Review by hundley4ever
"He has no mask, but he still kicks a--."
Say what you want about the Sega Master System, you have to admit that the arcade conversions who top rate. You only need look at Rampage, Double Dragon and Space Harrier to see that. The arcade conversions on the SMS were undoubtedly the best of their time, WAY better than their offerings on the NES. Shinobi is just another feather in the Master System's cap; it's a solid arcade conversion of a legendary game.
Shinobi was originally released as coin-op by Sega. It was a classic quarter cruncher that was featuring Joe Musashi, ninja master trying to save the world and the children of diplomats from a terrorist group using his ninja skills and some cool ninja magic.
The game graphics are darn good considering the limitations of the 8-bit console. The colors are on the money and while the animation was a little stiff and the characters a little small, they're easily recognizable if you've played the coin-op. There's some minor problems with flickering and slow down at some points, but this doesn't detract from the great job Sega did porting the graphics from the arcade.
Sound is pretty bad, even for the Master System. The SMS has some great sound hardware but it doesn't show in Shinobi. Sounds are pretty tinny, particularly the drab hit sounds, There's only THREE, count 'em THREE pieces of music: the boss music, the bonus round music and the same mundane level tune. The arcade version had way more original music and so should of the Sega version, despite all of 8-bit limitations, there was not nearly as much music as there could of been. Also, they chose the most annoying song for the level music: the music from level 1, part 2. I could understand their inability to translate the voices; but their should have been better sound and music in this game.
Where all the Shinobi games, both for home and the arcade stand out is in the gameplay. Shinobi is a game for finesse players, those to who timing is everything. You'll have to master your timing and the control of Musashi if you want to survive in this game. Jumping, ducking and dodging enemies are all necessary to keep your ninja buddy alive. Enemies are armed to the teeth with guns, knives, sickles and everything to make sushi out of you. The bosses were extremely cool, from the giant Ken-OH to the infamous helicopter. The big giant mask boss of the factory stage, where you had to beat a moving wall of statues trying to push you into an electric beam frustrated me without end.
Controls are simple, with a button to throw stars and a button to jump. It can be hard to do ninja magic though; you have to jump into the air hold the other button or something. Speaking of ninja magic, there's not enough of it in this game. You can only use one kind of ninja magic in a level, and that's by beating the bonus stages where you have to hit ninjas in the distance with stars so they don't jump at you. If they jump in front of you, you lose. This levels could get REAL hard and you might even live to use all the magic in the game. It was way better in the arcade where they automatically gave you the magic and you played the bonus rounds for extra men. Your shurikens seem to fly almost in slow motion and you'll want the gun powerup as soon as your can get it. Too bad you lose the powerup when you die (thank goodness for the energy meter you didn't have in ths sequel, Shadow Dancer). There were also WAY more powerups in the coin-op. You'll definitely need the powerup to beat the boss in the factory.
While I'm on the subject of frustration, let me tell you that the game is ROCK HARD. I consider myself a decent gameplayer and I NEVER beat this game legally. I don't think I even got to the last level without cheating. I once beat the last boss using the level select, but the reward was less than satisfying to put it lightly. I got one screen. I thought, ''Hey, why did I log all those hours on this game to get this when I could have just died on the first level and got the same thing?'' Hopefully the arcade version actually had an ending.
All in all, Shinobi for the SMS is a great conversion of a great game. Though the sound and gameplay due bog down the action, it doesn't detract from an otherwise good conversion. That ending though, REALLY bothers me.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/13/00, Updated 11/13/00
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