Entertaining arcade slash 'em up
This is the first episode in another of Sega's classic arcade franchises, and while later instalments Revenge of Shinobi, Shadow Dancer and Shinobi III refined the gameplay to greater heights, it remains an enjoyable and straightforward slice of ninja action. The original laid down the foundations for later games and is basically a simple enough side scrolling platformer that throws in plenty of fighting, both up close and personal via punches and kicks, and at range with the main character's unlimited supply of shurikens. The plot has you stepping into the well padded shoes of the curiously named Joe Musashi, a ninja who is on the trail of an evil organisation of criminals who are kidnapping children. This translates into gameplay terms as a traditional platformer with a healthy mix of action and jumping, as Joe makes his way through environments including city slums, a hidden base and a ninja training camp, rescuing the kids and dispatching the various henchmen he encounters. A few power-ups are available to help Joe out, like replacing his shurikens with explosive bullets or swapping his punches and kicks with a sword slash. Shinobi is pretty straightforward, with little variation in its gameplay but it is no less enjoyable for this fact. The graphics and sound are fairly decent, if a little dated, but certainly do their job well enough. The difficulty level is pitched fairly low, so while the game is fun, it won't keep you challenged for that long. However, while the adventure lasts it is undeniably entertaining in that old-school fashion, so if you enjoy such games as Golden Axe, Strider, or even Sega's own little known ESWAT, then check it out.