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Page 1:
Intro
Shinobi

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Shadow Dancer

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The Revenge of Shinobi (GEN)
Shinobi III

Page 4:
The Cyber Shinobi
The GG Shinobi
The GG Shinobi 2

Page 5:
Shinobi Legions
The Revenge of Shinobi (GBA)

Page 6:
Shinobi (PlayStation 2)
Nightshade

Page 7:
Shinobi (3DS)
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
Other

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The Revenge of Shinobi / The Super Shinobi (ザ・スーパー忍) - Genesis, Dreamcast, Wii (1989)

Genesis Cover

Japanese Mega Drive Cover

One of the first titles released in America for the Genesis, The Revenge of Shinobi was one of the strongest titles Sega had to offer, as Joe Musashi must trek through eight stages to take down the evil Neo Zeed terrorist organization. Taking a departure from the rather straightforward arcade action of its predecessor, Revenge ditched the concept of saving hostages, and introduced larger, more open levels (and eliminated the need to hold up and jump to leap to different levels). The result are levels and bosses that aren't as tightly designed as before, but at the same time everything feels less rigid. Joe also gets a life bar, although the amount of shurikens is limited in return. Thankfully, power-up boxes are strewn throughout each stage, granting weapon power-ups and shuriken refills. Many of them are filled with bombs though, so it's wise to be careful.

One particularly cool move is a midair spinning somersault, which allows to you double jump higher and throw a powerful barrage of shurikens at once. You also have a selection of four different ninja magics which you can use anytime, including a screen-clearing fire attack (Karyu), a lightning barrier (Ikazuchi), a high jump spell (Fushin), and a ninjistsu that will cause Joe to explode (Mijin), taking away one of his lives, but doing massive damage to everything on the screen. The latter is quite useful, because it also refills your health after using it, thereby skirting the level checkpoint you normally get sent back to when you die. Otherwise, the most valuable powerup, the POW icon, grants fiery shurikens, which deal twice as much damage, and gives him a new sword with a longer range, which he also uses to protect himself against projectiles when walking forward. Take one hit and it's gone, though. Keeping with its lineage, The Revenge of Shinobi is incredibly difficult, although Easy mode grants nive lives.

While almost quaint now, the huge character sprites were remarkable for the time, especially compared to pretty much any NES game. Granted, the pacing is a little bit on the slow side, as Joe Musashi just kind of saunters throughout each stage, but the imaginative designs still hold up well. There are some spectacularly cool boss battles - one early battle is against a room of lasers controlled by a human brain that's locked away in a machine. Another one is fought in a disco. Some other particularly memorable levels include an airborne jetplane (be careful not to get sucked out the doors) or battles against fake nuns, who throw off their habits to reveal psycho stripper ninja babes. The entire last level is a huge maze in a Japanese castle, and the final boss battle is a race against time - you fight an evil kabuki master as your girlfriend Naoko is trapped in a cage, threatened by the rock ceiling about to crush her if you're not fast enough. Depending on how well you do, there are two endings - rescuing your girl and getting the good one is one of the toughest accomplishments in video gaming.

The designers were also clearly comic books fan - you not only fight against a muscleman who lobs cars at you, and slowly turns greens as he takes damage; later bosses include a dinosaur that looks suspiciously like Godzilla, and the most controversial was a battle against famous superheroes Spider-Man and Batman. There are also regular enemies with military outfit and Rambo-style red bandanas. It seems that at some point the copyright holders stepped in and regulated. Even on the Genesis, alterations have been made at least twice. In the second version of the ROM, Batman and Rambo were changed, the former was replaced by a more bestial bat-monster, while the latter all had his head shaved. The third version includes a copyright by Marvel, indicating that Spider-Man and Hulk were official cameos. The fourth version strips Godzilla of its skin, leaving only a skeleton and the internal organs. Unfortunately, it is impossible to distinguish the version by looking at the carts. For the first two versions, one has to play at least to stage 3 to see the differences. The first version seems to be somewhat rare outside of Japan, though, and probably even nonexistant in PAL territories. After the deal with Marvel ended, The Revenge of Shinobi was left out of many Sega compilations for a while, until it was edited againfor the Wii Virtual Console, which recolors the Spider-Man boss to be pink. The Wii version also changes the look of the iconic digitized face on the title screen, presumably to make it look less like Sonny Chiba, the famous Japanese actor who originally modeled for the shot.

During the 1990s, though, Revenge of Shinobi saw several more re-releases - other than the budget Sega Classics release, it was stuck on the 4-in-1 Arcade Classics disc that came bundled with the Sega CD, and later packed in a 5-in-1 cartridge. It was also released on the Sega Smash Pack disc for the Dreamcast, although that version has some funky sound issues due to iffy emulation.

