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RETRO REPLAY ► Shinobi comes back fighting on Nintendo 3DS

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The Gadget Helpline: RETRO REPLAY feature will bring you a weekly throwback to the days of old school gaming and will present a little history on the new wave of classic titles currently getting a revival on our modern gaming gadgets.

Before Sonic, there was Joe Musashi. The original SEGA hero fronted the flagship game Shinobi on the Master System in 1987 – and from this Friday, a Musashi descendant will be kung-fu fighting once more. This time on Nintendo’s 3DS portable console in Shinobi 3D.. 

Full Title: Shinobi
Original Platform: Arcade / SEGA Master System
Release Year: 1987
Publisher: SEGA 

In the height of the ninja movie fad of the mid-to-late 80s, side-scrolling beat-‘em-up Shinobi was named after the alternative Japanese word for the “Art of Invisibility” and kicked off its lengthy tenure as one of SEGA’s longest running franchises in 1987 in the arcades and then translated to the 8-bit SEGA Master System. In fact, Joe Musashi – the game’s kung-fu fighting protagonist’s seniority beats that of even SEGA’s spiky mascot Sonic and the first in the one-time flagship series saw Musashi face off against a legion of minions known as the Zeed in five Missions, each completed by three or four stages (each with a 3 minute time limit) in a flowing storyline style.

Fighting from the slums of the city, Joe strives to save young ninja kidnapped by the Zeed. All students must be rescued before a player could finish a stage in the arcade version (this became optional on the Master System). Controlling Joe as he leaps from platform to platform and scaling obstacles, whilst battling lesser ninjas with simple kick-punch combos (bearing in mind the Master System controller only featured a D-Pad and two buttons!) – or using an unlimited supply of shuriken stars. Besting the three of four stages reaches the unique Mission’s Boss, from Ken Oh, a giant samurai to leader of the Zeed, simply known as Masked Ninja – until a twist reveals that the big Boss is in fact Musashi’s former master!

Points earned from defeating opponents and saving friends allowed Joe to upgrade from ninja stars up to a hand gun (not very honourable!) and between each Mission, players had the chance to earn an extra life in a bonus stage by defeating easily despatched rival ninjas – useful in particular for the arcade Shinobi game, as one hit meant death for Joe. The Master System version introduced a health bar, which allowed the hero to take more than one hit before losing a valuable life. A trick for Shinobi success was that since all foes were spawned in the same location when replaying a stage it was, with practice, simple to remember patterns and dodge particularly troublesome baddies and progress easily.  

Shinobi is still highly acclaimed for being technically one of the greatest side-scrollers of its time and the game-play along with its musical score is still remembered dearly today by early console gamers.  

Shinobi broke out from under the SEGA banner to appear in no less than eleven sequels and spin-offs (this blogger recalls Revenge of Shinobi on SEGA Mega Drive with great fondness!). The Shinobi name carried over onto many popular consoles including Nintendo Entertainment System, Sony Playstation and Xbox 360, even deviating to feature a female Shinobi character. The latest conversion will appear on Nintendo 3DS portable on November 11th and include a character named Jiro Musashi in namesake of the classic hero. Shinobi 3D will utilise the unique visual capabilities of the handheld and involve use of the touchscreen in a new generation of ass-kickery!

Here’s a play through of the first mission of the original Shinobi:


The Gadget Helpline: RETRO REPLAY feature takes a weekly nostalgia trip to look at some classic titles ahead of their exciting reboots and revivals on the new wave of next gen consoles. Last time we took a look back at GoldenEye 64 ahead of its Reload on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. 

Be sure to read the Gadget Helpline’s Gaming Weekly – We’ve got the latest news bytes and a unique commentary on events in the gaming world – right here!

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