You may have wondered whatever happened to Retro Active. It hasn’t vanished completely. We still hope to do a Dreamcast podcast one of these days, but Tom and I both have been rather busy, and trying to schedule a podcast has been next to impossible.
The main articles and the podcasts are not all we intend to do with Retro Active, however, and I can think of no better time to debut our latest feature in retrogaming than during the 30 Reviews in 30 days. Enter the Retroview, a Retro Active review of games from previous consoles. Our first Retroview is none other than one of my all time favorite games for the Sega Genesis, The Revenge of Shinobi.
The Ninja Returns:
Did you ever get the chance to play Shinobi in the arcade? I did. It was one of those games that always interested me, but I was never a huge fan. It was a difficult platformer, and the sequences where the ninjas were jumping toward you and you had to hit them with shuriken always seemed out of place. So when my friend was telling me I needed to playThe Revenge of Shinobi on his Genesis, I was a little skeptical.
That is until I actually started playing it.
Not the same old Shinobi:
At first, this game seems very similar to the old Shinobi game. You, a lone ninja, are taking on and entire force called the Neo Zeed. You have to force your way through waves of enemies and rough platforming to make it to the end of each stage, where you face off against various bosses. This is where the similarities end.
Ninjitsu, Double flips…. No, this is no the old Shinobi.
Gone is the stage where you have ninjas jumping at you in the “forced 3D” perspective. The platforming sections can be insanely difficult, forcing you to measure to the exact edge of a platform before jumping, realizing you will have to time the jump perfectly to be able to make the next one. You find yourself quickly mastering the somersault jump (hitting jump again at the top of your jump) both for the ability to transition between stages/levels in a stage and for the ability to throw 8 knives (though referenced as shuriken in the game, they look more like kunai). Of course, you had to be careful with that move, because you did have a limited number shuriken to use and always had to be on the lookout for more. That is, unless you knew the exploit: go to options, drop the number of shuriken to zero, then wait a bit for it to turn into an infinity symbol. That trick made life easier, but it in no way made the game easy.
The Revenge of Shinobi also introduced a whole new gameplay mechanic to the series: Ninjitsu techniques. Theses techniques, ranging from a lightning shield to protect you from some attacks to the ability to jump further, can only be used once per stage, so when you chose to use them was crucial to your success. There was one exception to that, however: Ninjitsu of Mijin, of the art of pulverizing. When you used it, you ninja would slam his sword into the ground and explode, killing all normal enemies on the screen and even causing serious damage to bosses. After that, you would reform, still having the ability to call on another Ninjitsu. This technique, though extremely powerful, cost you one life, and they did not take the ability away when you were down to your last life. In other words, a careless player could accidently end the game by using it with his last life.
Graphcis, sound and…Spider-Man?
One of the things that really set The Revenge of Shinobi apart from its predecessors on the Genesis is it was among the first to really push what the system was capable of doing. Graphically, it still stands out as one of the better looking games on the system, especially when it comes to the fluidity of movement of the characters and the rendition of the Ninjitsu. The sound is impressive, with catchy music that transcends the limitations of the Genesis itself. Even as I type this, I can hear the music from the first stage running through my head. It just sticks with you.
There was one other thing that really set this game apart, however: The Bosses.
Name another game where you will go up against the Terminator, which starts to look more like the Hulk toward the end of the fight, Batman, Godzilla and Spider-Man. That’s right; in the original edition of the game, all of those enemies make an appearanceam, though not necesarily as you would expect them to appear. Later versions of the game had to change things due to copyright issues, which meant Batman ended up getting replaced with a weird man-bat creature and Godzilla was replaced by a skelatal dinosaur, but since Sega was working on a Spider-Man game at the time, you still faced off against the wall crawler. While this could have just seemed either cheesy or stupid (and probably would today), when I ran across these enemies in the game, I found myself almost giddy with excitement. Theses light touches actually help brighten up what can ne a frustratingly difficult game.
The Bosses of The Revenge of Shinobi. They are definitely memorable.
In the end, The Revenge of Shinobi will always be one of my favorite games for the Sega Genesis. Maybe it is more the nostalgia talking then the “seasoned” reviewer in me, but I give this favorite of retrogamers a 5 out of 5.