Developer: Griptonite Games
Shinobi for the 3DS marks a return to form for SEGA?s franchise ninja series. It?s been quite a while since we?ve seen a Shinobi title of any kind, the last being the combo of Shinobi and Nightshade on the PS2. Since then the only ninja that?s been ruling the video game world has been Ryu Hayabusa. Griptonite Games, the developers of Shinobi on 3DS, have made a pretty great attempt at capturing what made the Shinobi games so enjoyable in the 16 bit era. Namely tough as nails gameplay and adequate ratio of combat to platforming, and a score based system that keeps the action addictive despite your numerous failures.
The Musashi family name returns again in Shinobi on 3DS, but this time you?ll take control of series protagonist Joe?s father, Jiro Musashi. The game begins in feudal Japan, but through the inclusion of video-game time travel magic, Jiro is propelled to the future. In the future enemies change from fellow ninja to corporate soldiers, and as the game progresses you?ll start to see a mix of the two enemy types. The enemies that populate the game are pretty varied, and you?ll need to make use of different tactics, like air attacks, charge attacks and so on to take them down.
Jiro comes equipped with a variety of moves, including the trademark kunai ranged weapons to take on foes. All of his close combat attacks are done with a sword, and you can string together hits on enemies in order to raise your score. Most enemies still die with one hit, but can be juggled a bit if you get the timing right. Jiro can also double jump, wall jump, move hand over hand across rope or wire, dive down to attack, block and deflect close and ranged attacks, and more. Essentially, Jiro is no slouch in the ninja department.
The gameplay seems to be on the same pace as Shinobi III, and overall I?d say the game feels to be liberally modeled after the SEGA Genesis classic. Jiro isn?t the quickest ninja around, his walk and run speeds are pretty deliberate, so he?s not nearly as flashy as you might expect. The movement can be a little off putting for those expecting some type of speed, but you?ll come to find that the pace of the game fits the level design pretty well. You can?t just run in because enemies will respond to your presence quickly, and trying to charge into the action will generally see you hit with a few projectiles for your trouble. There?s an almost puzzle like element to the way you?ll tackle some of the stages, and if you?re a score hound you?ll have a hell of a time getting above a B rank within your first few playthroughs.
Visually this isn?t the best Shinobi has ever looked, as I?m not a big fan of the 2.5D art style used. The models are nice in that they stand out from one another, and enemy design is varied enough that it never gets boring, but I?d love to see this game presented in traditional 2D. The 3D effect from the console isn?t that great either, even though the game does try to make good use of it with a lot of foreground objects meant to pop from the screen. If I had the 3D up to max I got an awful ghosting effect from Jiro?s model, I?d constantly see two of him on screen, and had to dial the 3D back quite a bit to the point where having it on seemed pointless. I don?t tend to have this problem in a lot of 3D titles, so my assumption is that the game doesn?t make use of the feature very well.
Thankfully the sound design is fantastic, with a pretty great soundtrack that doesn?t just ape what came before. The FX for various attacks feels nice and punchy, with plenty of appropriate KWANG?S and THWACK?S that help deliver some of the blows you see on screen. The soundtrack has a pretty good mix of upbeat get hyped tempos mixed in with some more ambient, emo style sounds that feel appropriate to the on screen action.
I definitely think Shinobi on 3DS is worth seeking out for system owners. It?s a really great representation of old-school Shinobi without simply being a remake of what came before. I certainly wouldn?t mind seeing a follow-up that made better use of the 3D, but overall I have very few complaints to level at the gameplay. It feels right, and comes off as one of those games that you?ll want to play through again and again. It?s definitely worth seeking out, so if you?re looking for something fun and action-y this holiday season, I suggest picking it up.