The Revenge of Shinobi is a classic side-scroller from the ages when side-scrollers were it. On a quest of against the resurrected “Neo Zeed”, Joe (what a ninja name…) is out for revenge for his destroyed clan and kidnapped bride to be Naoko. You’ll take on this nefarious foe through a multitude of levels as you travel the land and fight against some very interesting characters; I���m looking at you Blue Lobster samurai. Part of the Sega Vintage Collection, Revenge of Shinobi originally released on the Sega Genesis as an early title for the console in 1989.
The gameplay consists of the simple “Start at Point A and get to Point B without dying” ideal. And that’s all you do. Getting to Point B isn’t as simple as just walking, and the variety of levels require you to jump around buildings and different floors to manuever around. Throughout all of this, players will be dodging and taking out enemies and looking for powerups to help push things along. Playing through the levels, there are eight overall main stages that are broken up into three sections apiece. The first two sections consist of making your way to the other side of the screen, while the final section consists of just a boss fight.
Players in the role of Joe thankfully only need to focus on just a few buttons – there is a jump button, an attack button, and a ninjutsu button. Hey, this is the early 90’s here, don’t expect so much complication. Attacking is pretty straightforward as Joe will either throw a shuriken, or if upclose, kick or use his sword to attack enemies and objects. Jumping can be tricky, as holding the button down longer gives Joe a higher jump. Timing a second press (this isn’t easy half the time either) will propel Joe into a somersault, and if players hit attack during this Joe will also throw eight shuriken at once. Careful though – you only have a limited supply of projectiles unless you find power-ups to replenish these. Speaking of power-ups, Joe will find crates throughout the levels that can be broken and inside he will find extra shuriken, a limited time upgrade to his attack power, or bombs. Bombs suck, and I suggest staying away from them as they will explode on either a timer or if Joe comes within close proximity. Generally the latter will happen and it takes a good amount of health away.
The ninjutsu is an interesting aspect within the game. There are four to pick from within an in-game menu and players can switch at any time during gameplay. Of the four, I found myself using one the most, but they’re all quite useful. The first (and one you’ll accidentally use the most) is a lightning barrier that surrounds Joe, protecting him from a number of hits. it doesn’t deal damage to enemies that touch Joe from what I could tell, but that extra breathing room was perfect at times. The second summons pillars of fire that sweep the screen and any enemies present take major damage. It’s great when you’re surrounded and need to wipe the slate clean, but remember enemies can still respawn afterwards. The third gifts Joe with even better jumping abilities, letting him move faster and farther. I don’t think I actually really used this except to test it out, though on some levels I can foresee this being perfect to reach some of those distant jumping spots (and loot, don’t forget the loot). The last, and possibly most absurd, causes Joe to explode. He loses a life, but in the process severely damages whatever is on screen. Think of it like Pokémon and Voltorbs just blowing up everywhere – it gets the job done at a cost.
Seeing as this game has been released many times across a variety of consoles, it’s to be expected that some additions or changes have been made. In the case of this SEGA Vintage Collection release, players can now compete in a Trial mode that puts their ninja abilities to the test. There are three trials to pick from – One-Man Mission, Save your Shuriken, and Masked Ninja. One-Man Mission gives players one life to use, a slightly extended health, and points for every kill made. Save your Shuriken forces players to conserve their shuriken use – I really recommend against the somersault attack – and tallies their totals throughout the crazy level setup. Dying also increases how many shuriken players have used as a form of punishment. The last is Masked Ninja and quite possibly the most ridiculous. You’re tasked with making your way through a literal maze to find the Masked Ninja and then defeat him in time trial fashion. Making your way through this maze is not a fun challenge as it loops around on itself multiple times through various doors. These Trials are a fun addition, but only really something for players who are interested in being the best in the world or the best among their friends.
Graphically The Revenge of Shinobi is along the lines of what I recall from my youth. I personally enjoy it, but I can guess that people in today’s age will find it…outdated. That’s not to say it’s bad by any means, it just reflects the games of that era (it’s actually pretty well done considering). The backgrounds are detailed and colored nicely, I just would have liked more variety in the enemies. You get a set of them for each level that do not change color palettes or anything and it gets drab after a while. The game also has some classic sound effects and music. Gotta love that classic 8-bit MIDI sound. It’s surprisingly fun to listen to the music and it is a nice throwback to yesteryear gaming.
Overall The Revenge of Shinobi is a classic that has some new life shoved into it, but ultimately this game is most certainly “old-school.” For gamers out there looking for a challenge, you won’t be disappointed by this title. If you’re looking for more of a fun side-scrolling experience that won’t make you flip a table in anger, this might not be the game for you. It’s a solid title, but it’s a solid title for over 20 years ago.
Note: The The Revenge of Shinobi review was written based on the PS3 version of the game.