By: Jonny Casino
The quarter clanks down the shoot to join those that have gone before it. You stare at the screen and hit start. Other children are watching over your shoulder to see how long you can survive. The game starts, and you use your throwing stars to take out as many enemies as possible. Before completing the first level, you have died. You start at the beginning and fight just a little further, but ultimately lose your second life. The third life goes as the first two. Your quarter has played out. Shinobi has bested you.
Shinobi, a side-scrolling action game, was originally released by Sega as an arcade game in 1987. Arcade games were tough and were designed to make sure kids kept pumping in quarters. I cannot imagine how much money it would have cost me to finally see the end credits.
The Sega Ages version of Shinobi provides the player with some amenities that the kids of 1987 would have loved. The Ages game option allows the player to take two hits before dying and restarting the level. This can be very helpful, but not the way I chose to play. If double the allowed hits aren’t enough for you, they have allowed a rewind option. I tried not to, but I broke down and used this option to get through the last 3 levels.
The game also has unlimited lives. This is accomplished by the player simulating inserting quarters when the lives have run out. You are put right back in at the level you were on, without any consequences. As with many retro games, Shinobi can be beaten by learning the game’s patterns. The same enemies always come out at the same time and do the same things. Infinite lives make learning the game a doable task.
Other little additions to this game are nice, but often not very important. You can change the size of the game on the screen to make it look more like the original or stretch to fit your tv. You can add lines and smoothing to change the effect and how old it looks. It’s cool, but just not something I care about. Sega went through the trouble of utilizing HD rumble in the controllers. I love this and am glad it’s there, but, for this game, I wouldn’t have missed it if it wasn’t.
The level design did not feel like anything special, but it is a 33-year-old arcade game. Each stage has 4 levels. The first three are just fighting to the end. You must save a certain number of girls along the way. The fourth level of each stage is the boss fight. The first three were simple, once I figured out where I had to hit them. The final boss was a different story. I would not have made it past him without the rewind feature.
The biggest thing gamers need to keep in mind is that this is the Shinobi arcade game. It can be easier now because of the previously mentioned amenities, but it’s the same game. It’s short, it’s tough, and it’s retro. For me, these good things. The game was just difficult enough to make me need to fight through the level multiple times, but not so hard that I got mad. When I finally made it through the door at the end of each level, I felt accomplished.
Can you guess how many cut scenes I had to sit through? None. There was a short one at the beginning and one that laid out the final story at the end. Both can be skipped because the story doesn’t matter. This game is all about the gameplay, not about the story. You hop in, you attempt to take out an array of different enemies, you die, and you keep going. You play the game!
As with any retro game, it’s difficult to just blanketly recommend this game. If you enjoy older arcade games, or if you are just a little ninja at heart, this game could be for you. Honestly, there is only one thing that really matters to me. I had a great time playing Shinobi. I was always happy to keep fighting to the end, and I plan to play it more in the future.