The Revenge Of Shinobi For The Sega Genesis! - by Retrovertigo
People love to go back and revisit entertainment about the past. I can think of several channels on television that are dedicated to showing old television shows and "Silver Screen" movies, like American Movie Classics, TV Land, and Turner Classic Movies. Even classic films like Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, one of America's greatest motion pictures, and newer classics like Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Trilogy have been recently released on DVD for a whole new generation of movie-watchers to enjoy. English teachers always encourage young minds to read and enjoy classic literature from authors like Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Emily Bronte. What about another form of entertainment that is relatively new when compared to motion pictures, television, and books - video games? Sometimes it's just as enjoyable to revisit a classic game like Pitfall! as it is to watch Humphrey Bogart say, "Here's looking at you, kid," in Casablanca.
I hold in my hands an intact, original version of the Genesis game The Revenge of Shinobi. It really didn't occur how long ago it was when I last played it until I looked down at the lower left corner on the back of the box, and saw the copyright statement, "(C) 1989." Has it really been that long since I was really gung-ho about the Sega Genesis? Even though we're talking 12 years ago, I can still remember the day I bought this game, and how excited I was about getting home and playing it. As a matter of fact, I bought The Revenge of Shinobi from the same mall I still buy games from today.
It's interesting to look back and see how things have changed in those 12 years, especially with the evolution of video games. Back in 1989, the Genesis was the most visually impressive console on the market. "16-Bit" was an astounding term that basically promised state-of-the-art graphics and an excellent gameplay experience. It would be several years before even PCs could equal and surpass the processing speed and graphic capabilities of the Genesis.
There is one more important thing that changed since 1989... Me! The Revenge of Shinobi was by far, one of the best Sega Genesis games I owned back in 1989, and since then more than couple of Sega video game consoles have come and gone. Technology has changed significantly in the last 12 years. We can do things in video games today, that I could only dream of back then. When I go back and visit a game that I absolutely loved a dozen years ago, how do I feel about it today? After this technological evolution in video game hardware and software, is a classic game like The Revenge of Shinobi still enjoyable?
The first important thing I want to point out about this review is that I am actually playing this game on a genuine console. This isn't a ROM that I downloaded and played on a Genesis emulator on my home computer. No way! I've always felt that if you're going to play and enjoy classic video games, get your hands on a real console and an authentic (perhaps used) game cartridge.
Unfortunately, my review has to start off with a criticism, but it's not a direct criticism of the game. My initial gripe was with the Genesis controller. The controller in question is the "newer" 6-button official Sega Genesis controller. Even though it is significantly more ergonomic than the blocky, candy bar-shaped controller from the Master System, my fingers felt a little cramped compared to today's controllers. Fortunately, much like adjusting to a new console controller, it didn't take me long to get over this issue and get on with the game.
When I first booted-up the cartridge for The Revenge of Shinobi, I smiled as I was immediately greeted by the old, familiar blue Sega logo with the animated polished sheen. This was a game that existed even before Genesis games had the accompanying singing of "Seeeeggggaaa!" with the startup logo. In the Genesis days, there were no fancy startup screens to remind you what console you were playing. Today these splash screens take up precious gaming time! With the Genesis, it was straight and to the point. Talk about no load times! As soon as I powered on the console, I began a game literarily two seconds later.
The Revenge of Shinobi (ROS) is the sequel to the extremely popular arcade and Sega Master System game Shinobi. ROS, however, used the advanced hardware and graphic performance of the Genesis console to improve the appearance and gameplay of the sequel. By today's standards, the graphics are hardly revolutionary or state-of-the-art, but back then people were crapping their pants in amazement when they saw hundreds of different colors on the screen at once. Let's also not forget about the impressive parallax scrolling in the backgrounds, where different background "layers" moved at slightly different speeds as a character walked across the screen, giving these 2-D scenes a sense of depth.
