The Revenge of Shinobi
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Genesis
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publishers:
    • Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy
  • Released:
    • JP 12/02/1989
    • US 12/02/1989
    • UK 03/22/1990
    • Brazil 1991
Score: 80%

This review was published on 09/02/2017.

The Revenge of Shinobi, alternatively known as Shinobi II: The Revenge and called The Super Shinobi in Japan, is a side-scrolling action video game developed by Sega for the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive. It was originally released in Japan and North America on December 2, 1989, Europe on March 22, 1990, and South America in 1991. Tec Toy published the game in South America, but Sega published it everywhere else. This is considered to be the sequel to the original Shinobi, which was originally released as a coin operated arcade game in 1987. However, The Revenge of Shinobi came out in the same year as an arcade game by the name of Shadow Dancer, which Sega also advertised as a sequel to the original Shinobi. It's unclear as to which game is the canonical sequel, but what is clear is that all of these games are good. The Revenge of Shinobi isn't the best game in the series, but it isn't too far off the mark.

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If you sit on the game's title screen for a little while, you'll be shown a couple of screens that explain the story. The game's intro begins by summarizing the events of the first Shinobi, which it states took place in the year 19XX. In the first Shinobi, an evil crime syndicate known as Zeed was reduced to rubble by the powers of stealth possessed by a ninja master named Joe Musashi. It seemed as if the world had returned to peace, but that was merely an illusion, as evil was biding its time until it could strike again. Set three years after the first Shinobi, The Revenge of Shinobi sees the return of the Zeed criminal organization, now known as Neo Zeed. After resurfacing, Neo Zeed attacked Musashi's home village and kidnapped his bride, Naoko. It's now up to Musashi to rescue Naoko and get revenge for his fallen comrades.

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You control Joe Musashi, who now covers his face with a mask and wears white ninja garb like the protagonist from the Shadow Dancer games. This becomes his iconic look for most of the series. In any case, you use the d-pad to make Musashi walk left or right, duck, and walk while ducking. The buttons, on the other hand, make him jump and attack. Like most games in the series, Musashi mostly attacks by throwing projectiles from far away. In the original Shinobi and Shadow Dancer, shurikens were used, but the projectile of choice in this game is the kunai, a type of Japanese dagger. This is purely a cosmetic difference, though. Also like most of the classic Shinobi games, Musashi automatically uses melee attacks if the attack button is pressed while he's near an enemy or breakable object. A new move this game brings to the table is the somersault, which essentially acts as a double jump. If you attack during a somersault, you'll shoot a massive circular spread of projectiles. The somersault can even be used to go between the background and foreground in some stages. It's pretty great.

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Unlike the original Shinobi and Shadow Dancer, you actually have a life bar! In other words, you don't normally die in one hit anymore. The tradeoff is that you no longer have an unlimited supply of projectiles to throw. Instead, you start the game out with a preset number of ammunition and you have to get more by breaking boxes. The somersault projectile attack also uses up way more ammo than regular attacks. If you completely run out of ammo, you'll be restricted to melee attacks until you can find more. This changes the dynamic of the game considerably, as you're now discouraged from having a quick trigger finger. Every shot must have a purpose and a plan, otherwise you'll find yourself in a tough spot later on. You may even want to purposely kill weak enemies with melee attacks and save your projectiles for harder foes. The limited ammo may be discouraging to some, but it better compliments Shinobi's thoughtful and strategic style of play.

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Boxes don't just give up ammo when broken open. Sometimes, you'll find other goodies within them, like additional health and 1ups. Some boxes also contain power-ups that increase the damage your projectiles and melee attacks do. Musashi normally wields a kunai in each hand that he uses as melee weapons when near enemies, but switches to a longer and stronger sword when powered up. Additionally, his powered up state allows him to block most enemy projectiles using the kunai he has in each head, but he only does this while walking. Unfortunately, it only takes a single hit for Musashi to revert back to his normal state. As with most games in the series, The Revenge of Shinobi is extremely challenging, so you likely won't keep this power-up for long. The game's unforgiving nature even extends to opening boxes, as many of them contain bombs that hurt you. You're never truly safe in the world of Shinobi.

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Musashi also has access to ninjutsu, which is basically ninja magic. In the original Shinobi and Shadow Dancer, all ninja magic essentially did the same thing despite the different animations, but that's not the case here. In The Revenge of Shinobi, there are four types of ninja magic, and each one does something different. These consist of a thunder barrier that protects you for a few hits, a fiery attack that hits all enemies on the screen, a spell that temporarily increases your jumping height, and a devastating kamikaze attack that sacrifices one of your precious lives. To switch between ninja magic, you pause the game and use the d-pad to select the desired one. Unless you acquire a magic refill item from a box, you're only allowed to use one ninja magic per stage. Even with that limitation, ninja magic is insanely useful.

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While the game is still mostly linear, the individual stages are a bit more open than what was in the original Shinobi and Shadow Dancer games. In fact, the final stage is a massive maze in a Japanese castle! Thankfully, there are no time limits this time. You also don't have to rescue hostages like in the original Shinobi or defuse bombs like in the arcade version of Shadow Dancer; simply reaching the goal at the end of every stage is enough. The early stages of the game are still rather straightforward, but they become progressively bigger and more complex as you move on. The more spacious stages add a slight layer of exploration to the game, especially since there are sometimes optional paths you can take with extra power-ups and additional ammo. Despite not being as tightly designed as the arcade games, the stages in The Revenge of Shinobi are still quite good. The aforementioned maze in the final stage is kind of a drag, though.

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The first stage is set in a typical ninja village with secret underground passages and a cool day and night effect, but things quickly get less typical from there. The second stage begins near a waterfall before progressing to a city with fake nuns that remove their habits to reveal that they're actually violent ninja gals. You also visit Chinatown, where you defeat female martial artists by giving them wardrobe malfunctions. Other areas include a military base with armed soldiers, the interior of a large airborne aircraft with opening doors that you have to avoid getting sucked out of, a garbage disposal center with trash compactors, a highway with oncoming traffic, a harbor, and a missile factory. With all these kooky environments, it feels like you're playing a fish out of water story starring a ninja. The bosses also reflect this theme, with one boss battle taking place on a disco dance floor. If that's not awesome, then I don't know what is. The final fight is also interesting, as the boss must be defeated before Naoko gets crushed by a stone ceiling. It's rather unforgiving, though, because you get the bad ending if you beat the final boss without saving her.

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Originally, characters not owned by Sega appeared in The Revenge of Shinobi as bosses or enemies. These characters included familiar faces like Spider-Man, Batman, Hulk, The Terminator, Rambo, and Godzilla. Sega initially didn't have the rights to use any of these characters, so they had to modify them in future revisions of the game. The first revision changed Batman into a more generic bat monster and the Rambo lookalikes into bald headed soldiers. Apparently, Sega did briefly have the rights to use Spider-Man and Hulk, because the second revision has a copyright notice from Marvel. The third revision keeps everything intact from the previous one, but modifies Godzilla into a skeletal dinosaur. Also, Joe Musashi's face on the game's title screen resembled a real life Japanese actor named Sonny Chiba. This, too, was altered in future versions of the game.

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One of the first titles released in North America for the Genesis, The Revenge of Shinobi also happens to be one of the best games on the system. It takes the core mechanics from the previous games in the series and expands upon them considerably, resulting in a far more in depth experience. The stages also further add to this depth with their more involving designs. However, as good as this game is, it's still not the best that the series has to offer. For that, you'll have to check out its sequel, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master.

Word Count: 1,596

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