Set foot into my home, and you will realize that I really like putting things on a shelf. The videogames are a given (hi, have you read this blog?), and, of course, that also means a pile of assorted videogame paraphernalia like controllers, Random ROBs, and the ever-expanding amiibo collection (please, Nintendo, please stop). Then we get into the action figures representing various videogame and comic book characters (and at least one Beartato pillow). And, should you escape my basement of ultra-nerdy items, I’ve even got “figures” upstairs that are more mundane and widely accepted. Did you see that bird my grandfather carved? That qualifies as art, right? Yay! Normal people stuff! Oh, uh… that painting over there? That’s…. that’s the Mana Tree… do I need to explain that?
In what passes for interior decorating, I’ve tried to segregate these collections to different rooms. One such segment is my library, which, in addition to the myriad of books that I claim I’m going to read one day, I swear, houses what I consider to be the more “childish” collections. Naturally, this means that I’ve got a room where all the Transformers hang out. And, given I’ve been afflicted with nerdiness roughly since my birth, this means there are Transformers that are fresh acquisitions (like the BIGGEST TRANSFORMER EVER recent release of Fort Max) side by side with Transformers that I first played with when I was but a wee Goggle Bob. Grimlock smash puny contemporary design sense. And, when I look at a toy turned objet d’art that has been following me around for thirty years, I can’t help but think that I used to actually play with that hunk of plastic, likely transforming it from beast to machine and back again over and over for hours; however, now, here it sits, randomly perched on a shelf in front of The Tyranny of Dead Ideas (there’s probably some synergy going on there). Maybe I’ve watched Toy Story far too many times, but I almost feel bad for this emotionless object and how I’ve now forsaken it for “playing” with nearly anything else in the universe. Optimus Prime is untouched on a shelf, never to roll out again.
And then I look back at that room full of videogames, and somehow feel even worse.
It’s completely random (thanks ROB!) but maybe this is the ideal follow-up to the navel gazing nonsense of Kickle Cubicle. Today’s game is Shinobi, a Playstation 2 release hailing from the bygone age of 2002. Fifteen years? Yeah, that sounds about right. Shinobi was released during a time that many people identified gaming as “too easy”. Whether it was because the Playstation (1) made gaming cool and fresh and fly for a whole new generation of cool kids, or if technology had advanced to the point where such things were possible, one way or another, games had gotten easier in pretty much every conceivable way in the decade or so since the NES. No more did you have to write down finicky passwords to continue your quest, now there were plentiful memory cards. No more did games seem completely insurmountable thanks to one random puzzle, now there was a wealth of knowledge on the internet. And no more did you have to worry about some 2-D platformer that reveled in killing your digital avatar repeatedly, no, the age of 3-D came with life bars and quick respawns (… probably just because it would be a pain to reload a “giant” world after every death), and everything seemed much easier as a result. Prince of Persia on the Apple 2 seemed insoluble, Prince of Persia on the Playstation 2 was going to take a week, the end.
And Shinobi wanted to answer that with a modern, 3-D action game that was also rock hard and throbbing with death. And it succeeded! Hooray!
There are sections of Shinobi that are permanently etched into my brain. An image of tearing across a cityscape while slicing malevolent souls is right at the front my lobes. Defeating one of the later bosses in one go and not having to bang my head against that particular wall again is a cherished memory. And the final boss… I’m moderately sure that’s the longest I’ve ever spent on one individual videogame battle in my life. I was determined to beat this game, and beat it I did… it just took, I believe, two days’ worth of memorization and practice. End of the day, I could say I beat Shinobi, the hardest game of its console generation until the next really hard ninja game came out. Such a glowing accomplishment.
And then I put Shinobi on a shelf, never to play it again. Why? Because I didn’t want to ruin it.
Shinobi was a hard game. Shinobi was known as a hard game. I don’t think there was a single review of Shinobi that didn’t note its high difficulty level. And I beat it. I defeated that game that everyone said was hard. I didn’t A-rank it or replay hard mode, but I beat it. There are people who didn’t beat Shinobi, and I am better than them. And, were I to play Shinobi again, I would likely find my skills had atrophied, and now I’m no better than the scrubs. Dammit! I was an elite ninja warrior! I can’t throw that away! How about I just play another game, and not ever replay Shinobi again? That way, with Shinobi up there on that shelf, I’ll always have the memory of being good at Shinobi, and never suffering a crushing defeat to some errant tank.
And at this point I would like to note that this thinking is A. completely what I believe, and B. bonkers.
Videogames are meant to be played. Books are meant to be read. DVDs are meant to be watched. They’re not meant to sit on a shelf for the rest of eternity, aesthetics be damned. I like putting things on a shelf, but, dammit, I need someone or some “challenge” to prod me out of, “yes, that was a good memory, I’ll never play you again” thinking. ROB does the job for me, but I encourage everyone reading this to take those cherished memories off the shelf, get ‘em going, and start some new memories with your old friends. Entertainment is meant to entertain, not sit in an attic.
And regarding Shinobi? I replayed it for this article. I sucked at it. I think I got my poor ninja stuck in a helicopter rotor. There was a lot of cleanup. But you know what? I enjoyed it. And, more importantly, the videogame police didn’t knock down my door and steal my Shinobi Completion Diploma. I currently suck at Shinobi, and that’s okay. I had fun, and that’s more enjoyable than looking at an unplayed game on a shelf.
FGC #271 Shinobi (PS2)
- System: Playstation 2! The Xbox will have to get its own super-hard ninja game.
- Number of players: There is only one Shinobi. Something to do with a limited number of soul-sucking swords.
- Favorite Boss: Sometimes, late at night when I’m trying to sleep, I’ll close my eyes and see that final boss. I will then not sleep for upwards of a week. Videogame PTSD is a thing, right?
- Other Shinobi Memories: I want to say this was one of the first PS2 games I owned that contained a memory card holder. As a result, I think Shinobi saw more “use” for its case than its actual game.
- Any connection to old Shinobi games? Well, this ninja likes watching entire cities burn about as much as the last guy, so that’s some kind of continuity.
- The story continues: The sequel to Shinobi is Nightshade, which features very similar gameplay and a lady ninja. Unfortunately, the whole “Shinobi 2” thing kind of got buried somewhere along the way, so most people don’t even know a sequel to Shinobi exists.
- Did you know? Voice acting in the PS2 era was amazing.
- Would I play again? Okay, truth be told, this is a PS2 action game, and a lot of modern conveniences we take for granted (like a goddamned map for starters) aren’t here. Also, the camera seems to have the damnedest time staying centered on an enemy. But, all that aside, I feel like I now have to replay this one, as, ya know, whole shelf thing. So… probably yes?
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Nintendo Land for the WiiU! … Huh, I swear ROB is getting nostalgic about the most recently retired Nintendo hardware, and we’re seeing more WiiU games on the block. Or it’s complete random chance. Whatever. Please look forward to it!
This is going to take forever…