Thursday, 21 May 2015

Shinobi - Arcade


Not a very good ninja if we can see him.


In what has become a slightly less iconic character for Sega these days, Shinobi was, at the time, a popular arcade platformer with the lovely little ability to play with multiple levels within an area while getting to relive the fantasy days when ninjas were cool and mysterious little things that children wished to aspire to before that lovely little hammer of REALISATION comes slamming down and informs you that ninjas are covert assassins and generally underhanded in their approach to their missions.

Kill peoples, save kids, rather noble really. But, Rocket Launcher???

However, what we have here is a simple, but smart, platform game from the late 80s that takes the idea of the ninja from childhoods and has them gallivanting off around the world to stop some prick from achieving some nefarious goal of similar. Joe Musashi takes it upon himself to travel the world and stop the evildoers from kidnapping children and also stopping world domination/destruction across 5 levels and multiple stages within each level.

I screwed up the special level... And taking this screenshot.

Joe Mysushi has a selection of talents within Shinobi. The ability to jump from the ground to higher platforms and back again, unlimited shurikens (not always prevalent in future games in the franchise), a special one-off move that kills everything on screen or damages bosses fairly heavily, and if he rescues the right kids he'll receive an upgrade to his attacks in the form of a large POW sign that gives him rockets instead of shurikens (What stealth was involved here again?). Sadly, Joe sushiboy is a one-hit wonder and any slight impact from any enemy's weapons will result in his death, though he can bump into some enemies and knock them about a bit. But the general rule in Shinobi is that you're a fragile little thing and getting taken out can be done sooner rather than later and often while being presented with nigh-ridiculous situations and circumstances.

There's a boss? Use the special for a few extra hits on it.

The levels within the game are fairly linear at the start, with the usual progression from left to right being considered the normal approach, but it's about half-way through the second level's second stage that the approach differs and you'll find yourself scanning back and forth through the level while seeking a way and means to ascend to the top while fighting off gunners, sword masters, ninjas and finding more kidnapped kiddies. It's at this point that a new approach to the way one plays the game needs to be developed (and quickly) so that the player can progress without coming up against the key issues of dying repeatedly. Checkpoints are a rarity in the level design and as such the happenstance of seeing the end and dying while it's in sight, becomes a little too regular to be fun.

Even if the boss is an attack chopper.

The audio within Shinobi is fairly lacklustre, the music takes a back foot for the mediocre plinks and plonks of an attempt to sound like some oriental mishmash fusion but is so weak that it comes across as poor ambience at best while the grunts, hits and impacts of shurikens upon metal are far more crisp and more pronounced, curiously it does sound like Joe Sugarboy has been recorded and digitised for his speech (read: grunts when getting hit or bounced about), which makes a welcome change to some of the characters from the 80s making the generic beepy boop noises.

A dossier of the mission... Or, just turn up and kill everyone.

Overall it's a solid little game that has a sharp incline in difficulty that spikes periodically just to try and catch people off guard and to encourage credits from pockets, there's an added frustration factor in Shinobi in that pumping in more credits will still leave you with no progression through the level as you don't pick up from where you left off within the game. Meaning you'll actually require some skill to beat it rather than paying your way through the game from start to finish. Ah the old days where you needed to be good at a game, I miss those.