If you were a gamer in the '80s, or you just have a good knowledge of great video games of our time, you'll no doubt remember Sega's legendary Shinobi. A side-scrolling action game starring a shuriken-flinging chap by the name of Joe Musashi, you went from stage to stage, rescuing young fellow ninjas and dispatching a seemingly never-ending onslaught of enemies. Numerous sequels followed, but things have been all quiet on the Shinobi front for quite some time now. Sensing that the legendary franchise was long in need of an update, Sega developing body Overworks has finally resurrected the series for PlayStation 2. Arcade fans will be overjoyed to learn that, aside from a shift to three dimensions and the addition of some seriously cool new moves, the action remains as fast and frenetic as ever. It's highly traditional stuff - go from challenging level to slighly more challenging level, defeat myriad enemies and huge, end-of-level bosses in extremely gory fashion and just try to stay alive to the bitter end. If you're in search of proven retro gameplay kicks married to thoroughly modern visuals, then look no further.
Shinobi introduces a new hero in the form of Hotsuma, a hard-as-nails, red scarf-wearing ninja (of course) with a nice line in spectacular annihilating manoeuvres. As leader of the mysteriously massacred Oboro clan, Hotsuma must battle evil forces, including the resurrected members of his own clan, through post-apocalyptic Tokyo as he attempts to discover the truth behind these horrific murders. As usual, it's one man against an army of bloodthirsty fiends but, in his favour, our ninjitsu-wielding hero has a demonic sword that gains its power from bloodshed and some of the most outrageously acrobatic, enemy-dazzling special techniques ever performed in a game. Aside from the immensely satisfying ability to run along walls, he can use the Stealth Dash - a dodge move so rapid that it leaves a translucent image of Hotsuma in its wake - to speed between multiple opponents. If you want to keep your sword well fed, you're going to have 'chain' your attacks by dashing from foe to foe and taking them all out as quickly as possible.
As with many modern iterations of classic arcade titles, Shinobi isn't afraid to remind people of the true meaning of hardcore gameplay; the action is relentless, the bosses are ultra tough and death will come frequently the first few times you play it. As with the original, however, perseverance will reap great rewards, and as you progress you'll really begin to relish the challenge and realise that this is a real game of skill, not luck. Of course, the fact that the combat is so stylish and satisfying really helps to make the experience all the more enjoyable, as do the over-the-top death scenes that follow particularly large chain kills. Classic and modern in equal measure, Shinobi will sate fans dissatisfied with the glut of 'easy' games on the market and newcomers in search of a real gaming test alike.
- Intense action recalls the original's classic arcade gameplay
- Run along walls and use the 'Stealth Dash' technique to dazzle your foes
- Use spectacular 'Ninja Magic' attacks to gain the upper hand
- Carve zombie ninjas, devil hounds and dozens of other demonic adversaries to pieces