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Page 1:
Intro
Shinobi

Page 2:
Shadow Dancer

Page 3:
The Revenge of Shinobi (GEN)
Shinobi III

Page 4:
The Cyber Shinobi
The GG Shinobi
The GG Shinobi 2

Page 5:
Shinobi Legions
The Revenge of Shinobi (GBA)

Page 6:
Shinobi (PlayStation 2)
Nightshade

Page 7:
Shinobi (3DS)
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
Other

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Shinobi (忍) - PlayStation 2 (2002)

Japanese Cover

American Cover

European Cover

Japanese Rerelease Cover

Shinobi, devoid of any numerals or subtitles, finally hit the third dimension with a PlayStation 2 release. The game stars a new ninja named Hotsuma, who has a wickedly cool mask and a fancy red scarf that drifts in the wind as you run. There is plenty of time wasted on the plot - something about evil denizens coming from another world, and there's some brotherly dramatics regarding Hotsuma's sibling Moritsune, but it all just gets in the way of the action.

And it's some damn good action, I'd like to add. This one of the smoothest controlling 3D games ever made - Hotsuma runs, jumps and attacking swiftly and gracefully, making the simple act of running around a sheer joy. There's a variety of standard ninja moves at your disposal, including the traditional double jump, although you now have the ability to grab onto almost any wall and run across it, completely giving the middle finger to that nonsense theory of gravity. Although you'll do most of your fighting with a sword, you have a small arsenal of shurikens to stun enemies, and some ninja magic to use at your behest. A handy lock-on manuever makes it easy to spot any oncoming foes, although it's sometimes too easy to misdirect your jumps when you've targetted any enemy, usually ending with a drop into a pit. Getting the hang of the controls takes awhile - you have to constantly use both analog sticks, the shoulder buttons to lock-on, and other buttons to dash, jump and attack, but once you get into the rhythm, simply playing the game is like an acrobatic ballet for your fingers.

One of the most important elements to your victory is learning how to "tate" (pronounced in Japanese like "tah-tay", not "tate" like "taters".) As you kill enemies quickly and build up combos, your sword gradually becomes more powerful. It's necessary to form huge combos in order to bring down many of the bosses, but it's also fun to do because it looks badass - kill all of the enemies in the area quickly enough, and you're granted a short cutscene of Hotsuma posing before all of the enemies, in a frozen state of death, fall apart and collapse in a mess of blood and otherworldly goo.

Unfortunately, Shinobi is damn hard. Not just "kind of" difficult, or "really" difficult, but rather "face punchiningly" difficult. The early two stages are a breeze - then things go awry when you face enemies that stand blocking frontal attacks, most noteably the damn ninja dogs. You're also expected to make some pretty crazy platforming manuevers in the later levels, and one mistaken button press will send you falling to your doom. And there are no midlevel checkpoints either, so dying means starting each level - some of which are approximately ten minutes long - from scratch. You do have unlimited lives, and the game is generous enough to let you restart at the beginning of boss battles, but it's still incredibly tough. Also, since Hotsuma is wielding a cursed blade named Akujiku, it slowly sucks life away from him unless he's not constantly killing enemies, so dawdling will result in a sad, pathetic death.

The bosses, like the rest of the game, start off simple and ramp up in difficulty. In an allusion to the original game, one of the first bosses is a helicopter. Later on you fight a blind ninja in a pool of water - stay off the ground or he'll slash you to bits - or a gigantic four armed statue that shoots glowing lightning bolts and will happily pound you into submission. But worst off all is the final boss, Hiroko, who floats in the air out of your reach, and floods the playing fields with so many difficult enemies that it's nearly impossible to get a tate combo to beat him. He is one of the most infuriating final bosses in history, and if you can kill him, my hat goes off to you. While Shinobi was released first in America, the later Japanese and European editions included an Easy difficulty setting, although it doesn't make too much of a difference.

If you're actually good enough to play through the game multiple times to find the hidden bonus coins (and on harder difficulty levels), you can unlock Hotsuma's brother Moritsune as a playable character. The older sibling is stronger that Hotsuma, but his life is drained even more quickly. The final playable character, the legendary Joe Musashi, doesn't suffer from a cursed blade and thus playing as him the game is much more forgiving - though you can only get him after finishing most of the game with Hotsuma before, of course. The highest reward for finding all the coins are additional missions in a white "VR" environment, which just throws the most insane combat and platforming challenges at you. There's also a gallery of artworks and a cinema mode for the FMV cutscenes.

