Thursday, February 13, 2014

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Shinobi (3DS) Review

Usually we at SuperPhillip Central have reasons for reviewing older games at a certain date. For instance, this Tuesday marked the release of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, so we reviewed the excellent Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Tonight, we have no real reason other than wanting to give some more attention to this overlooked Nintendo 3DS game. It's Griptonite Game's Shinobi.

Go ninja, go ninja, go!

Shinobi was a powerhouse on the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive and in arcades back in the day. The series was revitalized with hard-as-nails PlayStation 2 entry, followed up by a sequel called Nightshade. In 2011, developer Griptonite Games took control of the long-resting franchise to give Shinobi's fans another new adventure to enjoy. Simply titled, Shinobi, this Nintendo 3DS installment is worthy of SEGA's masterful ninja's name.

Shinobi's 3DS outing begins with Jiro Musashi's village has been attacked by a group called Zeed's ninjas. Protecting against the ninja forces successfully, somehow Musashi is sent 800 or so years into the future, where Zeed controls the world. What follows is a series of confusing 2D art displays that attempt to tell a story. However, this story simply comes off as one unintelligible scene after another with little apparent cohesiveness. Still, the scenes are presented in a cool 2D art style, so at least it's eye candy.

Cool scenes, but what is going on!?
To get this out of the way before I begin, let me just say that Shinobi is a difficult game. It can be frustrating, it can be irritating, and it can make you want to pull your hair out. However, by that same token, Shinobi is usually a fair game. When you die, it's generally your own fault.

Your acrobatics know no limits, Jiro!
There are multiple difficulties to select from in Shinobi, each providing the player with a different number of lives and continues to work with, as well as a lenient or strict amount of checkpoints. For example, Beginner is recommended so you can get the hang of and layout of each of the game's eight levels. You also get unlimited lives and continues, meaning you can explore levels while throwing caution in the wind. This is great for finding the locations of the hidden collectibles in this installment of Shinobi, the Mastery and Bonus Coins. In addition to that, seeing as there are plenty of blind jumps and enemies that can seemingly come out of nowhere, you can learn the lay of the land for future difficulty attempts.

I hope you had insurance...
The Normal difficulty is when things get a bit more challenging. There are unlimited continues, but you only get so many lives to work with and exhaust before you must retry the level you're on from the very beginning. This wouldn't be so bad if said levels weren't overly long. Levels can take anywhere between 10-45 minutes on a first go. This means that if you die and lose all your lives, you basically have to redo 10-45 minutes of progress. That's just brutal. I would have preferred if the Griptonite Games split up these eight large levels into 16 smaller ones. It would make the game less daunting to players.

Levels themselves have a decent amount of action and platforming to keep players on their toes. It's not too hard to argue that most of the levels are designed well, save for some blind jumps here and there. However, there are spots in the game that change the formula up poorly, such as a horse riding sequence in the middle of level one, as well as a sequence that requires you to use the 3DS's gyro sensor to tilt left and right in order to get Jiro to surf down a path of water safely.

Hi, ho, Silver... go away!
Shinobi requires great skill and exquisite timing in order to get through the game's eight levels. Through double jumps, wall jumping, kunai throwing, and other actions, Jiro Musashi's adventure is not for the faint of heart. Enemies are ruthless-- chucking kunai at Jiro, jumping into the air as their sword dangerous spins, shooting homing controlled missiles, and much more. However, you have the ability to parry virtually every attack dealt out to you. Of course, this takes expert timing to block attacks as well as a steady eye to see the attacks coming.

As Jiro slays foes with his blade, his multiplier meter goes up. As long as he doesn't take damage, Jiro can boost the amount of points he gets from defeated foes by up to four times. This is key in getting highly coveted "S" rankings on every level. However, each time Jiro takes a hit, he loses points from his level total, as does using one of four magic scrolls that give Jiro a strong boost. Additionally, death takes away a significant amount from his score.

Magic helps out in a tight spot,
but it also penalizes your ending score.
Boss fights cap off each level, offering a contender that has a set pattern that needs to be learned in order to overcome them. Usually the boss eventually leaves themselves open to an attack or even a one button quick time event to damage the boss significantly.

What a frigid lady.
Shinobi may be a relatively short game to get through the campaign. Although that is true, there are an abundance (over 60) of achievements to complete, such as getting "S" ranks on stages, finding all of the Mastery Coins, parrying 100 attacks, and so forth. These achievements unlock cheats and bonuses like alternate costumes and weapons in the Free Play mode. There's also challenge maps that are gained through StreetPass or spending play coins to extend the replay value of Shinobi to respectable levels.

Although it runs rather well on the Nintendo 3DS, the visuals of Shinobi fail to impress. While the stereoscopic 3D and 2-1/2D gameplay works well, it's pretty apparent that Shinobi was originally developed on the Nintendo DS before being moved over to the system's successor. The music of Shinobi serves the game world and its action well. It is nothing that will most likely get etched into your memory, but it's neither obnoxious or boring to listen to all the same.

The visuals do less than impress,
but they're serviceable at least.
Shinobi is a very competent action game that harkens back to a time when games didn't hold your hand and appealed to the lowest common denominator of players. That said, casual players should probably not take on Jiro's quest to take down the Zeed, as it can be extremely challenging to beat, even for more seasoned gamers. Nonetheless, the challenge is set where you're generally at fault for dying. Throw in a robust amount of unlockables and tight controls, and you have a game that does not dishonor the Shinobi name.

[SPC Says: 7.5/10]

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