Hands On: Shinobi (3DS)

Unlike most games for the 3DS right now, Shinobi is not a port or a remake. Sega is actually resurrecting the iconic ninja for an all new adventure, one that bares many similarities to the old school 2D classics from long ago. Unfortunately, it’s not without its fair share of problems.

Visually, the game looks somewhat decent but it doesn’t exploit the power of the 3DS at all. The developers used an approach that is similar to what you’d find in games like Bionic Commando Rearmed or Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X. Character models and environments are rendered in 3D, but the gameplay itself is 2D side-scrolling.

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[drop]The problem with Shinobi is that the graphics look dated in comparison to similarly designed games. It almost seems like a waste of the 3DS’s potential more than anything. If this was a pre-alpha build these kind of visuals would make sense. It’s not, however, and the game is just a few months away from being released. The only saving grace is the art style, which only shines in certain areas.

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Thankfully, the gameplay actually delivers the classic Shinobi experience that Sega promised. You can still throw kunais, double jump, use ninjutsu, and slice enemies with a sword. The combat is far more combo based this time around. You can do basic combos by just mashing the attack button or you can do more complex attacks which can lead to launching an enemy into the air. The action feels like classic Shinobi but the formula has been modernized quite a bit.

The new parry mechanic is what really makes the game fun to play. With just a well timed press of a button, you can parry practically anything coming your way. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sword or a series of kunais. This helps keep the action fast paced while also making you feel like you’re this amazing ninja that can take on anything. It doesn’t seem like it will break the gameplay by making it too easy. If anything, parrying is the best addition to the game.

Shinobi has never just been about slicing your enemies in half. There’s plenty of platforming to be done as well. If you ever played classic Shinobi before, you’ll be double jumping off platforms, bouncing off walls, and grabbing onto ceilings with very little effort. A new grappling hook gives access to even greater heights now, and it’s an technique you’ll be using frequently. One section in particular required me to make small jumps while hanging on a roof while also make use of the grappling hook to make sure that I didn’t fall to my death. For the most part, the platforming is what you’d expect from the series. There’s enough of a challenge to keep you interested, but it’s nothing too difficult or overwhelming.

[drop2]Unfortunately, the fun came to an end once the camera shifted to a more angled perspective for the classic horse riding scenes. Taking out enemies was simple enough, but the problem came from dodging trees. Sometimes it was difficult to tell where the tree was actually at. I had to replay this section numerous times because I couldn’t dodge the trees successfully, and it never felt like it was my fault. Sometimes the tree was a little to the left, middle, or right of the screen. At other times a part of a tree was just laying on the ground. I had problems jumping over the trees even though I knew they were coming. It was incredibly frustrating, confusing, and it ruined the experience.

A similar frustration came at the end of the demo when the camera once again shifted to an angled view for a boss fight. The battle was against the Shogun Master, which is an enemy that should be familiar to anyone that has played Shinobi III. The armored warrior blocks your path and does a strike that shoots out a blast of fire across the screen. The strategy is simple. All you need to do is dodge his attack and then follow up with a combo of your own. For whatever reason, the perspective change made it difficult to determine how far away I was from the Shogun. Sometimes I was too close or just barely too far. Sometimes I’d jump and accidentally hit the roof of the cave he’s protecting. It’s a shame that just slightly changing the perspective ruined a nostalgic and simple boss fight.

While Shinobi was fun to play for the majority of the demo, the sections with gimmicky camera angles made me want to stop playing. The developers at Griptonite, who specialize on portable platformers, should have just kept the gameplay as it was. Even when I enabled 3D on the 3DS these sections were still annoying to deal with. And for what reason? To somewhat give a false perception of depth when it’s not needed?

If there is one franchise that deserves to be revitalized it’s Shinobi. We’ll see if this game delivers once it launches this September. It certainly has the potential.

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5 Comments

  1. Hmm, sounds largely disappointing but I guess there’s a bit of time to tidy things up a bit. Shinobi is certainly deserving of a resurrection.

    • I doubt there’s enough time to fix that camera angle thing. Or the ugly graphics lol.

      Everything else was awesomesauce. Loved the parrying in particular.

  2. “Visually, the game looks somewhat decent…”

    Did you mistakenly add the screenshots of a different game to this article or are you showing mercy because of the franchise? The screenshots take the word “dated graphics” to a whole new level. This looks like pure lazyness on SEGA’s side.

  3. lol!

  4. Just bring back Revenge of the shinobi and Streets of rage in HD! :)

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