It's not just the difficulty that turned so many people off the PS2 Shinobi - the graphics, while moving smoothly, are rather drab, and the level designs are fairly boring, filled with the same hallways and large rooms, all pasted with the same textures. The hyper-smooth action mostly makes up for these flaws, but many people found it a rather plain, boring, infuriating game. In spite of its problems, Shinobi has the foundations of one of the best action games of the PlayStation 2 era, a flawed but still underappreciated classic.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Director:

  • Kouichi Nomura

Designer:

  • Takao Hirabayashi

Genre:

Themes:


Shinobi (PlayStation 2)

Shinobi (PlayStation 2)

Shinobi (PlayStation 2)

Shinobi (PlayStation 2)

Shinobi (PlayStation 2)

Shinobi (PlayStation 2)



Nightshade / Kunoichi - PlayStation 2 (2004)

Nightshade Cover

Kunoichi Cover

Artwork

The PlayStation 2 Shinobi was offputting to many people, but it found its niche amongst more popular action games like Devil Mary Cry. In order to compete with its sequel, Kunoichi (cryptically redubbed Nightshade for overseas release) features a ninja chick named Hibana, clad in a tight white and red sentai-style outfit, with a cool mask a la Hostuma but missing the snazzy scarf. The gameplay has been given a slight tune-up, fixing many of the flaws of its predecessor. First and foremost, there are now mid-level checkpoints. There are also several difficulty levels to chose from, including a Beginner control method for newbies. Tates are handled a little bit different now - every time you finish a combo (or grab power-ups), a tate meter fills up with energy. When filled enough, it allows Hibana to send out a projectile image of herself, doing lots of damage when following on a high combo. This makes boss battles much less of a headache than the previous game, as it's much easier to tate them. Also new is a jump kick manuever, which breaks down enemy shields and allows for even more crazy mid-air dashing action.

In spite of the improvements, Nightshade still carries its fair share of aggravations. With the jump kick manuever, there's even more emphasis of floating around empty space, and thus more chances to fall into pits. The graphics are still kind of dull, and while the level design has improved, it's still not exactly up to par. There are a few levels that take place on vehicles, and while it's kinda cool to jump from boat to boat as they're being sunk by torpedoes, these stages last far too long and lack any checkpoints. Fans of the original PS2 game will find a more refined, enjoyable game, those who didn't will likely find that the alterations are too subtle to make it worthwhile. The edges that need to be smoothed out are still pretty jagged. Also, Nightshade came out just a few weeks before Tecmo's new 3D Ninja Gaiden, which trounced it in pretty much every way. In spite of this schooling, Nightshade is still pretty decent.

And it features even more unlockables than Shinobi did. There are now four playable characters; the first to unlock is Hisui, another lady ninja and a Hibana's rival in the story mode, who fights with an umbrella. Furthermore Hotsuma and Joe Musashi make their return, both with their individual strengths and weaknesses from the former game. The girls also get several different costumes.

While you can't tell from the ingame screenshots, the artwork for Hibana seems inspired by Japanese psycho megababe Chiaki Kuriyama, most well known as her role of schoolgirl Go Go Yubari in Kill Bill Vol 1, but also played in other famous Japanese movies such as Battle Royale and Shikoku. They seem to have borrowed liberally from Miss Kuriyama's sexy ice cold glare and innocuous-seeming hairstyle.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Director:

  • Masahide Kobayashi

Genre:

Themes:


Nightshade (PlayStation 2)

Nightshade (PlayStation 2)

Nightshade (PlayStation 2)



<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Shinobi

Page 2:
Shadow Dancer

Page 3:
The Revenge of Shinobi (GEN)
Shinobi III

Page 4:
The Cyber Shinobi
The GG Shinobi
The GG Shinobi 2

Page 5:
Shinobi Legions
The Revenge of Shinobi (GBA)

Page 6:
Shinobi (PlayStation 2)
Nightshade

Page 7:
Shinobi (3DS)
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
Other

Back to the Index