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September 5, 2003
Shinobi - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
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Is that Solid Snake... ermm, no.
I'm sorry to say that I already feel like a dinosaur in the gaming world, after receiving this game to review. Every second person that I told about "Sega's remake of their classic game Shinobi" looked at me strangely and went "Shin-o-what?". Well, for the non-dinosaurs out there, the original Shinobi was created by Sega during the 1980s. It was an addictive, side-scrolling platformer where you are the ninja Joe Musashi in his quest to reclaim the world leader's kidnapped children. What really made Shinobi the game way back then was that it was fun, played well, had a killer difficulty curve (like all 80s games), and was so popular that it was ported to almost all of the games systems at the time (everything from the Master System to the C64!). So more than 15 years since the first Shinobi title, the ninja is ready for some 128-bit action? So how does it fare? Read on...

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The backgrounds do look nice.
Hotsuma is the lead character in the latest Shinobi, who is the lead member of the Oboro clan. Tokyo has just suffered from a huge earthquake, and Hotsuma quests through Tokyo trying to figure out what is going on. Being a ninja though means that Hotsuma has more skills than the average platformer jump, run and shoot. His stealth-dash technique enables him to dash quickly between enemies, leaving a translucent ghostly trail behind. Once mastered, this technique enables you to run rings around some of your earlier (and easier) enemies. Another of his ninja powers is a Matrix-like ability to run along walls; couple this with well-timed jumps, and Hotsuma can effectively scale buildings the walls are correctly placed.

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Shinobi, being a ninja platformer game would be almost expected to be a hack-and-slash game right? In the vein of the Shinobi games, it doesn't disappoint in the action department (even though I always though ninjas were meant to be stealthy...). Hotsuma has a nice repertoire of moves which are extended through different weapons obtained as the game progresses. One important point to note though is that this game is yelling and screaming 'Old School!' at the top of its lungs; which I find great, but others may find this a little intimidating. So while the action is fast, plentiful and addictive, the game is also tough on the gamer; die halfway through a level and return to the beginning... no second chances. Add this to a pretty nasty difficulty level in later stages in the game, and you have quite a challenge on your hands.

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Slice and dice time.
Aside from the game's high difficulty level, there isn't too much else to scare fans of action games away from Shinobi. It controls very well and intuitively, although the dreaded 3rd-person camera causes some problems (which seem to plague most games like this). Especially in tight situations, where there is scenery or enemies nearby, I find that more often than not I have to manually re-center the camera. It's normally just a little niggly problem, but during a boss fight the problem can snowball and mean the difference between the next level and repeating the entire level. Again. And Again. And Again.

If you're put off by the not-too-complex visuals of the game seen in screenshots, make sure you see it running before you palm it off as being overly simple. While some of the earlier levels are a little on the simplistic side, the later levels coupled with fluent action and dash effects make up for it. Fortunately slowdown and aliasing issues got left behind at Segaís development studios, and they managed to put several juicy cutscenes to tell the story at key points throughout the game. Shinobi is a well presented game, and the fact that thereís a decent story behind the action is a big plus!

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Up the wall.
The sound in Shinobi isn't anything special, with your typical mashing beat-em-up sounds, though there is quite a variety behind them (so people won't think that you're being cheap and repeating the same combo... as much). The backing soundtrack has some nice electronic beats, which match the post-apocolyptic Tokyo styled levels.

Shinobi has been a complete ball to play, especially for old dinosaurs like myself that still remember where today's games originally came from. It is a tough game, so you will have to vent some steam and waste away a weekend or two to fully appreciate Shinobi (did I hear multiple playable characters?). But for an addictive action-platformer, Shinobi is one of the better games out there, especially given the bonus packaging that it comes in at the moment (if it hasn't sold out already).

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSPlenty happening without slowdown; and the scarf!
SOUNDAbove average music accompanied by nice sound effects.
GAMEPLAYTough and addictive, but thatís a good thing if youíre up to itÖ
VALUEItíll take a fair while to finish, with hidden extras too.
OVERALLThis game really is Shinobi for the 128bit console; the gameplay and the fun behind the original is present everywhere, which gives the game added nostalgia. Perhaps a little too tough for the casual gamer, but at least worth a rent.

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