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Discussing vintage Shinobi games

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Nice impressions. I never finished this at the time, although I got all the other ninjas. I seem to remember using the bomb throwing pink one most of the time, although swinging with the blue one's hook was a blast.

Do you ever need the red one again, once you have the other colours?

Yep, you sure do although you'd be forgiven for thinking you don't. Once you go into the last level (the huge level-maze comprised of about 20 different 'rooms') each one has a different coloured background, indicating which ninja you need. Plus, there are three bosses and each can only be defeated with the requisite ninja as well. So Red comes back into his own at the back-end of the game.

Pink's overpowered, to be honest: you have two ranged characters - Yellow and Green - with projectiles, and both are weaker than Red (who's short range; melee) but have great range, so you'd expect Pink to have medium range and medium power. In reality, he's as powerful as Red though. And, because the bombs arc when you lob them, they're more useful too.

Glad you liked the impressions. I read in the latest Retro Gamer that their issue 92 had a big article on this game, so you should track it down. It'll be way better than my scribbles :)

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Can't believe I gave on the game first time round with such a good room at the end.

I am holding off on a PSVita, so I will be getting a Gamegear and the two Shinobi games next time I go through Akihabara. Never played the second one.

When this game came out, I remember thinking it was a great game, which indeed it is. But there was some disappointment - I really wanted a portable exact port of the arcade or MS Shinobi. I had never had a Megadrive, so for me that was Shinobi - the sequels didn't exist at all.

Really looking forward to playing this now.

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Did the new portable one turn out to be any good?

Mostly a fan of Revenge myself, so many memories (of dying alot, hoho)

Yep, I really like it. Full impressions after completion, but it takes the Shinobi III lineage and (literally) runs with it - there's even a horse riding section. There are tons of new moves, and an excellent parry system.

Reviews are mixed, usually because of the difficulty, but I'm playing on 'Beginner' on my first run-through. It's a bit of a misnomer, really, as Beginner plays like an ordinary modern game: fair difficulty, regular checkpoints etc. Move up to 'Normal' though, and you have very measly checkpoints (death often means restarting the level) and can be dead in 2-3 hits.

On any difficulty level there are lots of instant deaths, pits of doom and the like, though, so if you didn't like this kind of gameplay to start with, the game won't change your mind. It might have some modern burnish, but it's still really old skool.

I'd advise everyone to start on 'Beginner' as it literally means you're just starting-out with the game. After you acclimatise (and learn the parry timings!) you can stick it on the higher difficulties and expect some serious(ly fun) punishment.

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Shinobi (3DS, 2011)


The Shinobi series' confusing heritage continues, with yet another entry called simply 'Shinobi'. Cheers, Sega. The first Game Gear game had the same title (the title "The GG Shinobi" only shows on the game's title screen, and isn't the official name) so that makes the original game, MS, GG, PS2 and now 3DS games with the same moniker. Sheesh.

Sometimes this naming convention's a statement of intent, that you're taking the series back to first principles and, whilst the game has a lot of returning ideas and set ups from the early games, it's as new as entry as you're ever likely to get without being alien to the franchise.

As mentioned earlier in the thread, this is most closely tied to the Megadrive games - The Super Shinobi and its sequel (aka Revenge and Shinobi III) - mixed with the chasm-crossing and advanced athelticism of the otherwise shit PS2 Shinobi game.

Other than for bonus sections (each one resurrecting a piece of Shinobi history, which I won't spoil here) it's pretty much all played-out on a 2D plane and a mix of close katana attacks, judicious use of kunai (shuriken) and the new parry move will see off most foes, whilst the grapple will help with climbing and boss fights (and the occasionally comical stealth kill, but again I won't spoil those!)


It's also a very tough game, with almost every fight (on Normal difficulty or above) with even low-level grunts meaning the difference between life and death. Harder even than this are some of the platform sections, which require leaps of faith, expert timing and knowledge of the minutiae of each ability (flying kick, double jump, wall jump, grapple climbing) to struggle past successfully. Thankfully, the pace relentless, exciting and the levels generally well-designed.

This one's available at a bargain price, and I hope it's selling well: the fan service is excellent (there is concept art and a full history of the series in there, as well as challenge maps, 5 difficulty levels, achievements and unlockables) and your avatar looks fantastic, finally recapturing Joe Musashi's cool and poise. Add-in the great anime style cut scenes, and it's a classy package all round.


It's not flawless, though, as it's probably a bit too hard, the levels are very long and perhaps not ideally suited to portable play, plus learning the boss patterns earns you many needless deaths. The graphics - though pleasant enough - hardly push the machine and there's not a lot here the PS1 couldn't have done. Even so, Shinobi is a decent step forward with the franchise and worthy of the name - something we haven't been able to say for over ten years. Well done, Sega.


