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 3: 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 Shinboi 3 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 humaity (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 ninjistu 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
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's no complains from me about the graphics here, as their 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 3 is one of the best action
titles seen on the Genesis, and is a must-have for your library.