Tag Archives: shinobi

FGC #271 Shinobi (PS2)

Here comes a special ninjaSet 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.

OwieIt’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!

I can't beat him nowThere 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.

Ew!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?
  • Too hot for ninjaOther 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…

FGC #241 Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi

Here comes a ninja!Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi is a 1990 Sega Genesis game primarily based on Shadow Dancer, a 1989 arcade game. Given the era, SD:TSoS is very light on dialogue and text, and the most info we get on the plot is during the opening crawl: in the far-flung future of 1997, Union Lizard has conquered New York City, and only one ninja is capable of saving the, like, twenty survivors and vanquishing this apparently reptilian menace. Spoilers, eventually Shinobi wins, and it turns out Union Lizard was a giant robot shogun or something. That’s not what’s important here, though. What’s important is one simple question…

What the hell was “The Secret of Shinobi”?!

It’s not the dog

Shinobi’s dog contains secrets. This fluffy, white monster animal is capable of subduing fully grown men and ninja alike (ninja are their own genus), and follows Shinobi through everything. This is relevant, as the first area is literally on fire, and dogs generally aren’t into that. And the third level includes an open-air elevator. Have you ever accompanied a dog on an open-air elevator? If you haven’t, I just want to state that there’s submissively urinating, and then there’s submissively urinating. It is not a pleasant situation for anyone, but Shinobi Dog (real name: Joe Jr.) eats terrifying situations for kibble. Good dog.

WoofHowever, the most fascinating thing about Shinobi Dog is that, if he accidently attacks a guarding enemy, he will shrink down to puppy size. This is simultaneously frightening (Does this dog contain the secret to eternal youth?) and adorable (Aw! Puppy!), but Shinobi Dog takes it in stride. He just sticks closely to his master, and, about ten seconds later, he’s fully grown and ready to maul once again. Look, I realize this is a medium where plumbers routinely change size thanks to brick-based mushrooms, but the threat of Union Lizard is very real, so why is Shinobi Dog randomly bopping around different ages? And why doesn’t Shinobi himself shrink down to child-size when hit? Because a kid ninja and his delightful puppy dog fighting lizards? I’d be all about that.

However, despite all of these mysteries, I’m forced to conclude that Shinobi Dog is not The Secret of Shinobi. Dogs do not contain secrets, only belly rubs. They are simple creatures.

It’s not the magic

Shinobi has very few offensive options. He’s got a sword, shurikens, the previously mentioned dog, and… that’s about it. Ninja stars may be some of the most potent weapons of the 8/16-bit era, but when you’re going up against an entire maybe-lizard army, it’s a good idea to pack at least a few blue lasers. I mean, the first enemy in this game has a gun. Do ninja have issues with firearms? Because, if not, head’s up, Shinobi, you are severely underequipped for taking down a crime syndicate that already conquered a population that subsists on street (hot) dogs.

HAWTBut Shinobi does have one extra weapon: ninja magic. Once per stage (or life, if you’re into credits/reincarnation), Shinobi can use ninja magic to wreck up the place. Too many ninja got you down? Summon a big, honkin’ tornado to clear the area. Sentient wall attempting to crush your life force? Rain meteors down upon your hapless foes! And if you’re fighting through the crumbling, flaming ruins of New York anyway, why not summon your own firestorm to suppress the malcontents. It’s not like you’re doing any more damage to the place.

So is The Mystery of Shinobi why the hell didn’t Shinobi stop these lizards before they even got out of their hideout?! Dude can summon meteors! Conquering New York is tough, but dodging a tornado is harder. Does ninja magic have a limited pixel radius? Because if it doesn’t, Shinobi, man, how did you let things get this out of hand?

Unless Shinobi is the reason NYC is ablaze in the first place. Hm. Maybe we’re not supposed to ask this question.

It’s not the bosses

Aside from some sickly green morlocks, it seems that the general Union Lizard army is staffed with your typical mercenaries. You’ve got “random guys with guns”, some sort of boomerang blade man, and, of course, ninja. No obvious lizard men, which, considering the name, is a little weird, but, hey, not like Hydra is stocked exclusively with octopus people. They appear to at least be a union, so that should count for something.

Brings a tear to my eyeBut the “bosses” of this organization… are a little special. There’s one warrior woman that hangs out on top of the Statue of Liberty, and she’s about the only remotely human one in the lot. The first boss is a demon samurai-beetle monster, and he is not voiced by George Clooney, so he’s probably not going to turn out to be anyone’s kindly relative. Next up is a golem that appears to have control over an entire side of a New York building, which could mean an awful lot of bricks to the face. And there’s a demon wheel of fire headlining the cave stage. Who hires a wheel of fire as a boss? How did he even roll through the door?! Though this… character does seem to be the definitive answer to that “why is New York on fire” question…

And the head honcho of the whole organization, Union Lizard…. Never gets out of his chair. He rains fire on his opponents (sensing a theme here), and he transforms two ninja statues into many ninja minions, but he never, ya know, stands up. That’s… a choice. I realize that he’s practically invincible, and his only vulnerable point is hidden by his helmet, but why so lazy? Did you conquer New York because you were really offended by the myriad of walking tours? Is your armor too heavy? Aw, that’s it, isn’t it? You got super invincible armor, and it turns you into a colossal, vaguely-imposing paper weight. Well no wonder your plans failed, you can’t rely on minions for everything. That’s one mystery solved.

But The Secret of Shinobi appears to be one secret we’ll never solve. Shinobi is taking that secret to his grave. You’re welcome to ask him, but I’ll remind you he possess a shape-shifting dog and weaponized tornadoes… so approach at your own risk.

FGC #241 Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi

  • System: Sega Genesis. Also available on practically every modern system through Virtual Consoles or Sega Genesis Collections. It’s pretty much a port of the arcade game, so you could almost count the arcade version as well. This ninja has pretty far reach.
  • Get 'emNumber of players: Wouldn’t it be cool if a second player could control Joe Jr. ala Tails from Sonic 2? Maybe next time. One player.
  • Further mysteries: Apparently the American version of this game identifies “Shinobi” as Joe Higashi, while the Japanese version claims he is Joe’s son (Also Joe). For anyone concerned about the rich mythology of the Shinobi franchise, there’s something to argue about.
  • Redundant: The bonus stage opens with the phrase “Kill All Ninjas”. I was already doing that!
  • Favorite Ninja Power: I’m kind of disappointed that there seems to be a different ninja power every stage (or at least a rotation of three), but they all do the exact same thing (clear the screen of all enemies). You’d think a tornado would do a different kind of damage than a firestorm. That said, for killing dinosaurs or ninja, you can’t beat meteors.
  • Did you know? There’s a “hard mode” that limits Shinobi to only his sword, and no shurikens. However, the game isn’t balanced for that at all, so ninja stars are returned to Shinobi for all boss battles. Thus, I want to say it’s impossible to do a “real” only-sword run, but I’m sure some random Youtuber has pulled it off…
  • Would I play again: I’ve never been a big fan of the Shinobi series, mainly because I like to die in two, maybe three hits. Not one. As such, it’s unlikely I’ll join this ninja on his surprisingly fiery quest again anytime soon.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… DJ Hero! Wanna be a DJ Hero? If so, please look forward to it.

Because of the fire