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  • 2 months later...

The first Gamegear one is now on the 3DS shop. I got it today.

Just had a quick blast. I remember the characters, but had completely forgotten the levels. Still a very fun, if dated game. Had much more in common with the Megadrive ones than the original.

I finally got to the fifth level on arcade Shinobi, but it doesn't seem to let you continue after you beat Lobster.

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  • 7 years later...




I was holding off updating the thread until I'd actually done it, but I'm working on a 1CC completion of arcade Shinobi on FBA. When I saw the SEGA AGES release had dropped for a mere £5.99, I had to invest! So I may as well talk about this conversion, plus keep tabs on the run.



Go, buy it right now!!!


Anyways, I'm most of the way through on a single credit, now, normally reaching the end of level 4 (depending on whether I can do the Mandara glitch without having to sacrifice lives).  The version on the AGES release is different to the revision I'm playing on MAME: slight enemy placement and speed tweaks, plus the images of Marilyn have been replaced by Altered Beast, and the 'Spider-Man' enemies recoloured green for copyright reasons. I'm also finding Ken-Oh to be significantly tougher, as his flames are more random and seem faster.


The 'AGES' bit of this release adds a rewind function, which is probably the best idea you could throw at the game. There are insanely unfair bits, as on some stages the enemies will spawn in one of two (or even three) states and can juggle you into a chasm or the path of another enemy. Rewind will be great for people who don't want to be restarting a stage from scratch because of an unfair and seemingly random spawn.


There's also settings in the AGES release for (I think) three hits before death? It also has some filter options, although I find these a bit pointless on Switch in handheld mode - one for big screen players to get maximum use from. I'd also strongly advise playing this with the best control method you have. I've got the Hori split pad pro, but even with this it's a bit imprecise, and when playing 'seriously' I use my Hori RAP stick.


So yeah, in case you were unaware, the AGES game is out and deserves a play by anyone into rock-hard 80s arcade titles with a lot of style.

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On 29/01/2020 at 11:34, Treble said:




I was holding off updating the thread until I'd actually done it, but I'm working on a 1CC completion of arcade Shinobi on FBA. When I saw the SEGA AGES release had dropped for a mere £5.99, I had to invest! So I may as well talk about this conversion, plus keep tabs on the run.




You have to use the thumbsticks to highlight and open the manual. Took me a few seconds before I realized that. An odd choice but there you go.


Sterling conversion/emulation of Shinobi btw.

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  • 1 month later...
54 minutes ago, Protocol Penguin said:

I hadn’t noticed until very recently how much Shinobi owes to Namco’s Rolling Thunder...


indeed, if you didn't know it was a namco game, you'd assume some kind of lineage.


As I had, when I first played RT on an amiga, back in the day.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Speaking of the Rolling Thunder - Shinobi lineage, I had a great time with Konami's 1990 'Shinobi in Space', "Surprise Attack" after I stumbled upon its existence not too long back. 


It's got some nice level designs, fun-to-fight bosses, slick aesthetics and takes a cue from Metal Storm once you're a little way in with zero gravity double-jumping allowing for on-the-fly floor-to-ceiling switching.


Like Shinobi it's responsive, methodical yet twitchy and with short levels which curve up in toughness really well. 

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On 27/03/2020 at 02:51, Keyboard Koala said:


Which reminds me that the Mega Drive had a pretty good Rolling Thunder 2 conversion. Time to update my MD mini games list it seems.


Plus the MD exclusive Rolling Thunder 3, which has a pretty ace soundtrack.


I'm hoping the homebrew MD port of the original Shinobi is finished soon.

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  • 2 years later...

I searched the forum for topics about Shinobi games - this is the most comprehensive discussion. I was a Nintendo kid, so I don’t remember playing any of the Shinobi games in my youth but I know they were well regarded. I bought SEGA AGES Shinobi (arcade) last year in the sale. It was alright but I think the graphical style put me off. The pixel art in Revenge is right up my street and the Yuzo Koshiro score includes some excellent tunes, but by god is the game hard! I was playing on Sega Mega Drive Classics on PS4 so I had the use of rewind and save states and even so I found the gameplay super frustrating. Maybe it wasn’t such an issue when you were a kid and this was the only game you had play, so you mastered it?


The intro, though short, is brilliant and really sets the mood. Stage 1 is probably my favourite area. China Town was pretty cool too, but more for the music and the enemy designs than the background art. I kinda wish the whole game had a traditional Japanese setting as some of the later levels like the factory and docks are a bit dull, plus I didn’t care much for the army characters and comic book cameos. The final level in the labyrinth was a total prick and I was falling asleep so I just watched the ending on YouTube. Really like the portrait of Joe and his girl looking out at the sunset. 