The Revenge of Shinobi is also well known for its soundtrack, created by video game music legend Yuzo Koshiro. While the music is possibly a bit overrated compared to Koshiro's other works of the era, like Streets of Rage and Actraiser, there are a number of pretty decent tunes, especially the boss battle, "Terrible Beat". Note that the MP3s below are from The Super Shinobi & Works soundtrack album. The drum samples appear in higher quality than they are in the game, as the music was initially composed on the PC88 computer, which uses similar FM synth to the Genesis.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Noriyoshi Ōba

Genre:

Themes:


The Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis)

The Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis)

The Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis)

The Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis)

The Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis)



Rip-off Bosses



Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master / The Super Shinobi II (ザ・スーパー忍 II) - Genesis, PlayStation 2, PSP, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, iOS (1993)

Genesis Cover

Japanese Mega Drive Cover

Widely regarded as the best in the series, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master takes everything that made The Revenge of Shinobi awesome and gives it a karate kick in the pants. Five long years passed since the launch of the Genesis, and plenty of graphical evolution had been made in the meantime - so Shinobi III looks damn good. The story is the same-old-same-old, with Joe taking on the newly resurrected Neo Zeed organization once more. With the addition of a dash manuever (and a running slash), the gameplay has gotten quite a bit faster, which was one of the only real shortcomings of its predecessor. There are a few new moves as well, including a block manuever you can use at any time (as opposed to being powered up like in The Revenge of Shinobi), and a jump kick to strike swiftly from mid-air. In general Joe Musashi has become much more agile, and he can now wall-jump and grapple along ceilings. The difficulty has also been tuned a bit, although it's still no walk in the park, especially in the final stage, where you need to put all of your acrobatic skills to the test to leap between narrow electrified walls and ceilings.

Shinobi III continues its tradition of excellent boss designs, but the design also seems influenced by the Contra games, featuring "vehicle" stages and some really cool setpieces. One level takes place in a huge cave of biological goop, with some strange creature in the background visibly targetting your ninja. Naturally, you face this pretty little thing at the end, and he's one of the most gruesome looking creations seen on the Genesis. Other notable boss fights include a mecha-Godzilla type robot, and a final battle in a colorful, spacey virtual field, similar to a battle in Contra Hard Corps. One level takes place on horseback and another takes a radical page from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by giving Joe Musashi a surfboard. Another has you climbing a long vertical mountain by jumping from falling bits of debris, although badly timing your double jumps can send you to your death. The next-to-last stage is also a tribute to the maze-like castle in The Revenge of Shinobi, as well as a take on its final boss (though there's no time limit this time around, thankfully.) The design still isn't as tight as some of the Konami titles it seems patterned after, but it's still one of the most inspired action titles on the Genesis.

The music is no longer supplied by Koshiro, and instead provided by Hirofumi Murasaki, Morihiko Akiyama and Masayuki Nagao. The trio has not really done any notable works before or since (though Nagao contributed to Sonic 3), it's still an excellent soundtrack, providing more complex compositions than typically seen in video game music. While generally not as melodic or immediately memorable as Koshiro's tracks, it utilizes digitized samples much better than most titles on the system, and is generally in a class of its own.

What is pretty confusing is the naming convention. In Japan, the title is The Super Shinobi II, clearly showing that is the sequel to the first Genesis / Mega Drive game, and that the gameplay should be different from the arcade titles. However, the Western releases deemed it Shinobi III. So which was supposed to be "Shinobi 2"? The Revenge of Shinobi? Shadow Dancer? Or perhaps the atrocious Cyber Shinobi? No one really knows for sure.

While it was a Genesis exclusive in its time, Shinobi III has since been included in both the Sega Genesis Collection (PS2, PSP) and Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (PS3, Xbox360). It is also available on Steam for Windows PCs. And as an iOS app, like this is the kind of game one would want to play with touchscreen controls only.

When Shinobi III was originally previewed in magazines, it featured screenshots of areas and enemies that were totally different from the final release. While initially intended to be published in 1992, it didn't actually come out until 1993, so it seems like Sega changed quite a bit during the meantime. Two beta ROMs have leaked onto the internet showing many of the elements that were changed. The first beta is almost completely different, showing off a huge number of stages that are completely different. It is only barely playable, is full of glitches and bosses that don't attack right, so it serves more to show off what was changed. New areas include a night-time stage in a Japanese castle, a canyon, and a refinery. There are several different generic enemy base/factory areas, which received some complaints in an early review, so it makes sense that Sega would've ditched them in favor of some of the cooler levels found in the final game. Totally new enemies include a mid-boss with a gigantic machine gun, a muscular dude with an extending arm and some kind of mutated tigers. There's also a fifth ninjitsu power called Hakuiru, which controls the power of ice and freezes everything on the screen, thereby making all attacks analogous to the ninjas in the Game Gear games. There's also a somersault move that was taken out of the final version. Also included are improved ninjitsu spells which activate when you have a POW icon. There's also a strange puzzle game in the options screen. The second beta ROM is much closer to the final game, but includes several subtle changes, including different boss patterns, different sprites for some enemies (including enemies in the surfing level which appear to be riding Return of the Jedi-style speeders), and a variation on the labyrynth level, where you're played in a room with several doors, and need to complete all rooms before fighting the boss, removing the maze elements. You can read more about the beta ROMs here.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Director:

  • Tomoyuki Itō
  • Takeshi Matsuhashi

Designer:

  • Naohisa Nakazawa

Genre:

Themes:


Shinobi III

Shinobi III

Shinobi III

Shinobi III

Shinobi III



Beta Screenshots


iOS Version Screenshots


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Shinobi

Page 2:
Shadow Dancer

Page 3:
The Revenge of Shinobi (GEN)
Shinobi III

Page 4:
The Cyber Shinobi
The GG Shinobi
The GG Shinobi 2

Page 5:
Shinobi Legions
The Revenge of Shinobi (GBA)

Page 6:
Shinobi (PlayStation 2)
Nightshade

Page 7:
Shinobi (3DS)
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
Other

Back to the Index