|Dev: Griptonite Games|
|Release: November 15, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Blood, Violence|
by Sean Engemann
During the late eighties to early nineties, the ninja craze swarmed onto video game systems. Martial arts master Joe Musashi became one of the flagship mascots for SEGA, luring the independent gamers away from Nintendo with its fast, fluid action and multilayered platforming. However, SEGA has now embraced Nintendo's innovative designs, and seen the possibilities with the 3DS. Their ultimate goal is to keep the style and challenge that made the classic series so engaging, but add some tweaks to appeal to the modern action gamer. Looking at the formula so far, they seem to be on the right track, packing the game with exactly what new ninja wannabes are looking for, yet still invoking nostalgia for aging fans of the series.
This version of Shinobi is a prequel of sorts, as you will take control of Jiro Musashi, father of Joe Musashi, the heralded hero of many of the past games. Although little has been divulged about the story, the opening scene indicates an attack on Jiro's rural village, with the foreshadowing of a larger invasion by an unknown force. The enemy remains inconspicuous, aside from having minions skilled in the martial ways, but certain divulgences make a highly advanced, spacefaring antagonist a plausible assumption. But don't worry, any cringing thoughts of a Cyber Shinobi remake can be dismissed, as developer Griptonite Games is taking pages from the more heralded titles, such as The Revenge of Shinobi and Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master.
Many control elements will feel familiar to veterans of the series, such as the kunai and katana arsenal used to dispatch enemies, as well as a quartet of elemental spells, wall scaling, and multileveled platforming. Other nods to the series include levels that break from the side-scrolling action, consisting of the highly cherished horseback riding, surfing, and shuriken throwing. The latter makes use of the 3DS' touchscreen, and all incorporate the 3D effect to bring depth to the backdrops.
What has been tweaked to cater to a modern audience is the added complexity to attacking enemies. It's more than simple single-hit kills and dodging static characters onscreen; instead, a complex set of acrobatics, combos, and parries are at your disposal. There is certainly a deliberate pattern to each enemy type, and exploiting that model will help keep your wounds to a minimum. Successfully dispatching opponents while remaining unscathed will increase a point multiplier. Keeping a quick pace will also yield higher scores, and you will inevitably revisit boards to best your current total. To help memorize the layout and enemy spawning, you can watch replays of a cleared board, and even save them on an SD card so you can brag about it to your friends.
The onscreen movements look smooth and lithe, as the case should be when playing as a ninja. You can gracefully jump away from oncoming projectiles, cling to the undersides of platforms, and use your grappling hook to cross chasms or give you a little extra reach while jumping. The parrying will play an important role in your success, but it's not to be confused with an omnipresent block. Your timing must be honed, as the parries are quick, not sustained, keeping your eyes trained on every enemy attack. Failure to deflect damage causes your point multiplier to plummet back to zero. It's sure to take some time to find a rhythm and anticipate attacks, but the elevated point sum will likely make the study worthwhile.
Shinobi also utilizes the StreetPass Mode. The specifics are still in the dark, but it is expected to unlock in-game features rather than simple trophies. Over sixty achievements will also join the rank of additions, and will liberate a variety of extras, from new skins, production content, artwork, and even bonus levels to play.
It may be the first American-developed Shinobi built to appeal to a Western audience, but the newest ninja escapade for the Nintendo 3DS looks to maintain all the flair from the original Japanese titles. It features a strong comic book art style, as well as a musical blend of American-inspired electrical metal and wind instruments from the Land of the Rising Sun.
With 2D platformers making a surprisingly successful comeback to consoles and handhelds, this fresh entry of a classic looks to snare a strong audience, with things to appeal to both longtime fans and ninjas in training. So grab your extra long red scarf, because Shinobi for the 3DS won't be hiding in the shadows much longer; it's scheduled to make its way to retail shelves on November 15th.
CCC Contributing Writer