Friday 31 May 2019

Shinobi (Game Gear review)

Developer: Sega CS
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1991

Shinobi (a.k.a. The G.G. Shinobi) is an action game that's exclusive to the Sega Game Gear.

As Joe Musashi (the Red Shinobi), you must rescue the Blue, Green, Pink and Yellow ninjas, and then destroy the source of evil in Neo City. There's five stages and each ninja has a unique weapon (e.g. shurikens), a special feat (e.g. walking on ceilings) and a powerful Ninjutsu attack if you've collected a required icon. The varied level design is magnificent, as it's constantly throwing out new ideas and locales to keep you fully invested; for example, one minute you're leaping between cars on a highway, and then scaling a huge building while enemies smash out of the windows. It's all expertly crafted to give you memorable experiences rather than rehashing the same gameplay ideas throughout. The first four levels are enjoyable, and I like how multiple play-throughs allows you to recognise sections where certain ninjas could be used to access bonus items; in return, this adds tons of replayability as it encourages you to tackle the stages in a different order. However, the unlockable fifth stage called Neo City is where things really come together, as it's twice the size of the previous levels combined and cleverly incorporates sections where only certain ninjas can be used. This forces you to learn all of their abilities in order to truly master the game. The difficulty does increase dramatically here due to deadly spike pits and tough enemy placement, so be warned that lots of trial-and-error is present! The bosses feature interesting attack mechanics, and the intense music (some of Yuzo Koshiro's best work) and graphical flourishes (e.g. cool transparency / rain effects) round off an already excellent package.

Shinobi is a crown jewel in the Game Gear's library and it shows how capable the machine was in creating engaging titles that compliment the more acclaimed series releases on Sega's 16-bit hardware. The terrific level design means it's a blast from start-to-finish and it's non-linear approach makes for satisfying reruns.

Random trivia: A sequel called Shinobi II: The Silent Fury was released on the Sega Game Gear in 1992.

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