Everyone loves classic video games. And for the most part, people enjoy remakes of those games. One of the biggest things is converting old 2D games into the 3D world of today. SHINOBI, a classic game that came out on the Sega Genesis, is one of those titles that is currently enjoying a 3D remake.
SHINOBI starts off with a bit of a history lesson. It tells the story of two young brothers, Moritsune and Hotsuma, with the latter being the younger. Raised together within the Oboro clan, the two were seldom separated. But later, the boys discovered the sword Akujiki, a sword that would determine the leader of the Oboro clan. The rules stated that the next clan leader must be determined by a duel to the death between the two eldest heirs, and would you believe the two eldest are Moritsune and Hotsuma? Anyway, Hotsuma wins and kills his brother.
Now we're ten years down the road, and a giant earthquake has struck Tokyo. A giant golden palace has appeared, and a self-proclaimed sorcerer has appeared and has summoned hellspawn to ravage the city. The leaders are dead, and it is up to you to stop this madness.
SHINOBI has some pretty nice graphics, and it is fun to see the game in 3D. Hotsuma is designed nicely and I'm glad to see they gave him a nice, futuristic ninja look. I was actually surprised that his design turned out very well. Even the numerous hellspawn you have to fight have a little something extra to them. The animations are done nicely, especially for Hotsuma. Killing four enemies in succession gives way to a cutaway, where Hotsuma briefly poses before his enemies fall apart. It's not much, but it's something fun to look at. Unfortunately, the level designs suck. The backgrounds are repetitive and just not pretty to look at. Running down numerous hallways wouldn't be that bad if there were just some difference in this one than the one you just ran down.
While the game is in 3D, SHINOBI plays like a side-scroller game. Even though the game is 3D, you are on a set path that makes the game feel "2D-ish". Although, it is wrong to say the game is on rails as you have a lot of options with Hotsuma. You are able to take use all the options a 3D world grants you like wall running, wall jump and a stealth dash. The stealth dash is a sneaky little move. Press the X button and Hotsuma will dash to a certain point, basically leaving a shadow of himself at where he was before. This is vital in combat, as you must learn to use this or die.
Yet the game seems to fall a little flat. When I said the level designs repeat themselves, I didn't mean just the design; I meant the whole game is repetitive. Basically, on every level you'll find more of the same zombie ninjas and dogs. In the early levels, they're easy. Once you begin progressing, they begin to get harder but they are still the same ninjas. The ninjas that can climb walls are a very nice addition, but there are not enough of them. I want some wall combat now! The one strong point on the game engine is the boss battles, which really provide some opposition to you trying to make it through the level.
But one thing I must mention to gamers everywhere: all of those things that you hate in side-scrolling games are here. SHINOBI is not kind to gamers. You have tons of those bottomless pits. And to make matters worse, the camera can act up at times when you have to get across these pits (especially when wall-running over them). And if you could start at a check-point or something it wouldn't be too bad. But unless you complete a level, you don't get to save. If you die near the end of a level (which are broken up into 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, etc), you start back over at the beginning.
The sound is also a plus, and the upbeat music really makes me nostalgic for classic SHINOBI or STREETS OF RAGE. And numerous thanks to Sega for throwing in the option for Japanese or English speech. If only they'd have included that with SHENMUE II for the Xbox.
SHINOBI is a fun game that can also be extremely challenging (and aggravating at times). If you can get past the cheap deaths, bottomless pits and no save points, you'll have a great time with this remake of a classic.