Shadow Dancer (Arcade / SMS / MD)
Sega/Shin Force
Shadow Dancer (Arcade / SMS / MD)

Sega/Shin Force > Elite Series > Shinobi (Series) > Shadow Dancer

Shinobi @ Sega/Shin Force
Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi :: Reviews: Mega Drive / Genesis
4 Megabit
Import / Domestic
1990 (Japan)
1990 (USA)
6 Button
Mega Key
     > I was hooked on The Revenge of Shinobi, then Sega announced they were making Shadow Dancer for Genesis as well.  Of course, I thought they were talking about the awesome, but very difficult, arcade game of the same name.  As it turned out, Sega only did an arcade port of Shadow Dancer for the Master System.  The Genesis / Mega Drive iteration was to be largely new.

     > This version's story is a bit different than the arcade original.  After bringing down the Neo Zeed, Joe "Shinobi" Musashi went to New York to spend time with his former student, Kato, then retired to his native land.  Later, Kato was fatally injured while protecting local school children from a new gang of thugs.  Musashi rushed back to New York to find that Kato had died, and left only his faithful dog, Yamato.  A group called the Union Lizard (led by Sauros) killed Kato.  Musashi was enraged and promised Kato's mother that he would avenge her son's death...

     > If you're into collecting import games, then Shadow Dancer is a good one to get.  It's 100% importable, as long as you have a conversion cartridge.  The entire game is in English, so there's no language barrier.

     > For the most part, I really enjoyed the scenery in Shadow Dancer.  Especially in the "Burning Downtown" and "Statue of Liberty" levels, Sega injected lots of detail and background effects.  Some of the original locales have been remixed for the Genesis.  Nice touch.  Anyway, Musashi animates very nicely, as do the various enemies. 

     > The coolest enemies are certainly the deadly ninjas.  They don't just stand there, they jump around, almost unpredictably.  The bosses aren't really anything to write home about, although the final boss, Sauros, is sweet.  Finally, the Ninjitsu is pretty much been-there done-that Shinobi stuff.

     > Shadow Dancer's controls are fairly simple.  Musashi has Ninjitsu, jump and attack buttons.  Although jumping can be done in the same plane, across planes, or up/down levels, gone is Musashi's double jump from The Revenge of Shinobi.  Depending on your proximity to the enemy, Musashi will wield either a shuriken or katana.  Let's not forget Musashi's newest friend, Yamato.  If you "charge" (hold) the attack button, you can send Yamato to disable the nearest enemy, while you move in for the kill.  Be careful though, if the enemy is too strong, Yamato will be disabled for a bit.  What's the downside to Shadow Dancer's gameplay?  It would be that Musashi is only one-hit from death at all times -- there's no health bar.  That can be very frustrating.

     > Your main mission is to survive to the end of a level.  Along the way, there's hostages to save, and power-ups to be earned.  When you get to a boss, Musashi must fight him alone.  Some of the boss attacks are unpredictable and frustrating too.  The only other thing I didn't mention is the Bonus Rounds.  In the tradition of Shinobi, kill ninjas to earn bonuses.

     > Of course, since Yuzo Koshiro didn't compose the music, it's not anywhere near awesome.  Still, it gets the job done and is at least average Genesis fare.  The sound effects are pretty good, though nothing stands out as fantastic.
     > Most everyone belly-ached about Shadow Dancer only having five levels (with multiple stages).  That never bothered me, since most games have a hard time holding my interest through the first few levels. 

     > There are 3 difficulty settings, and the option to play with unlimited shurikens, or none at all.  Even with the easiest settings, though, Shadow Dancer is no push over.  The last few stages can be quite frustrating -- believe me.  At any rate, there's lots of ninja-action fun to be had.

Bottom Line
     > Although Shadow Dancer is way different than its arcade brother, any serious ninja action fan would not be without this game.  It's not as good as The Revenge of Shinobi or Shinobi III, but it's a worthy game for your Genesis library.  The only question is, why did Sega change the awesome box artwork from the Japanese release?
Overall: 8.9 | Graphics: 9.5 | Control: 9.0 | Sound: 8.0 | Fun: 9.0
~ Shinobi ~

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