#148 Shinobi

Posted: 6th May 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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691st played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1987
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

I really should have played Shinobi earlier for the most mundane reason: There are two games on the list with the exact same name, just separated by a decade or so. This isn’t uncommon in franchises, as the recent doublings of Doom and Prey show, but it doesn’t actually happen on the list.

We start with the earlier game in the series, a brawler platformer. Dime a dozen, so I wonder where this will go.

Our Thoughts

One thing that sets a game like these apart are how good its enemies are. When there are a lot of similar enemies, maybe with some weapon changes, but following similar patterns, it can get quite boring. Shinobi, however, brings a lot more variation in its enemies, and it’s welcome as a way to keep the game interesting. Well, even if they are difficult to remember how to avoid, it helps a lot. Even more so, they really use the heights well, with characters jumping and so on, so the platforming has a point and gives you more actual choices.

It helps that the game feels good, smooth to play through without the animation timing feeling it gets in your way. When you get used to a level, you can race through, kill the enemies you know exist, and get back to where you died. You still need to survive that run, but at least you get the chance and can get used to the patterns. What also helps is that you have a special attack once a level that kills every enemy on the screen. The attack changes each level, but it always seems to have a similar effect.

The basic story is told through the level – you rescue maidens throughout the level, often guarded by a smaller stronger boss, with at the end a big, more impressive boss who escapes at the end – setting up a goal quite nicely. I didn’t really need to worry about a written story to get an idea on what’s going on.

Last, one small nice feature is the bonus game. It switches to a first person view, where you are throwing stars at ninjas approaching you. It’s different, but it works.

Final Thoughts

Shinobi works well as a scrolling brawler, introducing a bunch more concepts than most and adding a lot of variety to keep the game fun throughout.