One of the worst things about having a past is that several important things are forgotten. Way back in the eighties, Sega created an interesting series. This series was known only as Shinobi. It quickly evolved into a far bigger thing and is among the “usual’s” in the classic packs. After Shinobi III (which is by far the best of the series), it basically dropped off the map. There were a few random attempts, but none were successful. In an unlikely twist Shinobi is back… on the 3DS!
The goal was simple; bring it back to the basics. However is this logical? Can they bring awesome ninja platformers back or is this a wasted effort?
Shinobi was never a series about the story. The 3DS version has a story to a certain degree. The gist is that your clan is attacked and you’re seeking revenge. There isn’t much more going as most cut scenes show you going from point A to B. There are a few scenes with dialog that add some depth, although the majority is to show the over-the-top ninja skills. So much so you quite literally jump a shark. They don’t add much to the game at all, but they’re a huge break from the game’s repeated formula. Plus, how can you argue with random dramatic ninja scenes?
The controls are fairly simple, because every button has a fairly basic function. This makes every situation very easy to control. In addition, just about every enemy has a set pattern. Similar to difficult games, after a certain amount of time your flaws become your own fault. Keep in mind, that your combat never evolves past what you start with.
A series staple has always been fighting weird things. This game follows the same suit and brings back some favorites. Throughout the game you will be fighting brain creatures, brain robots and much more. Some enemies are more abstract than others, like the robotic shark which all make the game feel more interesting. Just watch out, some of these enemies have some odd ways of attacks.
The impact of Microsoft’s achievements will probably never be forgotten. With Sony and the PS3 following suit, some 3DS games also have bonus tasks. Among them is Shinobi with around 50 random tasks. Most tasks are similar like S ranking a stage or beating a boss without getting hit. These will most likely be obtained by a very small percent. However if you’re into brutal tasks, there is plenty of digital respect to earn.
Similar to what makes the game difficult (see below), challenge maps add in one hit deaths. Despite having a problem with the story having difficulty so high, these maps lend themselves to the difficulty. Most people will never do them, but they do help you get better at the game.
This game is developed by Griponite Games, which is a developer that does primarily movie games. So the fact that there is some underwhelming quality shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. That being said, you’re given four tiers of difficulty. Beginner is basically a baby mode and everything past it becomes far more difficult. Up to and including “very hard” which is 1 life plus 3 continues.
You can see the problems from the very start. While the combat is solid, some of the mechanics are not so much. Contrary to previous titles where you would pick up Kunai; this version gives you an infinite amount, though only a finite amount is useable. The only problem is that the double jump toss (it sprays them in 1 direction) uses all your kunai. Thankfully it works with just one, but this will often leave you open till you get it back. This can make some tight spots a lot harder. This affects the difficulty more than you would think.
To continue on what makes this game hard, most levels have very poor pacing. This is ironically most apparent in level 1. Since the average stage lasts 15+ minutes, you have a while for things to go wrong. The main problem is how bipolar the game comes off. Level 1 starts with a burning city, and then you’re riding a horse, followed by entering a cave, to which you start rafting, only to get to another cave, that also houses the boss.
Most stages feature one common problem. This is that you’re often expected to know what’s coming. Sometimes this CAN be avoided by moving the camera (dpad) in various directions, though that can become bothersome. Many stages/area’s will have very small safe zones with hazards next to them. These zones tend to have random enemy attacks, hidden elements or just plain old WTF (like a shark jumping out of lava to bite you). After you’ve seen them they do lose power, it’s a constant uphill battle as there are usually several of them. Worst yet, most of these are by ledges which cause instant deaths.
The average person will play on beginner and nothing else. Most of the things listed here affect all difficulties, but the blow is less the lower the difficulty. Expect problems no matter how high or low you choose to go. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can’t change difficulty after you’ve started the story. You can however start a new game on a lower difficulty or practice the stage with cheat codes.
Shinobi is very true to the originals, but this might have been a better console game. The combat makes the game fun as there’s several ways to approach every situation. However so much of this game is about perfection which can become dodgy at times. Many of the later levels become uninspired messes that are littered with instant deaths or cheap tactics. To put it bluntly, there are many segments where it will take several tries to tackle. These will often result with you failing to complete the level until you can do them dead on. If you’re not into repeated deaths over strict platfoming, this game isn’t for you.
[Editor’s Note: Shinobi was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]