The much loved coin-op reaches the 8-bit and it’s a tad underwhelming. I was going to review this version in its own right but as Sega have attempted to port it over as is, a comparison was unavoidable (sad face – Ed). The three things that spring to mind about the arcade Shinobi are the cool graphics, fast gameplay and varied enemies. Only one of those remains in the 8-bit version.
Graphics-wise it was never going to be as good, just on power alone. Everything has been dumbed down for the 8-bit meaning the backgrounds that were colourful and detailed in the arcade are now dual coloured and severely lacking in detail (poster of the lovely Marilyn Monroe aside). The catchy theme tune, whilst still repetitive, now has the ability to make the ear drums bleed (OK, I exaggerate a little but you get the idea).
If you’ve played the arcade game then you’ll know how each and every level goes. In a way it’s actually pretty impressive that everything is here – until you start playing it. The sprites are fairly chunky and well animated but suffer from terrible blurring even when only a few are on the screen. Our Joe barely looks like a ninja, let alone the hero from the arcades. The bosses are as big as the arcade (well done Sega) but now they hardly move (tut tut Sega).
I’ve played a lot worse on the Master System, Shinobi is pretty fun for a while until its flaws are exposed. Varied enemies (see, I told you one thing remained) provide a substantial challenge and some are impossible to hit without taking damage. The good power-ups are pretty scarce but that’s not surprising given the exact arcade port. Joe is able to fly between ledges in a slow 8-bit scrolling manner. His shuriken attack still does the most damage with the sword power-up near attack being pretty much useless, you really don’t wanna get too close to these guys!
The later levels seem to translate a little better, when you can truly unleash the ninja’s powers. I particularly like the mountain stages. The bonus level has also made it across and looks pretty impressive on the 8-bit.
If you’re not frustrated easily then Shinobi is a decent enough 8-bit platformer, just don’t come a knockin if you’re expecting a good coin-op conversion. SPOILER: erm, those looking for fanfare after the deed is done best head elsewhere, curse you Sega!!!