I have fond memories from my past – like the time I fell off my bike and broke my nose, the time I fell down the stairs and broke my toe, or the time I was flying a kite and the wind was so strong that it literally snapped my collar bone in half – alright, so maybe fond was the wrong word – but the more bones I broke, the more games I was allowed to play during time I was supposed to be at school. One of these games, that I do indeed have fond memories for, was Shinobi – all three of them, in fact. There was something about been a badass ninja with magic powers that appealed to me – maybe it was the fact that Jiro, the ninja in Shinobi, never fell victim to broken bones, he was just so agile and fun to play that he laughed in the face of danger.
When something like Shinobi gets remade for a new console, retro gamers rear their ugly heads. I use the term ugly, but some retro gamers might actually be handsome – although I have yet to meet one! ‘A classic game like Shinobi needs to be done right or not at all’, they’d say – and I agree. Fortunately, justice has been served and this title smells like the cookies that grandma used to make – before she died – sweet and moist, nostalgia in its purest form.
Those used to the lure of Shinobi will not be shocked to find out that this game presents quite a challenge to any who dare to play. Medium difficulty may have you tearing your hair out after getting killed time after time by relentless enemies, the hard difficulty setting will make you glad that you took out insurance on your 3DS… Or make you wish you had! With that said, no difficulty is impossible. Enemies move and attack in patterns, so if you learn their pattern before rushing in all ninja-stars blazing, you’ll definitely feel that sense of achievement when you get past each level.
There’s no denying that Shinobi for the 3DS is a side-scrolling platform game with a distinct arcade feel. One thing that stands out for me are the combos you can wrack up. You can jump and attack from the sky, you can crouch and kick people in the crotch, you can run and charge up an attack, and any attack can be made more lethal with ninja stars too. So combining moves and clocking up points can be enough fun in itself, but when you add your Ninjutsu magic powers into the fray, you’ll never have to play the same level in the same way twice.
Fans of Shinobi might be disappointed to learn that there are only 4 of the 5 Ninjutsu present in this 3D adaptation – the suicide power that wipes the screen of enemies has been left out, probably because it was just too good. Fire is present and correct, looking better than ever, covering the screen in flames. Earth makes Jiro pretty much invincible, helping him to move super quick and dodge attacks. Lightening summons a shield to dampen the damage received from those unrelenting enemies, and Water helps Jiro jump higher which is handy for discovering hidden platforms in each level. As ever, Ninjutsu powers are hard to come by, but they’re mighty satisfying to use in a tight spot.
The visuals, for me, are spot on. 90% of the game is side scrolling, and the backgrounds are 3D, and although they can’t be explored, they can be adored! Beautiful level design is more or less present throughout the whole game, detailed characters, wonderfully rendered magic powers and a cel-shaded feel to this classic reboot makes Shinobi one of my favorite games to look at right now. I say reboot because some of the levels in this game feel like they’ve been taken from the previous games – and they have, although it doesn’t feel like you’re playing any of the old editions with all the new features and the wonderful graphics added for your pleasure.
The other 10% of the game takes shape in the form of horse levels where Jiro rides on a horseback, fighting off enemies while riding into the sunset. Graphically, these levels are okay, but they’re not outstanding. You’re galloping almost diagonally in a pseudo-3D fashion, but for me in my mind, this should have been true 3D like a racing game with you riding away from the screen. As it stands, it feels like it wants to be styled like a true racing game, but it just isn’t – I’d have just rather seen these levels side scrolling like the rest of the game.
It’s the difficulty that keeps the game long lasting, but once you’re used to the pace, you could probably clock this title in a few hours. The combo system keeps things fresh however, and the amount of polish found here ensures you’ll play through again and again to see if you can beat your scores or find new paths. Shinobi for the 3DS is a welcomed title to the system, it will probably appeal to the older gamer who embraced this title while it was in its prime, new gamers may find a side-scrolling ninja game a little bit lackluster for the full price tag, especially when there are similar games in the genre to be had via download at a fraction of the cost. With that said, Shinobi was one of my favorite games back in the day. and it still is, thanks to this remodel. Recommended for anybody who wants to relive their ninja fantasies, or anybody who enjoyed my grandma’s cookies.
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