I rated this 2/5 at first because of how frustrating I found it. But I’ve gone back to play it a couple more time since so have upped my score to 3/5. The difficulty is not suited to me, but with practise the game is probably do-able. The music is mostly good and the graphics are top tier (was there anything to compare in late ‘89?). The character sprites are really well drawn and I also really liked the waves of the sea crashing below you on two stages. Oh and the nuns amused me!




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The first MD Shinobi I played was Shadow Dancer, which is still one of my favourite 16-bit games of all time. Going from that to Revenge, I didn’t really enjoy it. Maybe I missed the dog mechanic, maybe the first couple of levels are a bit too brown / grey. I’m not sure.

I’ve barely played III which I should probably rectify. I just remember the horse level being really hard, and it reminded me of the (horrible) horse level in Back to the Future III on the C64.

Perhaps not “vintage” but I also really like the Saturn game. The video clips are hilarious, and the digitised characters work surprisingly well. Plus, it’s on the Saturn, my favourite console. 

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1 hour ago, acidbearboy said:

... I found the gameplay super frustrating. Maybe it wasn’t such an issue when you were a kid and this was the only game you had play, so you mastered it?



Yep, this. I got my copy of Revenge of Shinobi on the Mega Games 2 cart all the way back in Christmas 1993. I was 8 then, so only has MG2 and Sonic 2 so all four of those games got utterly rinsed.


When I got the PSN version years later, I got all the trophies within 6 hours of the first boot up.:D


The hardest part of the game for me is still the long jump in 7-1 at the end of the pier. Sometimes I can do it first time , sometimes I can use an entire batch of lives on it. I blame the multiple revisions of the game (I know they are the same but it's an easy scapegoat)




I would highly recommend both GG Shinobi games (the first shares a lot of tunes with RoS) and of course, Shinobi III on Mega Drive is an absolute classic.


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For me, the original Shinobi was never bettered and getting to master it recently via the MiSTer implementation on a CRT was a dream come true (I got that 1CC).


I'd last tried to play it properly via emulation on a SNES Classic back in 2018 but threw the towel in because input lag on that setup made it completely unplayable. 


Anyway I love how there's zero fat on it. No situation is repeated. New enemies (not palette swaps) are introduced up until the very end, and their placement / pseudo-random spawning behaviour if you dawdle keep you on your toes without feeling cheap. The rougher graphic elements - such as the jerky movement of the Lobster boss and portraits - I never had a problem with because it's an old game and Sega sadly didn't do as much polishing as we might have wanted them too.


I was slightly jealous of Switch users who could use continues to practice the final levels in their M2 port but the satisfaction of learning how to get through it without help was huge. 


The music is generally restrained and breathes thanks to its use of space and languid tempos. It doesn't rock like Koshiro's Super Shinobi or its huger-sounding follow up Super Shinobi II - but it's legit synth-funk and chilled / low-key in a way the later games had no interest in being, what with their bigger scope and places as significant footsoldiers in the 16-bit home console warz. 


And like others, I was looking forward to that completed Mega Drive port because since childhood I knew that it could've been done justice. I played it a lot even though the last public ROM was still only a short demo, but for me that ship has sailed now. Obsessively keeping my MD flashcart updated isn't something I do anymore either.

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2 hours ago, acidbearboy said:

Is the Master System arcade port available on any modern systems?


I don't think so.


M2 didn't touch it for their Switch or 3DS Sega reissues, and I don't think it's hiding as a bonus on any available Sega compilation either.

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@spanky debresthang on (not the game), the MD has an unreleased version of OG arcade Shinobi?!  Mind blown. 

I loved GG Shinobi (fave guy was the one with the grapple hook) bitd but my first experience of Shinobi at home was the C64 port but could never get my copy to load…*

*if you know then you know… ;)



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@geldra A pretty skilled hacker / 68000 coder named Tryphon started work on his own Shinobi MD port around 2015, and the final ROM he released was a joy to experience.


Sadly he went radio silent during the pandemic and confirmed through fellow MD homebrew luminary Pyron (who'd been helping with graphics) that he'd slowed down working on it..but apparently the project isn't dead - it's just on hold. I haven't checked up on it for a while.


Thread here:



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My skills have really improved in the eleven years since I started this thread.  I can now get to the final boss every time, often without losing a life.  It’s 50-50 whether I lose a life on the revolving statues on the third boss.  I usually only need the magic on a handful of stages now.  It’s rare that I can kill the last boss on the arcade version, but I have done it.


It really is a timeless classic.  No Shinobi sequel is as good as the first, in my opinion.

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