The Super Shinobi II (Mega Drive / Genesis)
Sega/Shin Force
Shinobi III (Mega Drive / Genesis)

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Shinobi @ Sega/Shin Force
The Super Shinobi II / Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master :: Reviews
Geoffrey Duke
8 Megabit
Import / Domestic
July 23, 1993
Aug. 23, 1993
July 23, 1993
Yes (until 2007)
6 Button
Mega Key
     > What separated the Genesis from the SNES was action games. Where the Genesis lacked the number of RPG's the SNES possessed, the Genesis made up for it with many more action-oriented games such as the Streets of Rage trilogy, and Treasure's Gunstar Heroes. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master is the proper sequel to The Revenge of Shinobi. The Genesis incarnation of Shadow Dancer was meant to be a side story to the (very frustrating) arcade game featuring Joe Musashi (I believe) instead of the lead character from the arcade game. All three games combined to form a trilogy of Shinobi games on the Genesis

     > Shinobi III is more forgiving than Shadow Dancer (where one mistake was fatal) in that the game retains the life-bar found in The Revenge of Shinobi, but the game still puts you into some problematic situations that can drain it in no time nonetheless. Shadow Dancer gave players no choice but to be extremely cautious and quick on their feet (remember those ninjas that would materialize out of thin air all around you?), which provided a very stern challenge. Shinobi III, however, aimed to be much more fun (even if some mistakes are still fatal ones).  Shinobi III was one of my favorite Genesis titles simply because it was so fun yet so challenging at the same time. The game is easier to get into than its predecessors because the main character is far more flexible this time round, the controls are more responsive, and the gameplay proceeds at a faster pace.

     > As for the story... old enemies return and the time has come for the dexterous Joe Musashi, the master ninja, to once again teach them another much needed and scarring lesson in humility. His quest will take him through a sprawling forest (crawling with hostile ninjas) all the way to the outer hull of a skyship (brimming with guns on the surface) to face these old enemies given new life. Can our heroic ninja save the world yet again, or will evil reign supreme?

     > Shinobi III was a last generation Genesis title, so not surprisingly it benefits from an amount of detail that puts many earlier Genesis titles to shame. It can be argued that Sega pushed the console to its limits to bring us this game. Graphically, Shinobi III exceeds all expectations for a mere Genesis game, and improves upon the graphics seen in The Revenge of Shinobi in every respect. The character sprites are larger, more colorful than ever before and full of detail. Some of the sprites seem like miniature works of art (yes, they are that good). The Genesis could display more sprites on screen at once than the SNES and this game took full advantage of that. No game would be complete without bosses, and not to break away from tradition, the bosses in Shinobi III are not only imaginative but sometimes have a tendency to fill the screen. The stages are beautifully detailed with animated, parallel scrolling backgrounds that create a great impression of distance, and have perfectly blended scenery. There also seem to be no end of great special effects present in the game (like leaves being blown in the wind); I have to praise Sega for a job well done.
     > Shinobi III's controls basically work on the same mechanics as its direct prequel, The Revenge of Shinobi, but the game comes with many extra moves. The limited number of shurikens, which need to be constantly replenished lest Joe Musashi is forced to rely on his daggers, return from that game (as opposed to the unlimited ninja stars you could throw at your enemies in Shadow Dancer). Obviously, running out of shurikens is not an option if Joe Musashi plans to live to see tomorrow. The power ups are back; once in effect, Joe throws fireballs instead of shurikens that can penetrate even the thickest of armor, and wields a sword instead of daggers when a confrontation becomes up close and personal. The double jump that allowed Joe Musashi to throw multiple shurikens at once also returns (the key to initiating it is timing). Mastering the double jump is necessary if the player hopes to survive the later stages of the game where your jumping skills are really put to the test. Of course, the gameplay wouldn't be improved without a few new moves. Joe can now block, run, jump off walls and perform a diving jump kick on his enemies from mid-air (you can even bounce off of opponents if they are blocking to perform it many times in a row until you make a successful strike). Like before, Joe can call on a small range of Ninjitsu techniques to aid him such as an electric force-field that shields him from a limited number of enemy attacks. Needless to say, anyone who's played The Revenge of Shinobi should feel right at home with the controls.
     > The game's music is the weakest area of the game. The music in particular can only be described as a mixed bag. Some of the game's tunes are almost unforgettably good, but others weren't brought up to the same standard and you'll wish that you could forget you ever heard them the moment you do. The music in some stages of the game has an unmistakable oriental theme, but others are more techno in nature perhaps to reflect the changing nature of the enemy (from ninjas, to soldiers wielding machine guns, to robots armed to the teeth with laser cannons). The game's library of sound effects are generally as clear as can be expected from a Genesis title. You may recognize some of those sound effects from the previous incarnations of Shinobi on the Genesis as if they are meant to remind us that the aforementioned games all tie together to form a single saga.
     > Every stage is divided into sub-sections and each stage is packed with enemies, traps to avoid, pitfalls to leap over; walls to climb, sub-bosses and end of stage bosses that do everything in their power to stand between you and your ultimate goal. The early stages gently ease you into the game and allow you to get to grips with the controls (think of them as warm up stages) in preparation for some nasty surprises that will force Joe Musashi to flex every last one of his acrobatic muscles. From launching his body from one falling rock up to the next, to making death defying leaps across bottomless chasms and across platforms that are there one moment and gone the next, and even jumping from wall-to-wall while the walls are closing in on him, old Joe isn't in for an easy ride. I'd define Shinobi III as a platform game at its best only falling short of the standard set by the Sonic games. The game won't last long for any seasoned fan of the genre but is certainly fun while it lasts. Killing would be assassins before they kill you while leaping and climbing through all manner of mundane and futuristic locales has never been so much fun. I never expected to ride a surfboard, much less a horse in a Shinobi game, but doing so provides even more unique hurdles (literally in some cases) to overcome... in style no less.
Bottom Line
     > The Shinobi series will always stand out from the crowd, and the refined 2D graphics of Shinobi III have only helped it stand the test of time (in other words, the game's 2D graphics still look good even by today's standards). All you really need to know is that Shinobi III improves upon everything that made The Revenge of Shinobi so good for its time. I wouldn't go as far as to describe it as a timeless classic, although it does come close to being one, and it is no doubt a great example (if not one of the greatest examples) of its genre. Besides, who doesn't like the idea of a lonesome ninja fighting against endless armies of evil?
Overall: 9.2 | Graphics: 9.5 | Control: 9.4 | Sound: 8.5 | Fun: 9.4
~ Geoffrey Duke ~

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