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Retro Review: Shinobi (SMS)

Retro Review: Shinobi (SMS) thumbnail

Shinobi is an action game released by Sega in 1987. In this game, the player has to control a ninja called Joe Musashi, which receives a mission to rescue children hold as hostage by the ‘Ring Five’ terrorist organization. The game was originally released in the Arcades, and later ported to Sega’s 8 bit home console back in 1988.

The Master System version is much more slower and the action more paced than it’s arcade counterpart, but that doesn’t make the game any easier. In fact, the difficulty is the first thing one notices while playing Shinobi. The learning curve is steep and the game is ruthless: your timing has to be almost perfect to defeat the enemies on the screen or just avoid getting hit by bullets, boomerangs and other enemy attacks. The Bonus Stages are also very hard but can give Joe a new spell to aid him. It is a hard game even for the 1988 standards.

Mission 2 Image

This is the second level of the game.

Putting the difficulty aside, there are other aspects of the game that are worth mentioning such as the level design and gameplay. The objective of the game is simple: to rescue as many children as possible and defeat the enemies that attack you. Every child you have to rescue is guarded by a group of terrorists. Finding a way to defeat those enemies without getting hit is crucial, because a small number of attacks are enough to kill Joe Musashi. The player has to observe the enemies’ attack patterns and come with a strategy before trying to defeat them. Every child rescued gives Joe some kind of power-up, such as new melee weapons, stronger attacks, a larger health bar or even more points.

Graphics are good for Master System and for the time it was released. The main menu and the bonus stages have very detailed character sprites. Backgrounds are lot less detailed in the first levels, however they get more visually complex as the game progresses.

Shinobi Bonus Stage

Shinobi Bonus Stage.

Sound effects are unique and on par with the game’s identity, indicating if a power-up has been found or if a enemy has been defeated. The songs add to the overall feeling of the game and it’s a shame there are so few of then, as they tend to get repetitive since the same songs play throughout the entire game.

The controllers are simple and responsive, a good thing, since Shinobi has a lot of split-second decision moments, specially on the beginning of each stage. There is one button to make Musashi jump while the other attacks. If the enemy is far away from Joe, he throws a projectile weapon, and if close enough, Joe uses a melee attack or a close ranged weapon, like a sword, nun-chuck, or any other weapon he is carrying at the moment. Pressing the two buttons together activates the current spell (earned by successfully completing a bonus stage).

Shinobi Background

Level 1-2. Cool background.

Even being slower than the arcade version, Shinobi on the Master System is fun, but not for everyone, since it is very hard. The game delivers hardcore gameplay in a series of small doses with simple controls and that’s why it is for everyone looking for a hardcore 8 bit ninja game.

3 Comments to “Retro Review: Shinobi (SMS)”

  1. The review was very good indeed, Didn’t know he had a version for arcade.
    Very difficult game, the PS2 versions are very hard too.

    See ya

  2. Motta says:

    Yeah, but compared to the first Shinobi…
    Remember the PS2 version?? Even though that stupid butterfly was impossible, it was around stage 10 i think…
    But in the first shinobi…i dont think i’ve ever been past the first stage hahah

    Great review by the way!

  3. Namagderazzzzzzz that stupid boss, even with the power of ihuuPiruu was difficult to win.

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