Release Date: September 1988
Shinobi marks the debut of the arcade classic on home consoles. You are the greatest ninja in the world, Joe Musashi, and also a deep cover agent for the government. Which government? I dunno. What I do know is you have to take out some terrorist ninjas to save the children of five world leaders in five levels. Are you kidding me with this framing story? These early Sega manuals were a true gem of absurdity sometimes.
Anyway, Joe can jump with button 2 and attack with button 1. He’s equipped with a shuriken for long range killing and punches and kicks for the short range. Better short range weapons can be found as you rescue the kids. The sword upgrades to nunchaku, and finally the manrikugari chain. However, you can go back to other short weapons if you rescue the wrong hostage. I learned that the hard way and was sad to lose the chain. The shurikens get permanent powerups. First to a throwing knife, which is fast. Then bombs, which arc when thrown or bounce along the ground. Then the ultimate ninja weapon, the pistol.
There is the ability to earn ninja magic if you earn and beat a bonus round on each stage. Unfortunately, I was really bad at the bonus stage and only gained a couple different spells during gameplay. One of them was the ability to fly, which would have come in handy in later stages.
Levels are laid out in your typical left to right affair to begin. The clever mechanic in Shinobi is the ability to change levels by pressing up or down when you jump. This allows you to only have to worry about one set of enemies and get around them to attack from behind. Later stages get cute and have you jumping up and down several levels. Most stages are pretty easy, but there are a couple jumps that require pinpoint accuracy and will frustrate you. And the jungle stage… ninjas quickly jump onto the screen to where you are and take away a lot of life.
At the end of each cluster of stages is a boss fight. These are super easy for the most part. The only ones that give trouble are the Mandara boss of stage three, which acts like a moving wall and if you don’t kill them fast enough, you get knocked into a laser that kills you instantly. The final boss can be hard to begin with as he has multiple forms, but once you figure out how to beat them, it’s not really a problem.
Graphics and animations are pretty decent. Backgrounds aren’t totally monochrome, which is nice.
I wasn’t impressed by the music and sound effects, they were nothing special.
The different facets of the game work well, except the bonus round, which I dislike.
Once you learn how the game works, you should be able to get through the whole thing in less than a half hour, which is nice.
Fun Factor: 3.0
I had an alright time with this. Enough to come back the next day after I was no longer drunk to experience it right.
Overall Grade: 2.7
Shinobi earns a B-. It’s a classic game that will bring a good time to your day. Give it a quick playthrough.