I am the mighty tree-ninja! ...what do you mean, there is no such thing?
First things first: this is not a port of the Genesis classic “The Revenge of Shinobi”. This GBA title is an all-new game developed by 3d6 and co-published by THQ and SEGA.
Something I noticed immediately is the fact the game has a password save. While this is usually just an annoyance, it is especially bad since I don’t think I’ve seen a sixteen letter password since the late 80s. That’s right, a sixteen letter password. This is absolutely ludicrous in the current state of gaming. To make matters worse, it is obvious that the game was designed for a battery save format, what with all sorts of information and items the game backs up.
Thankfully the aforementioned password blunder is the only true downside to this title. Graphics, while technically average, sport a beautiful style. Animations are nice, though a couple appear to be lacking frames causing them to be slightly choppy. Something that 3d6 deserves to be praised for is the visual style. The excellent presentation adds to the atmosphere and the story, while certainly not about to displace the literary legends, is well written; especially considering the plots of most games that share Shinobi’s genre.
Music and sound effects are well done, though they both lack in variety. There is only one track per “world”, thus requiring you to listen to the same tune four times in a row. Another problem is that occasionally, the track does not fit the stage whatsoever. A good example of this is the first stage you’re sent to. Still, the sampling of both music and effects are of high quality, and the music does well in drawing you into the era of Ancient Japan.
Shinobi’s mission is to retrieve the Five Elemental Swords from the Shogun who contained Ashira-O, an evil being who wrought destruction unto the land. After sealing him within the blades, misfortune overcame the noble warriors who fought against him. The swords corrupted their owners, and they withdrew into their fortresses making war. The Shinobi is sent by his master, Ishii, to steal these blades and return peace to his world.
Shinobi starts out with only a handful of moves and abilities, but during his quest he’ll become stronger and learn more potent attacks. He will learn the magic of the Five Elements and hone his ninja abilities by finding scrolls throughout the levels. His basic attacks include the katana (press the Attack button), Shurikens (hold R+Attack) and magic (select the magic type with L, then Hold R+Jump.) While the majority of his moves are simple and easy to pull off, magic can be a pain. More than once, I wasted a magical attack when I merely wanted to jump and then throw a shuriken, as I was holding R in preparation to hit the attack button.
Each mission to retrieve one of the Shoguns’ blades is broken down into five parts: four levels and one boss battle. In the third level, you’ll fight a mini-boss that is a minion of the Shogun. The first two main boss battles are simple and most players will end up merely mashing the attack button as quickly as possible rather than using any real strategy. Shinobi can also gain “honours” by doing one of three things in each level: finish with 100% health, collect all items, and kill every enemy. You may also revisit levels after their completion. The game encourages you to do so, as you’ll often find secrets or power-ups with new techniques that were previously unreachable.
In the later areas of the game, levels become quite difficult and occasionally design flaws will rear their ugly head. One such example is in the Doseki Mines, where Shinobi is required to make “leaps of faith”. This will lead to many wasted lives and considerable amounts of frustration.
In the end, The Revenge of Shinobi is a good, but not great title. The excellent presentation and style is marred by the sixteen character password system and occasional level design flaws. Disregarding these problems, Shinobi is a fun and surprisingly long adventure.