I remember a time back in fifth grade when I went
bowling ever Monday with my school. At the time,
Street Fighter 2 had just come out and everyone
said "Screw bowling! Let's play this!" Well, right
beside that Street Fighter 2 machine was the Sega
classic Shinobi. As much as everyone hated it (one
hit kills, mostly) I took a liking to it. Sure,
I loved SF2 also, but I think I appreciated this
game much more than everyone else. I liked it quite
a bit more than the Sega Master System version...in addition
to the life meter and silly ninjitsu earning, it just
didn't have the feel of the arcades game. It was too
slow in comparison.
And Revenge of Shinobi just took in the series in a
whole other direction. Since it was a home-only game,
it was designed as such. Longer levels, kept the life meter,
a choice of ninjitsu, different level structure. Shadow Dancer is the only
true arcade Shinobi to make it to the home platforms.
While the style is noteably different (and I betcha
some won't like it) it's still a fabulous arcade
After defeating the evil Neo Zeed corporation back
in Revenge of Shinobi, Joe Mushashi retired with his
friend Kato. Unfortunately, as it happened, Kato
was killed when trying to rescue some kids. Not only
that, but a new terrorist group known as Union
Lizard (sounds like a kind of demonic pet store) is
taking over New York City. It's up to Joe to not
only take vengeance but also save the city from a band
of overgrown reptiles!
That little bit about the death of Kato wasn't just
to add emotion to the story. Kato had a nice little
puppy named Yamato. This puppy grew into a big bad dog,
and joins Joe on his adventure. And what does this
dog exactly DO, you ask? Well, by holding down the
fire button and releasing after a few seconds, Yamato
will run forward and disable a nearby enemy for a few
seconds. Then you can move in and kill the bad guy.
This is a pretty innovative idea, and works very well.
Since it is based off the arcade game, the levels and
gameplay are a bit different from other home Shinobi
games. They aren't horribly large, but the object is
to rescue all of the hostages (many who give power-ups
like points, 1-ups, or more powerful weapons). Your
main weapon are unlimited shurikens, but you can use your
sword when close to an enemy. Additionally, you
have ninjistsu to use once in every level, just
killing everyone on the screen.
Also, you can only take one hit. However, you only
really die if you get hit by a deadly weapon (sword,
bullet, fire, whatever.) If any enemy
simply bumps into you, you just get pushed back. No
harm done. Much of the game requires
that you wait in safety until an enemy is vulnerable,
then attack (this is where Yamato can be very helpful.)
Most of the time, this means ducking under a box under the enemy
has to stop and reload his gun while you jump over and attack.
Swift and deadly...fun too.
It's not very hard, but rookies will probably get
frustrated off the bat.
Shadow Dancer has some fairly good graphics. Although you'll
never get blown over by them (that fire effect in the
first level's getting old), amazingly, they compare
very favorably to the arcade game. Nicely detailed, well animated,
large characters. Fighting with the
Statue of Liberty up close in the background is
rather impressive. Except for the first level music,
the audio isn't exactly bad...it's just not great either.
Plus the noise when you use ninjitsu resembles that
of a broken vacuum cleaner. Not good. And the game
controls like a beaut. The only thing I'm concerned about
is that people may forget that you need to press Up + Jump
to jump up a vertical level, as attempting to jump normally on
a platform won't work.
While it's a different pace from post other games, that's
what Shadow Dancer was intended to be. Pretty much
a translation of the arcade gameplay. And as a result, it's
a bit short...five levels total, being made of two
short sub-areas and a boss. But the difficulty select
and no-shuriken mode add to the challenge for long time
fans. Shadow Dancer is one of those Genesis classics
you should definitely get your hands one.