Destroy anyone that gets in your way!

Source // Wikipedia

I knew Shinobi would be some kind of ninja-themed game but didn't know what form it would take. In my ignorant little mind, ninja games are all about dressing a little bit foolish, conjuring throwing stars from thin air, probably slashing someone down with a katana... or did only Samurai bother with those swords?

Anyway, the point is I don't think ninja titles have a whole lot of legs, but seeing as there's a fair few of them on the 1001 list, I should just get on with it and see what Shinobi has to offer.

We're a modern day ninja rescuing kidnapped children. Alrighty then. Let's see how that works out...

Fun Times

I first checked out the Sega Master System port, which looks surprisingly good. I don't know if that's because I've forgotten what the Master System was capable of or if I was expecting a lot worse. Joe Musashi, our heroic character, is an agile fella, at least in the up and down sense. The jump button hops a little, which is handy, or it absolutely launches you up to the upper half of the levels. Luckily you control which, so there aren't many accidental leaps into the enemy.

From the off, there are multiple enemy types and they mean business. They don't appear to move a whole lot, but they have brought guns to a ninja fight. Joe Musashi doesn't do guns, but he does have an infinite supply of shurikens, assigned to the attack button and satisfying to unleash.

Peter Parker always gets his photos.

One hit will kill your foes, and you'll soon line everything on the stage up so that you'll know that this enemy can be hit while you're standing, the next you'll need to crouch and so on. It makes things a little rigid and calculated in places, but then I may just be looking for things to point out like the insufferable cynic I think I am.

After a little while, you'll come face to face with a boss who kicked my arse with his physics-defying fireballs, and that was the end of my Master System run of Shinobi.


I also had a go on the NES port, which again doesn't look too bad, plays alright, and could easily keep someone's attention if they desperately needed some ninja action back in the late 1980s. The problem I had with it - and it's hardly a big deal - is that I noticed that it was perhaps a bit too simple.

I'm not saying it was easy, no. I still died at the same first boss. I'm not saying it was minimal in the sound or graphics department . Compared to the arcade version, it is, of course, but that's not my point either.

The thing about these ports is that I can't get up close and personal and slash anyone with my sword or punch them in the face or roundhouse kick them into a wall or whatever ninjas do. It feels like Joe Musashi is a little timid when it comes to beating people up in order to rescue children.

Look at him, hiding behind a box waiting for the right timing to pop up, throw a shuriken, kill an enemy and return to the safety of the box. Marvel at how he ducks under all of these bullets, completely safe in the knowledge that it is impossible for this enemy to hit him, for this enemy is the crouched pistol shooter, not the laying down pistol shooter...

Final Word

For the Shinobi fans out there, don't fret. I watched a playthrough of the arcade original and it looks great. Flinging shuriken into an attack helicopter is something only a ninja can do, and there are actually some melee combat options for those who are capable of getting up close enough to use them - harder as the arcade version doesn't have a life bar for you, it's one hit kills all around.

Now it's a perfectly playable game, and you'll have fun with it, but up to a point. That point will either be when you die through lack of skill, or when, after perhaps half an hour, you've seen it all. It's noted as being a great game to watch others play in the arcade, especially for the screen clearing ninja powers, which I completely neglected to mention because I never used them, or worked out how to use them. I'm real good at this gaming lark, don't you know?

Shinobi surprised me, and for that at least I might come back to it for a better attempt at getting through it, but because I know how ninjary it is now, I'm personally a bit hesitant too. It just doesn't do it for me.

These aren't toy ninjas on conveyors belts, as I first thought, but real ninjas at varying
distances away from you. Let them reach you and the bonus round is over.

Fun Facts

On the home consoles, rescuing the kidnapped kids is completely optional, despite that apparrently being Joe's entire goal...

Shinobi, developed by Sega, first released in 1987.
Versions played: Master System, 1988, via emulation.
NES, 1989, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1987 (arcadegamesfreak)