I got into the Shinobi series with its PS2 installment, a notoriously difficult game that had me crying ojisan after the mall level with the spider webs everywhere. It was painful, but a good kind of pain. Yeah, I know. Weird. So I’m coming into this new title for 3DS, developed by Griptonite, from the perspective of that particular game. I know the original Genesis/Mega Drive games, particularly Revenge of Shinobi (which still isn’t on Virtual Console), gets a lot of gamers hot in the zukin, and this new ones looks to recapture that old-school feel of the late-80s/early-90s, when ninjas were all the gekido!
Okay, enough nihongo. Let’s get down to brass kunai.
The controls are ultra-responsive and ultra-deliberate, if a tad cramped on the 3DS (especially when reaching for that R button to parry attacks). Or maybe I just have huge man hands. And I say deliberate because the game’s speed is much slower than I anticipated, being used to PS2 Shinobi‘s super-ultra-fast dash moves. Maybe there is a dash move, though I didn’t glean one from the tutorial or my wanton button-mashing. This is a much more methodical ninja, one who treads carefully as enemies toss kunai, slash from below and above and throw grappling hooks at our hero.
Our hero has his own assortment of moves, including his own finite amount of kunai which he can replenish with power-ups — yes, power-ups! He also has his own grappling hook to get to areas above and below him, his usual sword attack that he can do simple combos with, an air juggle, a double-jump, a slam-down attack, wall-jump and lots of other platforming tricks that feel good to pull off, especially that parry. Deflecting projectiles and sword-swipes while double-jumping and sliding under obstacles feels pretty damn good. And each move nets you points for high-scores at the end of each level, which you can then choose to beat if you’re so inclined. And why wouldn’t you?!
There are also Xbox 360-style achievements, like “The One” which you can get after parrying 100 times, and mini-games, somewhat. In the level I played there was a small break in the usual action. The perspective changed to a behind-the-shoulder angle and my shinobi got caught up in a horseback chase through some woods. Apparently there will be a surfing section, too. Surfing ninjas. It really is the early ’90s again!
My only gripe is a big one. Well, it’s more of a desire I guess. I wish SEGA would release this on XBox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network. I just see no reason for this to be 3DS. The 3D does nothing for it; I kept the 3D slider off the whole time I played. A game with controls this concise, and art design this moody and detailed should be played on a bigger, brighter screen with an actual controller. Which feels odd for me to say, given how much I love portable gaming.
Shinobi for 3DS plays well, way better than I expected to be honest, but I wish I could liberate it from its cramped confines.
Or maybe I’ll just wait for 3DS 2.0.