"If you listen carefully, you can almost hear old man Musashi rolling in his grave."
Forget for a moment the pseudo-3D Shinobi for the PS2. Shinobi was always a side-scrolling jump-and-shoot ninja action series. And it was almost always good. Not Cyber Shinobi though! Sure it's a side-scroller, but it sucks. And it sucks hard.
Instead of ultra-cool Joe Musashi, you play his ultra-lame descendent… also named Joe Musashi. Clever! Pay close attention though: the evil tyranny of super ninja terrorist organization Zeed is back, in a sort of futuristic way. This could have been a cool idea, pairing ninja stuff with futuristic stuff, only it's not. Forget about killing ninjas and crouching gunmen; you face weaponless guys in puffy pale green snowsuits and robots that explode crappily when you hit them. Rather than partake in intimidating confrontations with massive bosses like fire-breathing Ken Oh and the samurai Lobster, you face off with blandly built bulldozer vehicles in the city streets.
Cyber Shinobi's graphics are bad, especially the backgrounds. In fairness, Shinobi for the Master System didn't always have the best backdrops on show, but the character designs were true to the arcade--and that meant they were good. The character design in Cyber Shinobi… well, when I saw the pale green snowsuit guys I had seen enough. Everything is wishy-washy and bland and somehow the colours seem colourless.
Consistency is something Sega got right here (good on them!), because the music is also horrible. If you had another Master System game in your console, and you pulled it out and slotted in Cyber Shinobi (what are you, a masochist?), you'd find that the music in this cart is remarkably loud. The melodies aren't horrible, but they're horribly loud and horribly repetitive. It's bad enough the level tunes are so short, but having the sounds blare like this doesn't allow you to forget.
Manure-pile presentation aside, we're left with manure-pile gameplay. Joe normally gets to toss shurikens, or what we used to call ninja stars before we became all educated about all things ninja. He gets to throw them in Cyber Shinobi too, but he has to find them first, in power up containers. The containers also contain ninja magic at times, which can be helpful in clearing the screen of enemies in a decidedly Golden Axe-esque fashion. Stupidly though, in order to fire your shurikens you have to press up and the fire button, which means you can't toss them while jumping or ducking. So I usually don't bother with the shurikens at all and resign myself to using Joe's short sword to slash at foes, and Joe's low kick, to boot enemies while crouching.
You fight from left to right, as you might expect, taking out the sad menagerie of poorly drawn foes, bumping into them at times, juggling them oddly at times, realizing they're inside your sprite yet doing no damage at times. Sometimes you'll need to jump, but your jumps are floaty and it's hard to predict reliably where you'll land, so you'll miss conveyor belts, fall into holes and overshoot platforms.
A game this ugly and hurtful to the ears ill needs lame, anti-Shinobi gameplay like this, and a clunky control scheme like this. I mean, we can all stomach an unsightly mess if we can wade through it. But man...Cyber Shinobi is unsightly and the water is just too ****ing deep to reckon with.
Staff review by Marc Golding (November 15, 2003)
There was a bio here once. It's gone now.
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