3DS Review: Shinobi

The ninja master returns, but has he still got the moves?

Ah…Shinobi. What a classic series this was when I was growing up, mostly because it was so damn difficult…missing a jump meant you lost a life and you only get a few of them for the whole game, once you died…that was it, back to the start. The bosses were so damn hard to beat too; even with the power-ups you were given. It’s been so long since a Shinobi game that I figured the franchise was dead, but to my surprise Sega have brought it back for 3DS. The real question is wherever if it should have stayed buried or not…

This reboot of Shinobi stays true to its roots from a gameplay perspective. You move forward, throwing stars and avoiding hits from your foes to reach the end of the stage, but it’s a double-edged sword because the AI hasn’t evolved, so most will let you just run up and hit them with your blade, you can also deflect the attacks which nets you bonus points. There are some new areas where you ride a horse through the woods or jumping from truck to truck as they prepare to blow up, it does mix up the traditional setting well…

Having said that, there are areas where you are trying to jump up towards the top only for an enemy to hit you with a shruiken star and make you fall down to the bottom. There are also very narrow platforming segments, where some are so short that it’s almost impossible to judge how much you jump. There’s another issue with the double jump, somehow they expect you to delay the second jump so you can jump over spikes as you fall, but it won’t always work and you’ll end up getting hit.

For those who haven’t played the past Shinobi games, don’t expect to be able to just run forward and make your way to the end, because you will die a lot as a result. You need to be able to block some of the attacks, while saving the powers for the boss fights. Oddly, the 3DS version comes with its own Achievement list, yet there’s no real reason for them to do this since you can’t go posting them online or sharing them with your friends. As with Sonic Generations, Shinobi has its own Missions that you can unlock with coins earned from walking, but these missions are repetitive.

The difficulty of Shinobi remains intact with the 3DS reboot, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. The controls also aren’t the most responsive, using the grappling hook to climb takes some getting used to and using the R button to block is a pain when you are running, it’s ok in a 3D game where you can see what is coming up ahead…but in a game like this, you need to react quickly and chances are you’ll get hurt. Fortunately there is plenty of food to eat, which will replenish your health.

The visuals for Shinobi are a bit of a letdown, I must admit. The character models look average, the levels look dated and the 3D effect doesn’t make much of a difference. The framerate is consistent though and the music is decent, while the voice-acting is a mixed bag.

The Verdict

Shinobi’s return isn’t quite as great as I hoped it would be. It’s an enjoyable experience, but maintains the frustrations of its past that I would have thought they’d change for a reboot to bring Shinobi into the next-gen. I only hope they make another game a bit further down the line that can do this, but as it stands…Shinobi on 3DS isn’t a terrible attempt at bringing back the series and one that is worth playing for long-term fans.