reviews\ Dec 4, 2002 at 7:00 pm

The Revenge of Shinobi - GBA - Review

Shinobi is back in a new GBA adventure that shares the same title as a classic Genesis cartridge: The Revenge of Shinobi.  What is surprising though is that the 1989 Genesis game is far superior to this newly released GBA game of the same name.  Sure, they look somewhat comparable and both draw from the side-scrolling style of gameplay, but that is where the similarities end and the disappointing differences begin.  Gone are the intelligent level designs, tricky platform sequences, and impressively detailed boss fights.  Instead, the developers opted to go with the “walk towards the right of the screen, slash opponent, and repeat” method of progression, and let me tell you, I’m not impressed.  Perhaps a more apt name for the title would be “Shinobi-for-dummies”.  That poor ninja who once was at the peak of his career in the late 80’s just isn’t getting the treatment he deserves.  First the long-awaited Shinobi PS2 title tainted his good name and now this, all that is left to completely defile the franchise is a Shinobi X-treme Racing game.


The storyline in The Revenge of Shinobi is not unlike that of past ‘Nobi games: you must collect five elemental swords in order to save the known world from complete obliteration, or something.  Each sword is protected by a ninja master whose skills are composed of such maneuvers as moving from side to side, or … jumping.  Sometimes they will attack you with “ninja magic” or sic various superfluous thugs on you.  All of which can be quite tricky to contend with thanks to the sluggish and annoying gameplay system that Shinobi utilizes.  The one neat thing about progressing through the game is that intermittent cut-scenes do a good job of moving the story forward with detailed illustrations and interesting animations. 


Any given level in The Revenge of Shinobi consists of walking or running towards the right of the screen, slashing at a few mindless enemies, and occasionally entering a house in order to retrieve an item or hit a switch that allows you access to the end of the stage.  While there are 25 levels in all, they never do anything to add to this simplified formula and instead feel like rehashed stages with only minor object displacement and, oh yeah, the enemies take more hits to kill.  Not exactly my idea of innovation.  But all this redundancy isn’t without its rewards.  For example, it does eventually end. 


As Shinobi you will be able to pull off a multitude of different maneuvers, unfortunately you’ll soon find that outside of the standard running-jumping-and-slashing fare there isn’t a whole lot of reason to utilize his different tactics.  The ninja magic is a prime example of this.  Different types of ninja magic can be obtained by recovering various scrolls throughout the game.  Once you have a scroll in your possession you’ll need to collect mystic energy by destroying certain items or enemies.  Each of the five ninja magic scrolls has a total of four charge levels, with each level enabling you to pull off more destructive magic.  Thing is, this magic proves to be all be useless outside of a four-charged attack, but getting to that point is both absurdly difficult and the payload is often unneeded by the time it is possible. 


Some of the basic moves that are required to progress, like walking down stairs for example, are needlessly difficult to do.  I don’t know how many times I attempted to simply walk down a set of stairs only to watch Shinobi go into a crouching position, at that point you have to press up to stand him upright, walk to the left, and walk to the right where the stairs begin to decline, then push down-right at the precise moment.  I mean, what is that?  Other areas require that you jump and hang onto a ledge to pull yourself up, but again, if you don’t jump at the exact location that the game requires nothing will happen.  Make no mistake, this is not your older brother’s Shinobi.


Fortunately, the visuals are up to par and more along the lines of what you would expect from a game with the named Shinobi affixed to it.  While not quite as impressive as the older Genesis games it does do a good job of keeping that trademark Shinobi style intact.  The animation is fluid, and the various environments are true to the series in regards to depicting a believable setting in feudal Japan.  The audio presentation is equally well done with high-quality musical tracks that are very fitting to the ninja theme of the game.  Occasional voice-samples do a great job of getting you fleetingly revved up, and the sounds of your sword slicing through the air or an enemy are excellent.  But even so, the cool audio/video presentation does little to detract from the fact that the gameplay is busted. 


If you are looking for a good time playing a Shinobi game then take my advice and drop thirty bucks on an old Genesis system and the original Revenge of Shinobi and leave this disgraceful GBA port for the parents who don’t know any better.  You’ll be glad you did.



Gameplay: 5.7
Move from left to right while slashing at objects and enemies.  That’s it.  *tap, tap*  Is this thing still on?

Graphics: 8.2
Surprisingly well-done.  The character sprites are adequately detailed and Shinobi moves fluidly with lots of animation frames thrown in.  Stages sometimes sport identical textures and objects from the previous stage but they look good nonetheless. 

Sound: 8.1
Also unexpectedly good.  The music is comprised of various martial arts styled tunes and though there are only a few they are still first-rate.  The digitized voice-clips are also a welcome addition, along with the satisfying sound-effects.


Difficulty: Hard
Some of the latter stages are frustratingly difficult and the lack of a battery save function doesn’t help matters either.  In the same vein as the old-school Shinobi games, you are forced to restart from the beginning once all your lives are depleted.  But this game just isn’t fun enough to be this hard.

Concept: 4.7 
The main idea behind this game is that it borrows from the past Shinobi games in terms of graphics and relative style but the simplistically designed stages and repetitive requirements don’t do justice to the Shinobi legacy, at all.

Overall: 4.6

Avoid this game, there is no good reason to waste your money on it.  Even diehard Shinobi fans won’t derive a great deal of entertainment from this one.  It hurts to say it, but Shinobi truly has fallen from grace.   

Below Average

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