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Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master

Genre: Action Developer: Sega of Japan Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1993

I’m not sure of the naming conventions behind this Shinobi games…while it’s the third Shinobi game on the Genesis, it’s actually the fourth in the complete series and the second in the Super Shinobi series. That being said, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master is actually a sequel to the early Genesis title, Revenge of Shinobi, rather than Shadow Dancer. While Revenge of Shinobi is regarded as one of the best titles early on in the Genesis’ life, there were a handful of problems I had with it to really keep it from becoming a gold classic. But Shinobi III fixes all of them and makes a marvelous game to boot.

That evil organization Neo Zeed has returned and is once again wreaking havoc on humanity (well, it’s better than the return of that silly Union Lizard from Shadow Dancer). Joe Mushashi, the Ninja who apparently has nothing better to do than save humanity, is at it once again to rid the world.

As mentioned before, since it’s the sequel to Revenge of Shinobi, there’s no hostages to be found and no one hit kills. The life meter’s back and this time you don’t have to gain points to lengthen its maximum (which was a big pain in the ass before). You only have a limited amount of shurikens, but you can always find more along the way inside boxes conveniently spread throughout the levels. And in case you don’t want to waste your projectile weapons, you can always use hand-to-hand combat (which is executed automatically when you get close enough to a baddie). You’ll also find POW icons (so you through flaming shurikens and wield a sword) but you lose those when you get hit, as before.

But there are several improvements on the game mechanics in addition to the ones you may be familiar with. You can still somersault in mid-air and throw a huge wave of shurikens to take about many enemies. All of your ninjitsu is the same, they just look a little bit nicer (for those not acquainted with ninjitsu, it’s one of four powers that you can use once in a each life. Kariu spreads fire all around the screen, Ikazuchi makes you temporarily invincible, the Fushin makes you jump super high and Mijin will actually make Joe Mushashi explode, killing anything in the immediate proximity but also deleting one of your lives).

But you can now block projectiles all of the time simply by holding down the attack button, plus you can now run (VERY useful and fun, since you can slash anything that gets in your way! You know, go charging in and yelling “HIIIIYAAA!” as you split the enemy over the head with your sword….). Even better, you can now jump kick, so it’s easier to get those enemies positioned in pesky places! Plus you can now bounce off of walls. I’m surprised that Joe Mushashi finally learned something that his video game rival, Ryu Hayabusa, has had for some time. These little moves may not seem like much, but they really make a difference in the overall gameplay.

Although you’ll guide Joe through your typical forests, caves, factories and cities, there are also a few unique levels. In one part, you get to ride on Joe’s galloping horse and get to ride a surfboard in another level (although this is honestly a bit to Ninja Turtle-esque for me). One particularly cool area takes place in a biological laboratory. The second part of the level is filled with all sorts of pink, disgusting looking waste…what makes it worse is that the boss of the level, a really, REALLY ugly mutated face, is hiding in the background, shooting things at you.

You really shouldn’t find the game too hard, especially since the easy mode gives you nine lives and you already have three credits on your belt. Still, some areas near the end of the game require a lot of practice to get past. The most annoying is one area where you have to jump from falling rock to falling rock as Joe travels to the bottom of a cliff. You have to get your double-jumps JUST right (or use the Fushin ninjitsu to jump really high) in order to get past this part.

There are no complaints from me about the graphics here, as they’re some of the most solid visuals I’ve seen on the Genesis. But the music’s a bit of a letdown. I’m not sure of Yuzo Koshiro did the tunes here (I don’t think he did) but there’s really only two or three good pieces of music… which was nothing compared to Revenge of Shinobi. Still, none of it is what I’d call bad.

So what’s the overall deal on this game? Well, the extra moves really gives your character the versatility that he should’ve had back in the other Shinobi games, which was otherwise near-perfect. This all means that Shinobi III is one of the best action titles seen on the Genesis, and is a must-have for your library.

SCORE: 9 out of 10

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1 Comment

  1. sdelfin says:

    I love this game. I missed out on it when it was new. I think I didn’t even know about its existence, really. I ended up buying it used along with Sonic 3 in 1995 or 1996 when a friend was clearing out his 16-bit collection. I played this one a ton on my Nomad but couldn’t beat it back in the day. I had this sudden, strange urge to try it again in 2012 and was horrible at it, but recently played through it three or four times and had a blast while not being so bad. The game looks great. I really like the music. The extra moves are a great addition to what was available in Revenge of Shinobi and the double jump, while not perfect, is much easier. Sega just released an enhanced version of the game for the 3DS which I hear is excellent and it’s a great way to try it for the first time.

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