MDM Game 23 The Revenge Of Shinobi

I’m shuriken get through this post without any puns… (Dammit.)

Twitch gameplay broadcast archived at:

Sometimes you come across a game that triggers something in your brain from your childhood that takes you to a happier place and a simpler time. And sometimes you go back to that game and it slaps that memory right in its face and reminds you that nostalgia can often be a cruel mistress. The Revenge Of Shinobi is just one example of that.

Don’t get me wrong before I get started here; this is a great game, but control difficulties that you learned to overlook as a short-tempered child are just a pain in the ass as a short-tempered adult. I’m talking specifically about the double-jump, a move that’s an active requirement of some areas and boss strategies. There’s something about it that just doesn’t behave as it should, and after two hours of battling with it I still don’t think I’ve got it down… Anyway, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the positives, because the experience is still a very good one.

You play as Joe Musashi, a member of the Oboro Ninja, who returns to his clan to find his master is dying, cut down on the orders of a criminal syndicate known as Neo Zeed. To top it off, they’ve kidnapped his bride as well. Thus begins the revenge mentioned in the title, as Joe embarks on a journey across the world to rescue his betrothed, kill whoever is responsible, and stop whatever plans Neo Zeed have in mind.

Gameplay is generally what you might expect from a scrolling platformer, with various moving sections, treacherous climbs, enemies, power-ups and so forth. Joe has shurikens* and the mysterious powers of Ninjitsu to help him on his mission. Ninjitsu is usable only once per stage but is incredibly potent, and can be utilised in four different forms — pillars of fire to damage all enemies, a shield created by surrounding himself in lightning, a ghost-like state that allows for faster movement and higher jumps, and the ability to self-destruct and kill everything on-screen. This also includes yourself, but isn’t that what extra lives are for?

Overall, it’s a very well made game. The sprites are colourful and bright, level design is generally strong with stages tying together nicely in terms of setting, and the music is driving and catchy, as is to be expected of any game soundtracked by Yuzo Koshiro. Aside from my own control issues, the difficulty curve seems steep but fair, though on more than one occassion I found myself falling off the screen to my doom, struck by an errant attack that I had no hope of avoiding. Enemy design is also quite varied, with Neo Zeed’s ranks containing ninja, samurai, gunmen and even a bizarre hybrid robot-brain… thing. Heck, even Spiderman and the Terminator make cameos as two of the bosses, in what could possibly be considered as a metaphor for Joe destroying Americanised culture.

You’d think a ninja would choose a better outfit than one in red and white…

I recall that I never finished this game the first time around (I would always meet my end on the motorway stage due to its reliance on executing that damned double-jump) but I still don’t remember it being as punishing as it is, and without savestates I’d still be stuck there with my 9-year old self. It might be one of the more frustrating games I’ve played but I still enjoyed the heck out of it. The language that came out of my mouth might suggest otherwise though.

MDM Rating: Above Average Joe

*(As demonstrated in the gameplay video, there is a hidden option to allow for infinite shurikens. It’s one which I gladly obliged to use, much as I would have when I played the game originally.)