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Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Genesis) artwork

Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Genesis) review


"This is “Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi”, and you’re probably wondering what Shinobi’s big secret is. I know it, so I’ll tell you: the secret of Shinobi is that “Shadow Dancer” for the Sega Genesis is better than “Revenge of Shinobi” and “Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master”. This is the best kept secret in Sega history. For years, agents both in and outside the company have created the illusion that “Revenge of Shinobi” is somehow a classic and “Shadow Dancer” isn’t. The conspiracy fa..."



This is “Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi”, and you’re probably wondering what Shinobi’s big secret is. I know it, so I’ll tell you: the secret of Shinobi is that “Shadow Dancer” for the Sega Genesis is better than “Revenge of Shinobi” and “Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master”. This is the best kept secret in Sega history. For years, agents both in and outside the company have created the illusion that “Revenge of Shinobi” is somehow a classic and “Shadow Dancer” isn’t. The conspiracy falls apart when we play the game and find that it stands toe-to-toe with the original “Shinobi” as one of the greatest pure action fests of all time.

What’s amazing is that this game shares its title with the execrable coin-op “Shadow Dancer”, which was Sega’s first attempt to make a sequel to 1987’s untouchable “Shinobi”. Either the concept was handed down to a new, better team, or the original team stayed on and applied some lessons they learned. In any case, “Secret of Shinobi” is everything that the original “Shadow Dancer” should have been. The controls are no longer rigid, and this time the dog actually works. Instead of holding “down + shoot” to sick the pooch, you now hold the “shoot” button until a circular meter at the bottom of the screen charges up. Why didn’t they do this the first time? Also, the canine now charges at the enemy like a streak of light, instead of lumbering toward them. Faster and better, this mechanic now truly fulfills its purpose in expanding the possibilities of this familiar “move and shoot” format.

The graphics are no longer muddy, but now sharp and crisp in true Sega Genesis fashion. The stages are much more exciting. There’s a fiery city under siege, where manholes are throttled upward by bursts of magma and earthquakes split urban streets and cause debris to rain from above. There’s an elevator level that takes place on New York’s Liberty Island, with the Statue of Liberty and the nocturnal city skyline behind you as you fight off ninjas and helicopter fire. The most devious stage might be this one dark cavern, where enemies hide outside your limited view point as you stumble from one ray of light to the next. (It also allows ol' wolfie to put his impeccable tracking skills to good use.) You even get to visit the warehouse where they stock all the “Shinobi” henchmen.

The arcade “Shadow Dancer” had a cool mini-game where ninjas crept down ledges on a cement tower as you fired stars at them. “Secret of Shinobi” has an even cooler one: Joe Musashi jumps off the ledge of a building, and he shoot ninjas as he plummets downward. As you progress from stage to stage, the bonus level’s background transitions from day to night. You might wonder where Joe Musashi finds the time between levels to locate a building and do all this, but whatever--for a game this great, I’d suspend disbelief.

All of the elements come perfectly together: catchy “pop” music, hidden 1-UPs, dramatic boss encounters, white-knuckle action… “Shadow Dancer” is flawless from the foundation up. It’s a striking, exciting action game, an epitome of the genre. Everyone else can keep their “Revenge of Shinobi” and surfing ninjas. This game’s a secret anyway. If they don’t know, you can’t tell them.

Rating: 10/10

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Community review by joseph_valencia (July 01, 2009)

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