Review by The KRZa

"Ninja, please!"

Before there were milk cartons, Amber Alerts, or even 20/20, there was Sega’s Shinobi—a mere ninja who served as the only hope for a kidnapped child in distress. What better to give Michael Jackson a nose job than a razor-sharp shuriken?

The 80s was the karate decade. We didn’t vote for American Idols, we cheered for American Ninjas. We weren’t concerned with removing burkhas in the name of freedom, we enjoyed covering up our faces with ninja masks in the name of stealth and slyness. And we sure the hell didn’t pump 75 cents into arcade machines only to dance to wacky Japanese remixes of Depeche Mode songs—we demanded samurai swords and blood for our hard earned quarters.

Times were better then. And Shinobi, whose Christian, or rather Shinto name, is Joe Musashi, championed our cause.

The story is simple enough—an evil Japanese cult, Zeed, kidnapped baby ninjas who were, for some reason or another, dressed up as pink marshmallow Peeps. Hey, wait a minute… there’s no Easter in Japan! The poor little tykes are guarded by overweight scimitar-wielding gypsies who sport tacky Steven Seagal pony tails.

Seem hopeless?

Not when our protagonist, armed with ninja stars, nunchucks, bullets, grenades, and bazookas, is on the case. And when all else fails, Shinobi has ninja magic at his disposal. A simple “Hiya” incantation clears the screen of foes. If John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted was as magical, maybe his son would still be alive.

But the enemies come fierce and variant. Some are grey-mohawked punks. Others are snorkel-sucking scuba divers. Not to mention the ubiquitous skittle-colored ninjas and hopscotching goblins. The life of a ninja is never simple.

On top of all that, there are the bosses. “Lobster”, the comedic, crustaceous, and clawed samurai, offers a formidable fencing duel. Mandara, protected by robotic spinning dradles, can only be hurt by shooting the Bindi on his forehead. And then there’s Ken-Oh who shoots fire out of his hands—probably the result of the friction caused by his constant masturbating to the Marilyn Monroe posters on his walls.

The toughest part about this game were the bonus stages in between each level which required you to shoot leaping midget ninjas. Success will award you with ninja magic. But those of you with low self-esteem, beware, losing will elicit a flashing “You failed” screen. No wonder the suicide rate in so high in Japan.

And most appealing of all, Shinobi is the only game I can think of where you can actually kill Spiderman. Even the most tingly Spidey Sense can’t detect ninjas! So for all those who think Tobey McGuire is a no-talent bore, here’s your chance to put your quarter where your mouth is.

So please, find a retro arcade, strap on you tabbi ninja boots, and take a walk down memory lane with Shinobi. It’s unfortunate that downloading the Shinobi ROMs is more or less illegal. But at least you’ll pick up enough ninjistu to defend yourself against a prison shanking.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/22/03, Updated 02/22/03

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