By far, my favorite stage (or "district" as ROS likes to call them) is the first part of the second level: Tokyo. I have to admit that this waterfall stage is still as impressive-looking as it was 12 years ago. There are other "districts" that I still find visually impressive, but the waterfall stage has a special place in my heart, as it was a source of frustration back in 1989, despite its beautiful graphics.
The gameplay of ROS is that of the classic gaming platformer: Proceed from the left side of the screen to the right side. Kill the enemies before they kill you. Break open crates for bonus items and power-ups. Advance to the next section of the stage. Rinse and repeat a few times, and you'll eventually encounter the level boss. Defeat the boss and proceed to the next stage. Et cetera, so on and so forth. You get the idea. This was the basic gameplay that gamers in the 1980s grew up with. This old style of gameplay is considered somewhat "primitive" by today's standards, but in truth, we still use a highly modified version of this formula even in the best games on our present consoles.
Games of the past, like ROS relied a lot on good hand-eye-coordination, an area that I noticed I've gotten a little soft. In order to proceed to new areas, you sometimes had to carefully time several jumps, or you'd plummet to your death, and have to start over from the beginning.
Gamers today sometimes bicker about erratic artificial intelligence in the computer-controlled opponents. In classic games like ROS, there really was no true AI, as it was very basic by today's standards. Enemies attack in similar patterns when they see you. If you're having trouble killing a soldier who is ducking behind an unbreakable create, just wait three seconds for him to stick his head up and attempt an attack, and then drive a shurikin though his forehead. Not all enemies are this predictable, I'll admit that I'm exaggerating a bit here. In all honestly, I did find it to be quite challenging to get past certain enemies and their attack patterns, even though I'm used to today's "revolutionary" computer-controlled AI.
The music and sound of ROS was still quite impressive. The music is synthesized, but still quite enjoyable to listen to. The sound effects, however, are quite basic, but are nothing worse than similar sound effects in some of today's PlayStation games.
The Revenge of Shinobi is also the first game I can remember having multiple endings depending on how successful you were in saving the beautiful Naoko from the clutches of Neo Zeed. Fail to save her, and you'll end up with the alternate "sad" ending, which I remember thinking was really kind of cool in 1989. It took me a long time in the Genesis' heyday to get the correct ending, but I was really happy when I finally did.
If I may, I'd like to take a moment and laugh at the absurdity of video games. As I was playing through ROS, I found myself becoming really over-analytical, and I'd like to share with you some of my observations, that I never thought about in 1989. Why does casual contact with enemies result in damage to your character? Can't I brush up against an enemy without losing two notches from my health bar? Do they wear spikes in their clothes or have acid on their skin? Why in the hell would somebody equip their buildings with spike traps? Was this simply in hopes that someday, someone like Shinobi would stroll through these locations while on his quest to battle the nefarious Neo Zeed? Why don't the enemies break open the container crates and keep the extra throwing knifes and health upgrades for themselves, instead of leaving them out in the open for Shinobi to get? Can logs really be used as steps to get to higher locations when they're consecutively falling down waterfalls? Okay, I know these are ridiculious, but I found myself laughing at the absurdity of video games that I never really thought about when I was a young child.
You'd think from some of my criticism that I'd end up giving this a horrible review. On the contrary, I think this is still an enjoyable game even 12 years later. I think the gameplay is challenging, the graphics are still fairly impressive, and the synthesized music and sound is still pretty good by today's standards.
A lot of people enjoy classic video games today through the convienence of downloadable game ROMs and console emulators they find on the Internet. Even though some of these emulators do an excellent job at recreating the original visuals and sounds of the game, it misses something important: the gaming experience. I find it more satisfying to have the actual game cartridge in-hand and a real console with a real controller to play it on. Maybe it's just my preferences, but I like controlling Shinobi using a real Genesis controller and not the arrow keys on my PC keyboard. Classic consoles are so cheap today that it's easy to get a bundle of games for literally pennies if you take the time to look.
If you've still got a Genesis sitting around collecting dust, stick in an old game like The Revenge of Shinobi and take a trip down memory lane. I guarantee it'll make you smile.