a 9: it’s highly replayable and just such fun.


Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (Megadrive, 1993)



Playthrough: This direct sequel to Revenge (it was called The Super Shinobi II in Japan) adds a lot of gameplay additions to the franchise, and because of that it divides opinion sharply – some love the new gameplay style, others think it’s crass and a step too far.

In this one, Joe’s got a whole new bag of tricks: a dash, a dash-slash that gives a few frames of invincibility and does terrific damage (about 4 x shuriken damage, I’d guess), a wall jump, a hand-over-hand ceiling climb and a flying-kick that also helps by giving an extra bit of forward propulsion. The levels alter as a result, with a lot more vertical space and moving platforms.

Combat is very similar to Revenge, but faster due to the dash move, and there are two weird levels shoe-horned in: a horse-riding level and a jet-powered surfboard (!) section. These play identically to each other and are a laugh, if totally incongruous and a wee bit nuts.

Graphically things are a bit brighter than in Revenge, with a broader palette (although it still reverts to some boring steel-and-beige bits like its predecessor in some sections). Difficulty is more balanced, too, with easier platform sections (although some of the latter levels really test you) and difficulty settings that properly scale.

So why isn’t it a classic Shinobi game? Well, simply put, it isn’t a Shinobi game: the changes take it too far from the original to be classed as part of the series. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad game though – far from it. Some bosses are well designed (the Mecha-Godzilla, brain-beast and final battle are stand-outs, and enemies in general are good) and the levels pretty interesting. So yeah, it’s a fun game; speedy, full of flow and intermittently displaying some nice touches but – ultimately – it strays too far from the classic Shinobi gameplay to be one of the family.

Rose-tinted memory: The best MD action-platform game, and a worthy sequel to a classic. 9/10

Replay: Decent, unusual and quite showy, this one’s a bit of a curate’s egg. Not really part of the heritage, but as a standalone release it’s reasonably fun and challenging. 7/10

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Important addendum: the timing of the double jump in both the Super Shinobi games. It's actually more lenient than I remembered, particularly in Revenge where the sweet spot lasts about 3 frames towards the apex of your jump. Shinobi 3's is tighter but eminently do-able.

Asura is still right though: it has enemies who can fire and attack diagonally whereas you (with the exception of the shuriken spray) can't. Does anyone else get the feeling in gaming that, by ironing these things out, gaming got fairer but also easier at the same time? Just a thought :)

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Nice one, will check that out yes?*

* Obligatory lame Death's Head reference

Decided to play through all the Shinobi oddities I can stand,so brace yourselves for MS Cyber Shinobi, Alex Kidd in Shinobi World and the unreleased Shinobi 3 beta. As well as the GGs :)

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Nice one, will check that out yes?*

* Obligatory lame Death's Head reference

Decided to play through all the Shinobi oddities I can stand,so brace yourselves for MS Cyber Shinobi, Alex Kidd in Shinobi World and the unreleased Shinobi 3 beta. As well as the GGs :)

Such references are always welcome! I look forward to your review of the first GG Shinobi, since that's the only one I spent much time with as a kid. Never made me any better at it, sadly.

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Treble, I've enjoyed reading your thoughts but do think that you've overrated Super Shinobi II and perhaps been a bit harsh on Super Shinobi with regards to its difficulty. I can only think of one jump in the whole game that requires a vague pixely-perfection (the long jump during the later harbour level) - but that's what the jump-increasing ninja magic ("Fushin", I think) was for. Easy peasy.

I'm confident that if you played through it again you'd find it a lot easier.

Thinking about it, the Master System version also only had one pixel-perfect jump requirement as well (just before meeting Lobster)...But that was what the flying ninja magic was for!

Racing and save-stating your way through the better Shinobi games may not be the way to go in terms of fairly assessing difficulty, I feel.

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Treble, I've enjoyed reading your thoughts but do think that you've overrated Super Shinobi II and perhaps been a bit harsh on Super Shinobi with regards to its difficulty. I can only think of one jump in the whole game that requires a vague pixely-perfection (the long jump during the later harbour level) - but that's what the jump-increasing ninja magic ("Fushin", I think) was for. Easy peasy.

I'm confident that if you played through it again you'd find it a lot easier.

Thinking about it, the Master System version also only had one pixel-perfect jump requirement as well (just before meeting Lobster)...But that was what the flying ninja magic was for!

Racing and save-stating your way through the better Shinobi games may not be the way to go in terms of fairly assessing difficulty, I feel.

I can see where you're coming from, but you have to remember, I've played both of those games through many times before - just not for a long while. I played both through to completion the other day using save states, but mainly to refresh my memory. I think 'pixel-perfect' has put you off a bit: I mean that the jumps have to be very accurate under intense pressure. Shinobi handles this well except for the bits with respawns (which sadly are a lot) but Revenge really, really punishes you by having a shit load of cross-fire going on whilst you're also trying to do jump timing. The number of times you jump into 'open' space only for an off-screen enemy to fire on you and cancel your jump - leading to your death - is very numerous.

