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3D Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (3DS) artwork

3D Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (3DS) review


"20 years later, Shinobi III is still a juggernaut."



Whether it'd be through forests and caves, across meadows and the insides of a disturbing bio-factory, every time I landed in a new location, I would constantly twiddle with 3D Shinobi III's two stereoscopic options, Fall-in and Pop-out. I wish I could say I did this to marvel at the beauty of the added effects, but during my first run of this iteration of the Sega Genesis classic, I was constantly confused by the 3D I didn't see. It wasn't until the climax of the game that it dawned on me why I hadn't notice the extra depth: the side-scrolling gameplay is often way too intense and speedy to even give the 3D a proper glance.

So when I returned for a second go, I took my time to admire some of the backgrounds, like the starting forest area where it actually felt like I was peeking into the distance. Though, this was only after fiddling again between the 3D choices and realizing the Fall-in was more suitable for the game's continual use of parallax scrolling, giving the impression that I was playing inside a very complex diorama. That, and it was less stressful on the eyes. I should say, too, veterans of Shinobi III are more likely to overlook the 3D due to how accustomed they are to making a mad dash into danger, over, say, a newcomer that's slowly learning the controls. I do find it amazingly ironic that, in order to fully appreciate the added depth, one needs to either slow down or pause in a title known for its fast-paced action.

Sadly, this isn't the only problem I found with the applied stereoscopy, as, upon further inspection, at least some of the game has a startling lack of it. To be fair, in certain instances, the effects just don't naturally work well in such places as a contained room with a bland wall. It's just, in areas you expect it to have an overwhelming presence, specifically the two horizontal, auto-scrolling sections with an abundance of parallax, 3D Shinobi III underperforms. Maybe it's because the objects are moving by really fast, but I'm not 100% sure on that, I just call it as I see it. When it does work, however, it's really cool, like when you're riding the elevator up in a facility heavily guarded by soldiers, eventually seeing the 3D work its magic in unison with the parallax as machinery and lights scroll by in the back. It's just a shame the rest of Shinobi III isn't like that, especially after reading how much of a painstaking task it was for the devs to convert the game.

Now for the good news: with or without the 3D, Shinobi III is still Shinobi III. The direct follow-up to the slow, uneven, and overrated The Revenge of Shinobi, this game takes the core of its predecessor, fixes everything that was wrong with it, and then injects it with a shot of adrenaline to create what is easily one of the Genesis' finest moments. The biggest factor that makes the game a joy to play is the absurd flexibility of your ninja, Joe Musashi; gone is the timid and stiff Musashi of Revenge, who was unable to dodge and counter attacks adequately with a lack of offensive and defensive capabilities, and in his place is an absolute beast that's worthy of the title Ninja Master.

Having the power to run towards ninjas and finish with a sword swipe, perform a double jump more easily, downward kick brain flies, wall jump, and move along ceilings with shurikens, your protagonist is an unstoppable machine under the control of an experienced gamer. While you can play the first half of Shinobi III at a slower, steady pace, it's highly advisable not to, since the second half of the game places you in environments that force you to use Joe Musashi's acrobatic abilities to their full extent. One late section in particular, a vertical auto-scroll area, will test many a newcomer's patience and agility, possibly stunning several in the process.

Despite the fact that the 3D fumbles in places, Shinobi III is still a great action game that's aged amazingly well over the past 20 years. Shoot, with graphics that are sharp and vibrant, and slick character and mechanical designs that still make it look relevant in today's generation, if this never came out in 1993 and instead released today as a brand new downloadable title, it could easily pass as one. Though, if you already own previous versions of the game, whether it'd be the original cart or on a compilation, the 3DS edition isn't much of a leap with the bonus content and 3D. Granted, changing between regional versions, transforming the screen into a CRT tube, and disabling shurikens are pretty cool. But really, the true reason to get this is if you want to carry around one of the best Shinobi games in the palm of your hand. That, or you don't want to go through the hassle of digging out dusty systems and plugging in various cords.

Both solid reasons, honestly.

Rating: 9/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (December 30, 2013)

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Masters posted January 02, 2014:

Nice review, dude. Pity nothing worthwhile was added after all this time, though you're right, it's a miracle nothing was taken away, either.
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pickhut posted January 02, 2014:

Yeah, even though I've completed the game at least 20-some times since I first got it in 1993, I was still surprised at how sturdy Shinobi III holds up after all this time. If I was reviewing the Genesis version, I'd easily give it a 10/10, but I had to knock it down in this version for the lackluster 3D.

Thanks for reading.

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