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Shinobi (Sega Master System) artwork

Shinobi (Sega Master System) review


"The conversion in terms of overall gameplay mechanics are excellent. Certainly the game is as good as you might imagine it being, making that precarious trip from arcade to 8-bit; that’s not an easy road. Even the bonus rounds, (you throw shuriken and green clothed ninjas from a first person perspective to earn ninja magic) are included."



What’s Up?

Shinobi for the Sega Master System represents a direct translation from the popular arcade game to the 8-bit home console.

Your mission, as Joe Musashi, Master Ninja, is to rescue the children of the world leaders, who have been kidnapped by a nefarious group of evil ninjas, called The Ring of Five.

This is a side-scrolling jump and shoot sort of game, so get your reflexes and timing in gear if you want to stand a chance of making it through all four henchmen to earn a date with the man behind it all, the Masked Ninja. (Yes, he is wearing a mask.)

What’s Good?

The conversion in terms of overall gameplay mechanics are excellent. Certainly the game is as good as you might imagine it being, making that precarious trip from arcade to 8-bit; that’s not an easy road. Even the bonus rounds, (you throw shuriken and green clothed ninjas from a first person perspective to earn ninja magic) are included. Admittedly, the magic is mostly unspectacular and the control is dodgy when trying to activate it. Still, the rounds are there, and even the far superior P.C. Engine port omitted them.

Playing as a ninja brings with it, its own inherent charm and fun factor. Joe moves well enough, and it’s a nice change to see a ninja without the hood on. Besides the shuriken, he can use bombs and eventually a gun! (The old master would frown upon this modern, evil, technology no doubt!) When Joe gets in close to his enemies, he can punch and low kick them, and as he gets powered up, he will be able to use a sword, nunchuks and finally, a chain. Each successive weapon is more powerful and sports longer reach than the previous.

The graphics are quite good too. The characters are large for a game of this type, in this era. Joe is at least twice as big as Ryu Hayabusa, (from Ninja Gaiden fame) and he is more detailed, as are all his adversaries. The bosses are especially large and move surprisingly well, (though there animations are limited) for an 8-bit game. Play against Ken Oh and Lobster, and you’ll see what I mean.

What’s Bad?

Shinobi plays a bit on the slow side. Fortunately, all subsequent versions and sequels sped things up a bit, but this SMS translation doesn’t move along at the pace it should. The game is also very hard, and doesn’t control as well as other versions, the former, perhaps a result of the latter. There are some near impossible jumps close to the end that will exhaust your supply of lives if you're unlucky. Also, the timing needed to dispatch the bosses is often downright frustrating, and the third level boss, Mandara simply takes that frustration to new heights. The crippled control handicaps your attempts to do what is already an unenviable task. Compounding the frustration further is the absolute lack of an ending.

The music in Shinobi is repetitive, and it has a droning, muffled quality. Regrettably, the sound effects aren’t much better, featuring ‘bleeps’ that sound out of place in a game with such good presentation. The sound of Joe getting hit is especially poor. (You’ve GOT to hear it.)

So What?

Overall, Shinobi for the SMS is still fun to play, as it is a good port of a great arcade game, but there are extremely frustrating parts culminating in a unrewarding finish. This adventure of Sega’s favorite ninja sounds bad, plays hard, and looks good.

Rating: 7/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 12, 2004)

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