15 Great Games: Shinobi (2011)

Shinobi

This is the end, my beautiful friend… so let’s close the show with something that has flown under the radar for many. Remember how the 3DS had a very rough start? It recovered eventually, but thw damage in the first year was already done. Many games didn’t get the spotlight at the time. Perhaps Shinobi (or Shinobi 3D, as I prefer to call it, to avoid confusion) was always going to be a little too niche to get any real focus anyway. But talking about this 4 years later is not that important: what’s important is that we have the game and it’s good.

Shinobi has often been about side-scrolling action, aside from the two PS2 outliers, and the new game developed by Griptonite is no different. You are going to jump, slash and ninpo your way through jungles and military installations full of enemies, with a few kunai thrown in for good measures. Actually, scratch the ninpo, since it will lower your score.

On the default difficulty level, you'll get infinite continues, so even if the enemies are quite dangerous, everyone should be able to at least get through the end.
On the default difficulty level, you’ll get infinite continues, so even if the enemies are quite dangerous, everyone should be able to at least get through the end.

Yes, because the biggest draw of the game is getting the best score possible. While killing enemies obviously helps, most of the points come from getting to the end of the level within a certain time. However, and here comes the big gimmick, you can increase your ninja’s movement speed by increasing up the combo counter. The game is merciful enough to keep your combo counter active once you have reached the next rank, and it will only go down if you are hit. So you don’t have to keep moving fast all the time like in the PS2 Shinobi, although it does help a lot for the score if you do.

The second big thing is the parry system. By blocking at the right moment, you can stop almost every attack. And by attacking during a block, you’ll parry and deal a lot of damage, as well as cover the ground between you and the enemy very quickly. Needless to say, it’s necessary to learn if you want to score big, especially because blocks and parries will increase your combo counter even faster. Once you learn how to parry properly, a level can become almost like a single continuous action streak. Not only it is glorious to behold, but it’s fun too. And once you’re finished, the higher difficulties and extra maps will be quite the challenge. There’s a lot to do.

Bosses are usually among the highlights of the game. Careful because they'll count toward your timer too.
Bosses are usually among the highlights of the game. Careful because they’ll count toward your timer too.

Maybe the biggest problem with the game is the presentation. The graphics are okay, not bad, but it’s certainly not a looker. You get the feeling it might have been on the DS at some point. However, it runs very smooth, so that’s a big plus. Sound is also unremarkable, both the soundtrack and the effects, although at least the block and parry sounds feel satisfying. Those maybe can explain in part why the game couldn’t really find an audience. Or maybe it’s just the kind of game that can never really be successful. Still, Shinobi should not be missing from your collection, if only because it manages to feel both old-school and modern at once.

Playing today: it’s a game for a currently available console, so there’s little to say here. Pop the cartridge in your 3DS and play it. It can be found for very cheap around, so you have no excuses really. One annoying problem is the lack of downloadable version, which unfortunately is not uncommon for early Sega games on the console (Rhythm Thief also springs to mind, but that game won’t really be missed by me). You can only go retail, which is inconvenient because this game really begs to be carried around without the need to occupy the cartridge slot. But it’s just a pet peeve of mine. Buy the cartridge and play it until you’re blue in the face.

Well, this is the end of the list. I’m gonna have one more post about it, though.

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