"Joe Musashi, renowned master of the Shinobi, may have peacefully gone on a well-earned vacation, but it seems that Neo Zeed apparently never learnt it was futile to argue against the world's greatest ninja. To reassert this fact, Neo Zeed even went as far as placing a bounty on the ninja's head upon its stylish return. As a self-respecting ninja, Joe nevertheless anticipated this move from the powerful organization; all the time that elapsed since his last 'mission' was spen..."
Joe Musashi, renowned master of the Shinobi, may have peacefully gone on a well-earned vacation, but it seems that Neo Zeed apparently never learnt it was futile to argue against the world's greatest ninja. To reassert this fact, Neo Zeed even went as far as placing a bounty on the ninja's head upon its stylish return. As a self-respecting ninja, Joe nevertheless anticipated this move from the powerful organization; all the time that elapsed since his last 'mission' was spent training. This has contributed to make Joe way stronger than he ever was; the rank of the Shinobi has been increased to a heightening degree through him.
And this constant training does show as soon as you get to control Joe. His previous limited capabilities have evolved into something truly wonderful to make him one of the greatest ninjas ever, only marred by the great Scorpion (don't mess with the Scorpion, fool!). The shuriken-throwing warrior can now slash faster than it takes to shout 'Ninjas are cool!', and should this not be enough, he can now choose between four types of magic. All this is done easily enough with no apparent effort from Joe, who stays cool in spite of all the gray ninjas and mechanical beasts he is asked to face throughout his epic adventure.
Should tight spots arise, fiddle with the controller and be amazed at Joe's new abilities, which include ecstatic jumps. Jump upon walls, eerily somersaulting at the peak of a jump, or hang onto rails while throwing shuriken upon shuriken at the back of an unsuspecting brain-like monster. All this cannot compare to Joe's lightning-quick jumping kicks though. Relentlessly attack a cool-looking boss by swiftly kicking him, each time being thrown back only to charge at it once again. Lather, rinse, and repeat without ever getting tired.
Controlling Joe indeed is the best part throughout this whole game. Never have I had so much fun just running about and killing everybody. It soon becomes a matter of not just killing enemies, but rather of doing so in the most stylish of ways. Within time, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master becomes an outgoing fiesta, allowing you to slaughter silky enemies in an awe-inspiring fashion. And the ingenuity of the levels does aid in conveying this wacky, yet moody atmosphere even more brilliantly.
Other than the usual walk-to-the-left routines, Joe must now cling to rails, ledges as bombs explode and prevent him from simply walking. Dangle like Tarzan and jump up, jump until you reach the top of the screen where a group of ninjas waits for you. Or would you be happier riding a horse and occasionally jumping to garner the abundant bonuses the game provides? Even then, your best ability is still available; be amazed as your horse jumps and suddenly charges upon the enemy in a way only to be found in this game.
My favorite just has to be the sea level though. As towering buildings can be seen in the background, enemies drop in one after another to get rid of you. They don't just barge even without being invited, as you first notice them getting ready in the background. This then culminates with a memorable, albeit easy, boss fight against a couple of mechanical warriors. Once again, marvel at Joe's ability to jump onto their backs as he takes himself for the Silver Surfer, using his board as an unbreakable weapon.
It needs to be said that the first level itself is quite fast-paced with a lot of ninjas hiding behind trees until they finally throw shurikens at you. The last two stages are utterly fantastic though and really manage to beat the previous ones with a pulp. Jump onto moving platforms and devise plans to avoid touching electric spots. Other than making sure you don't charge protons, you soon find avoiding gaps is yet another things you need to master. Trudge through all this and get ready for the boss fight where magic will be of a great help.
Moreover, everything just looks splendid in Shinobi III. Joe apparently had the time to find himself a more suitable palette of colors and his animation would make Sonic turn brick red if such a thing was possible. Colors flawlessly abound while still giving the game a gripping mood and this can specially be observed in the later levels, as Joe inexorably gets closer to the tortured minds behind Neo Zeed. The waterfalls that momentarily block Joe from your view convey this pleasant presentation, as you strive to know when the spikes blocking your way will finally disappear.
Later on, semi aliens break from experiment pods and charge at you, oblivious to their surroundings. Slash at them with your sword, and jump up to reach the next section. You need to use all your skills in this game. The final parts of the game indeed require exhaustive use of everything trick you have. Luckily, each action is as simple as can be and can be mastered within a couple of minutes. You'd be stupid to blame the controls for your mistakes while playing Shinobi III.
It's not that the controls are good; they are merely perfect.
Unfortunately, Shinobi's music is far from being memorable. The first track is brilliant and suits the game's atmosphere with its peaceful arrangement, but it is sadly alone in a pool of decrepit themes. The ensuing tracks lack a distinct feel and turn out rather generic. You won't even notice them. I was quite disappointed with how the music turned out, but thankfully, the sound effects are extremely realistic. If anything else, go on a killing spree just to marvel at the subtle sound effects of Joe attacking and enemies dying.
To make up for the ludicrous lack of challenge, the seven levels it comprises of are quite large. In addition, each level brims with secret items and routes to be uncovered. It remains truly fantastic to just loiter around and look for new passageways only to stumble in a new area beholding a few more shurikens. Claim these and plunge further into the darkness of Joe's world without ever stopping to figure out the consequences of your action. You don't need to; remember, you're the Shinobi.
While I loathe the surprising lack of quality in the audio department, this isn't really enough to tarnish one of the most impressive titles on the Genesis. The action, while not very challenging once you get used to the game, is upbeat and exciting. The last two stages in particular have a hypnotic feel and will very likely attract you over and over again until you get blisters from playing this game too much. With superb visuals and such an astounding variety of easy-to-pull abilities, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master remains a fantastic game that will please any type of gamer.
Buy it now.
Play it forever.
Community review by siegfried (June 18, 2003)
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