Genre: Action Developer: Sega of Japan Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1988
There are few games in the U.S. Master System library that I can actually say that I like, and at first, I didn’t care for this game much either. However, I’m happy to say that I’ve grown quite fond of Shinobi. Since I was hard pressed for games to play I started playing this game more and more. Surprisingly, I started liking it much more and warmed up to it a great deal. It honestly felt too simple and generic to be much fun, and I’ve talked to several people about it who all said the same thing. All of them seem to agree that it took some time to get into, but once they did it became an incredible deep and challenging game well worth the space it took up in their collection.
Shinobi is a port of the arcade game and for better or for worse it most closely resembles the Ninja Gaiden series of games. It was also released on the NES by Tengen when they acquired the rights to the game from Sega. Don’t worry SMS fans, because this port blows the NES version out of the water.
Joe Musashi is out to rescue the kids of world leaders from the “Ring of Five,” a terrorist group bend on world domination. His attack set is simple: he runs jumps and throws shurikens and can gain close-range weapons that he will automatically use when he is close enough to an enemy. Your only close range attack that you start with is a kick, but after you find a few kids who act as power-ups you can get knives, nunchakus and the long-range chain which is the best. Rescued kids also grant a variety of power-ups including health bar extensions, accesses to bonus stages, strength increases, and a wide variety of weapons.
Each stage is broken up into two to three short rounds before a boss fight. Each round is a tad on the simple side and could have had a tad more detail and variety to the gameplay but they all work pretty well. The later stages require a lot of fine jumping skills, and that becomes one of the game’s setbacks. Joe never jumps long enough, and unless your jumps are timed perfectly you’ll suffer far too many deaths but practice is the key. If you found a kid that enabled a bonus stage then you can try your hand at a very difficult bonus round. These bonus rounds take place in a first person view with two horizontal rows. Ninjas descend down and jump at you, and it only takes one hit to lose. These took me a long time to master, and even still I can only complete the first two. They are obviously quite difficult but can reward you with health refills when you die as well as other very useful special attacks.
The bosses in Shinobi are actually quite cool, and thankfully Sega put a lot of variety in the design. This game is home to one of my favorite bosses that I’ve fought in any game, the third boss. He’s one of the viler bosses ever seen as far as difficulty, but you have to see it to get my point but be warned; you may want to consult a YouTube video for a strategy to beat this overly hard boss.
Though the game is easy on the eyes, it’s nothing stellar as far as the graphics go on the SMS. Joe looks more like a special ops member in the military than a ninja, and the backgrounds could always use more detail and variety. The sound effects are also nothing spectacular but get the job done. Musically, the game is catchy and somewhat memorable but didn’t blow me away. It works though, and I like it. I do actually hum along to the tune that plays during many of the stages.
Shinobi doesn’t raise any standards as far as game play goes for the SMS, but it’s just a fun and very challenging game that’s worth the time it takes to master. Pick it up because it’s only going to cost you a few bucks, and where else are you going to find a samurai boss named Lobster in a game?