Even the jumping isn't really the hardest part; as I go on about in the playthrough write-up, it's the enemy placement and their attack spamming at angles you can't easily deal with that makes it hard. Couple that with trying to make accurate jumps and you have a game that, if you stick to the ordinary amount of credits, you'll be spending a long time mapping out in your head on numerous playthroughs. There aren't many people who would enjoy that kind of game these days (although Super Meat Boy's popularity shows there's still a niche market for it!)

I stand by my statement that Revenge is probably too hard, even on Easy setting (beacuse the difficulty comes from environmental obstacles rather than hit count) and would definitely urge anyone who hasn't played it for a while to have a go through and let me know what they think. The toughness comes from sections that have to be cleared in a very specific way, rather than facing tough enemies - personally, too many bits like that I feel detract from the enjoyment. It's still designed well enough to be a great game though.

As for Shinobi 3 is certainly does seem to split people.

I'd again say that it's a decent game, but not a decent Shinobi game.

EDIT: I didn't need Flying Squirrel before Lobster (in fact, I didn't need it at all in Shinobi). Are you talking about the end of the section with the jumping monkey men? You can do that by placing your back foot on the last bit of the platform. Now that really is pixel perfect jumping ;)

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Are you going to emulate the Gamegear ones, Treble, or play them on an actual Gamegear?

No longer got a GG so it'll have to be emulator. I don't think I'll have time to do full reviews of the remaining games, now that I'm not on my Christmas hols, plus there's a load of other gamey-xmas-presenty stuff demanding my attention as well.

I'll take the emu/shortened playtime into account for the games I don't complete, and won't give scores. As an aside, I've had about 45 minutes on Cyber Shinobi and all I need to say so far is :facepalm:

I'll be looking to give a full review/impressions on Shinobi 3DS when complete. I've got Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call to plow through first, so don't expect that until February, mind.

EDIT: it's been fascinating replaying a series that is generally of high quality, yet didn't receive a 2D sequel for 17 years (since Shin Shinobi Den / Shinobi X on Saturn). I'd love to read similar retrospectives of other series, if anyone's up to doing 'em.

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I think my favourite is still the original game. I've just done a video review of it if anyone wants to take a look.

Cheers, just watched it. It's a little confusing about versions, and just to emphasise that the video review is of the MS version and not the original (arcade) game. Other than that, it could do with a bit more detail, but it's nice to see it running and hopefully will get an audience that are intrigued enough to investigate the game(s) a little more because of it :)

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The GG Shinobi (Game Gear, 1991)



Playthrough: The Game Gear's not a part of my retro arsenal (I had one, and the game itself, twenty years ago) so I played this on an emulator called Kega Fusion. It's as blocky as all hell (like the screenshot above) without scanlines added, so I stuck them on at 20% which made a world of difference. Looking as close to the original display as possible I set off on the next stage of my Shinobi journey.

The first thing you notice is that the pace is in line with the original and Revenge, and looks similar to the style of the MD games. After only a few seconds play, though, you start to see that GG's a bit unusual, even for this fractured franchise. You get to choose your level from a set of four options from the get-go and your avatar starts in the white and red garb, only carrying the katana. But when you complete the level and defeat the first boss (whichever one of the four possible ones that may be) you gain a ninja mate who can swap to from the pause screen.

Each one of these ninja has a different colour and abilities: Green throws shuriken and can double-jump, Yellow can throw fireballs and walk on water, Pink throws bombs and can walk on ceilings a la Lionel Ritchie and Blue has a chain and can swing from certain points in the background. The magic for each ninja also significantly different effects that boost your abilities temporarily, and you'll need each and every one to beat some of the later levels.

Just when you start thinking you can pin down who and what Shinobi is, Sega throw another curveball and produce an entry that chucks in another set of rules. Staying broadly true to the original game's template (crates, fewer pits/drops, slower, more tactical) it leaves something crucial out (no background layer to jump into) then veers off and adds bits of Revenge (a maze-like final level, conveyors, a waterfall level, double jump plus shuriken spray when using Green). The overall feeling is that the devs were picking and choosing the best bits of the arcade and Megadrive games whilst creating entirely new ones, and - thankfully - it works.

GG Shinobi is a roaring success, with well-constructed levels and surprisingly deep tactical play. The fact you can approach the first four levels in different ways depending on which ninja you've rescued means you're constantly switching and testing, finding the best ability for a given situation. The final level (which is, in fact, larger than the rest of the game put together) tests your knowledge of the clan to the extreme. In fact, the one main criticism of GG Shinobi is that there's a lot of trial-and-error involved (meaning mucho deaths) and on the last level (which, like in Revenge, can loop back on itself depending on which route you take) this can become teeth-nashingly irritating at times. It couldn't have been too bad, though, as I wasn't going to complete it but, guess what, I did!

Still, this builds-in longevity and stretches your skills - no bad thing in the scheme of it all. The Game Gear got a few great games, but this is the best and provides a fascinating glimpse at how Sega could have progressed the franchise on the 'big' consoles, if it had chosen to.

Rose-tinted Memory: Shinobi goes small, but only in sprite size. A big achievement and right up there with the best games of the series 9/10

Replay: Exactly the same. Pretty amazing achievement after twenty years. 9/10

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