Coming to this game for the first time (having never owned a Game Gear), Shinobi is indeed still a challenging game. It’s short, which is a God-send really, because there’s a lot of game over screens and restarts involved. There are five worlds. The first four can be attempted in any order, and defeating the boss of each of those worlds will unlock a new ninja to take to battle. Starting with Red, the little team soon resembles a Power Rangers unit, with green, blue and yellow ninjas all joining the party, each distinguishable only by their colour.Each of those ninjas brings with them a slightly different play style and special power, and you’ll need all of them when it comes time to take on the climactic final world and boss battle.
The Game Gear is two from two failures from what I’ve played so far.
Presentation aside, the gameplay itself has a few issues, but anyone who grew up on Shinobi, Ninja Gaiden and other hardcore side scrollers like Mega Man and Contra will likely dismiss these. The biggest problem is that enemy patterns are predetermined. Bad guy A will always jump out of the water at point B. The first few times that happens, it’s brutal. The “surprise” jumping enemies will fly on screen out of nowhere and are almost impossible to avoid. As the ninjas only have very limited health, it doesn’t take long to die the first time. By about the fourth time though the levels become quite a lot easier as you’ve memorised 90 per cent of what they throw up at you.
That’s not to say the game isn’t fun – it’s quite an enjoyable game for what it is, but it’s not a game that is mentally simulating or requires precision. You just need to hit Shinobi with the attitude that you’ll need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. Do that, and you’ll get through fine.