Shinobi Review (3DS)

November 21, 2011

3DS, Reviews

Shinobi is the latest release within the Shinobi franchise. It was published by SEGA and developed by Griptonite Games. After not seeing an actual Shinobi game since Nightshade (Kunoichi in Japan) for the PS2 back in 2003, is this the proper return to bring this franchise back to fans and newcomers?

Story: 3/5

Shinobi serves as a prequel to every game within the franchise to date. You wield the katana as Jiro Musashi, a ninja of the Oboro clan who is also the father of fan favorite, Joe Musashi. The story starts off with Jiro’s village being attacked in 1256 A.D. Feudal Japan. However, that soon changes as a mysterious rift opens the gateway to a more futuristic time period in 2056 A.D. It is here where Jiro must slash his way through the Zeed corporation and find out what is going on. The story is told with barely any dialogue and while you usually have no idea what’s going on, it is clear that Griptonite Games wanted to keep an old-school feel to it by having the brief anime-style cutscenes connect the levels so that it makes sense as to why you’re in the next location. The cutscenes are pretty cool to watch, regardless of whether any of it makes sense or not. The story is quite non-sensical, but it’s in Shinobi fashion. The game knows it’s old-school and doesn’t care to match up against other story driven titles.

Gameplay: 4/5

Let me get this out of the way now. Shinobi is pretty damn hard. This game has “old-school” written all over it. Trial-and-error, memorization and fast reflexes are what you’re going to need to get through this game. The game offers multiple difficulty levels but even on Beginner mode, you will die…a lot. If you’ve played Shinobi III: Return of the Shadow Master on the SEGA Genesis, then most of the mechanics should feel second nature to you. I emphasize most because this time around, melee combat is a big portion of the game. Jiro’s combat will have slashing, sliding, juggling and parrying your opponents a great deal and you better learn how to parry because that’s the main way to deflect any attacks thrown at you. Jiro has a simple three-hit sword combo while standing still but if you hold the circle pad up, you can uppercut them into the air and finish them off with a mid-air attack. If you double jump and use your sword attack, you will do a slashing slam attack to inflict a greater deal of damage.

Now it wouldn’t be a Shinobi game if you didn’t have your shuriken/kunai to throw at your enemies. Jiro can throw up to six at a time and then must replenish his inventory by waiting for a few seconds. Think of it as a reload on projectile attacks. Jiro can spray the screen with kunai just like Joe Musashi could in the original Shinobi titles beforehand, which will prove incredibly helpful when bombarded with enemies in later levels. Platforming also makes a return in this game in which you will be double jumping, ledge grabbing, wall jumping and grappling your way through the stages. This game marks the first title in the franchise in which you have a grappling hook to utilize for traversal to higher platforms.

The level designs throughout Shinobi are varied and provide great set pieces throughout the game’s eight missions. Each mission will last you roughly 15-25 minutes to complete, which is a bit lengthy for a handheld title. Luckily, the missions are broken up into multiple areas and if you pause the game, you can save and quit so that you may return to the latest checkpoint you reached. Throughout the missions, you will be scored on how well you’re playing and penalized every time you get hit or lose a life. Upon level completion, you may earn in-game achievements which unlock cheats, music, artwork and challenge maps. While the game is not terribly long, it’s the old-school difficulty that will add to the hours of play time. If you play through Beginner mode, the game should take you between 3-5 hours. Play through Normal mode though and expect the campaign to take minimum 5-7 hours. Beginner mode allows the player to have more generous checkpoints, unlimited lives, weaker enemies and auto-saves your progress after each level. Normal mode gives the player five lives, unlimited continues and auto-saves your progress after each level as well. However, tackle Hard or Very Hard and the game promises to be more relentless and old-school in which when you do game over, it’s back to the very first level…regardless of your save progress.

Fans of Shinobi III will immediately notice throughout some of the levels the borrowed references from the game. Whether you’re riding a horse, ninja surfing, going up large elevators in which soldiers lie prone to shoot at you through vents or attack brain-like enemies that bust out of cryopods, fans will be taking a trip down nostalgia lane. There’s a neat section in the game’s main menu in which you can read all the history for every Shinobi game ever released to be brought up to speed with their storylines and learn fun facts.

Graphics: 4/5

Griptonite Games did a great job with the game’s art style. The Japanese culture oozes out of the screen and the character animations are quite fluid. While the game’s visuals are solid, some of the later environment’s texture seem to be a bit lacking. Also, the 3D effect seems to feel tacked on and does little to add to the immersion of the game’s visuals. Regardless, Shinobi is a vibrant, colorful and mostly beautiful side-scroller to look at and see in action.

Sound: 4/5

If you’re expecting a truly outstanding soundtrack like Revenge of the Shinobi, Shinobi III: Return of the Shadow Master or Shinobi for the PS2, then you may be a bit disappointed. However, if you go into this game not having that in mind, the soundtrack here is quite well done and fits all the levels perfectly. Norihiko Nobino, known for his work on the Metal Gear Solid series, jumps on board to provide a cinematic soundtrack that provides orchestral, rock and electronic beats. Sound effects do exactly what they should and are abundant leading to a great audio experience overall.

Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10

Shinobi is a really good game and easily Griptonite Games’ best effort to date. The developers certainly have the talent to continue this franchise and will hopefully be onboard to release a sequel in the near future. Fans of the originals will really enjoy the tight gameplay found here and newcomers will find plenty to take in. The game provides an old-school challenge which can’t be said very often this generation. Even after completing the game, you will be going back through the levels to try and best your previous playthroughs. It’s one of those games where you start off playing poorly by dying left and right, but as you stick with it, you start to master the mechanics and look slick playing it.


+ Old-school gameplay

+ Tough, rewarding difficulty

+ Slick combat

+ Sleek art-style


– Cutscenes are cool but doesn’t make much sense

– 3D effect feels unnecessary

– Gameplay mechanics may be “too” demanding for the average player

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About Glacier928

Marcello is the founder, creator and editor-in-chief of GamersXtreme. His dedication and passion shows as he keeps gamers informed with daily news articles and provides truthful, honest opinions on all gaming related news. Having experience with video game design, as well as over 20 years of gaming under his belt, Marcello has always had a massive interest in the gaming society. Originally, he created GamersXtreme in the style of a magazine back in middle school. Today, he has taken what was created as a basic premise and has evolved it into the site it is today.

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