Monday, 13 May 2013

Shinobi Series - Part 5

Shadow Dancer (1990)
By: Sega Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 395,200
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

It at least has a better title screen...
Sega's mighty MegaDrive was their most popular console and one of the reasons for that is the many ultra-spiffing arcade conversions it played host to. Among these must surely have been the second Shinobi game which had graced arcades of the world around the time the MD itself was being unleashed. Oddly, however, Sega instead opted to release a mostly-new game bearing the same name, but with the added subtitle of 'The Secret of Shinobi'. They seem to have had some trouble deciding whether to follow the same story or not though. The hero in the white pyjamas is either the legendary Joe Musashi in the UK version, or Hayate (Joe's son, as in the arcade game) in the Japanese version, both of which grace my collection. The objective in both versions is more akin to the original Shinobi than its sequel though, which sees you rescuing various hostages taken by evil terrorist organisation, Union Lizard, who have occupied New York City and run amok.

Yamato munches on an idiotic frisbee dude...
The many cretinous civilians are distributed over the five rounds which make up the game. The first four are each divided into three stages - two normal side-scrolling, multi-tiered examples followed by a scary boss stage (much like original Shinobi, and indeed Revenge of Shinobi, no less), while the fifth and final round consists of several rooms, each filled with a particular type of enemy, before the final confrontation. Joe is armed with an infinite number of shurikens to fling at the many enemies which are the usual mixture of gun-toting military dudes and ninjas, samurais, frisbee-throwers, and other Far Eastern-flavoured oafs. Some of them fall to a single shuriken strike while others need two or more hits, and Joe is also able to kick them or slash them with his sword if he's close enough which has the same effect. Helping to give you a safe opportunity to do this is one of the few things to return from the arcade game - Joe's (or Hayate's) faithful hound, Yamato, who can be send to chow down on any enemies you like (except bosses for whom he is mysteriously absent). Be careful though, as he can be fended off and turned into a yelping puppy!

The bonus stage - shoot all ninjas!
As well as these forms of attack, Joe also has access to that staple of the whole Shinobi series - ninja magic! There are three kinds available here - fire, earth, and wind - which the game cycles through from stage to stage, and all have the same effect; namely, eliminating all standard enemies who are on-screen at the time or damaging a boss. It's worth battling on without using them though, as doing so will give you a hefty bonus at the end of the stage. Saving the hostages on each stage generally just gives you bonus points (as well a sense of personal gratification, no doubt) but one hostage per stage will also kindly boost Joe's firepower, enabling him to take out any enemy (besides the bosses) with a single hit. The effect only lasts for the stage in question but it's very helpful! Something else that gives you bonus points is the appropriately-named bonus stage that comes after each boss encounter. It's similar to the one from the arcade game but instead of looking up a skyscraper at falling ninjas, this time you're the one falling and must take out the many ninjas attempting to scale the building.

Joe's ROS-style sword is highly satisfying to use!
The more of them you take out, the bigger the bonus! The boss contingent is made up of a large fire-breathing warrior, a living wall, a buzzsaw-wielding vixen, and a whirly wheel of fire before you reach the final, climactic confrontation, and at first they seem quite tricky. Joe is felled by a single touch from any enemy weapon after all (though the enemies themselves in the normal stages merely bump him away). It takes very little time, however, to work out the simple and predictable patterns the bosses move and attack in, and they'll soon become a pushover. The same can be said of the stages. Most feature the same multi-storey structure as in the original Shinobi, which allows you to perform sneak attacks of course (hee hee!), and they're quite well-designed, if slightly basic for the day, but they're also rather on the easy side. You'll have to start each from scratch if you do lose a life but they're not vast in size and once you've learnt where the enemies are lurking you'll be able to breeze through the entire game in less than half an hour.

The only stage based on one from the arcade game...
Predictably, this is where my only problem with the game lies. The rejigged graphics aren't bad, especially the first couple of rounds which feature a nice burning cityscape, earthquake-damaged buildings, and a decent bridge stage, and the sprites are detailed and appealing (the gunmen even have to stop to reload!) but, with the exception of a nice cave stage, the later backgrounds are a bit dull. The music is of mixed quality too. Some tunes are great, others barely noticeable, but there's certainly no stunning Yuzo Koshiro score here. The presentation is great though, and the slightly mixed quality of the aesthetics is by no means fatal - that special Shinobi gameplay is intact as always and the stages are never less than enjoyable to play through, even the pain in the arse ones likes the Statue of Liberty which features a helicopter gunship! I guess only Sega will know why they decided to make an almost entirely new game rather than simply convert the quite splendid arcade game but the result is a fine addition to the series; it's just a rather short and easy one too.

RKS Score: 7/10


  1. Never played this one, sadly, but it looks/sounds nice enough to me! It is strange, though, that they never bothered to fully port the arcade game on which this is based.

  2. Enjoy this game but still haven't completed it. I have it here on my list of shame so should get around to it as it's a fairly short one.

  3. Hi Bryan :) It is a strange decision indeed, particularly given the MD's great conversion-handling abilities. Oh well, it gave us two decent Shinobi games instead of one I suppose!

    Hi Mr. Gamer :) I'm guessing if you haven't completed it, it's because you haven't played it much? It shouldn't take too long to finish if you have :P

  4. An amazing game. One of the MD's finest

  5. Yep, underrated in its day too. Luckily most MD fans have long since realised its greatness :P