It was brilliant on the 64...

Shinobi logo

THE copywriter at Virgin must be in a very, very bad way. This poor creature, in all probability locked up in a dingy office and fed on stale chips and cold tea, has spent so long studying computer games that it's gone insane.
It can now take a perfectly ordinary arcade game plot - Shoot A$, Rescue B$, for example - and turn it into a deeply moving human drama, with a few bargain basement laughs thrown in for dramatic effect.
So Shinobi, a "shoot anything, rescue children" game has been turned into a mixture of Dirty Harry and The Pied Piper.

It seems that some wayward ninja has stolen all the children from the local ninja academy and is demanding a ransom. This isn't acceptable to the good burghers (this has nothing to do with Wimpy, by the way - I did say good) and it's up to you to do the rest. Gosh.

Your initial weapon against all the bad people is a limitless supply of throwing stars; to call them shuriken is, apparently, incorrect. After you save a few children, you get to throw slightly more dangerous things.
Once per stage you can use a very tedious form of ninja magic, which takes ages to do and is really only an oriental smartbomb. Your ninja-person says something which probably translates to something obscene or impossible, or both.

At the end of every level - each level has several stages, y'see - you get to meet The Big Daddy who is difficult to kill and will probably kill you first.
Following this, if you have managed to keep some lives, is a boring bit with bouncing ninjas and more throwing stars. It's meant to be a bonus stage, but interest-wise it's zero rated.

Look, let's get this straight - I've nothing against ninjas, not personally at any rate. I mean, I'm ready to believe they're invincible. But then again, when threatened with that metallurgical marvel that is a ninja sword, I'd be apt to believe anything I was told.
But if I was a ninja, which I'm not, at least not consciously, I'd be somewhat annoyed by all the crappy games about the profession. It's a job, innit? Like quantity surveying, or being a turner? How many games are there like The Last Quantity Surveyor, or Bad Dudes vs Dragon Turner? None.

But even as a non-ninja (a nonja?) I'd be peeved about Shinobi. First off, the music is terrible, sounding like it's being played through a sock. Also, the poor disc drive is forced to make arcane gronks and squeaks by the loader; at first I thought it was part of the tune.

The graphics have been carefully chosen to avoid attribute clash, because they're not bad in the ZX Spectrum league. And not merely do we have the de rigeur YASTP 200-line screen, but it's narrower on the sides, too.


Shinobi logo

VIRGIN £19.99 * Joystick

Hmmm. Revenge of the Return of the Ninja's Comeback Part 4, methinks. All the children of the world's leaders have been kidnapped by an evil ninja terrorist group could the Ring Of Five. The leaders want their darling kiddies back safe and sound, so you, the super master god ninja, must take on the might of the underworld and... well, you know the story, we've done it enough times.

Shinobi looks very poor. The ninja is badly animated and his feet move faster than the floor scrolls, so it looks like he's moonwalking! The colour looks like it was planned out on a Spectrum.

Some bits are OK, like the huge helicopter, but the general feeling is of a badly designed, badly-written game that both plays and looks in a very dated manner.


Der allerletzte Ninja?

Shinobi logo

So geht's oft: Aus einem Sega-Automaten wird ein mäßiges 64er-Game, und daraus wiederum - Jahre später, versteht sich - ein schwaches Amiga-Spiel. Das ist nunmal der Lauf der Dinge...

Der üble Bwah-Foo hat sich an die Schüler einer Ninja-Klasse herangemacht und die Kleinen als Geiseln einbehalten. Nun gilt es, in fünf Missionen (unterteilt in jeweils drei bis vier Stages) eine Rettungsaktion durchzuführen, an deren Ende selbstverständlich das große Show Down mit dem Erzschurken persönlich steht.

Das Ninja-Sprite wird mit dem Joystick gesteuert, als Waffen stehen ein Schwert, etliche Wurfsterne oder die eigene Körperkraft zur Verfügung. Daneben bietet sich einmal pro Level die Möglichkeit, den Helden durch einen Druck auf die Leertaste zu vervielfältigen.

Solcherart ausgerüstet kann man getrost den Kampf mit den zahlreichen Gegnern (u.a. sogar der Comic-Held "Spinne") aufnehmen. Ein Zeitlimit von drei Minuten pro Stage und schwer zu besiegende Endgegner sorgen dafür daß die Sache nicht zu leicht wird.

Leider ist die Grafik schrecklich grob und zudem wenig farbenfroh. Während das Scrolling bei horizontalen Aktionen sauber fließt, ruckelt es bei vertikalen schon gewaltig! Auf der Haben-Seite stehen dann ein netter Sound und die unproblematische Steuerung der eigenen Spielfigur.

Fazit: Shinobi bietet relativ einfache Action-Kost für Einsteiger, erinnert jedoch weit mehr an die 64er-Version, denn an das Arcade-Original. (ur)


Shinobi logo

Virgin/Mastertronic
Price: £19.99

'Ah-ree-yah!' (to be shouted in a Japanese accent) cannot be a completely unfamiliar sound to anyone who regularly visits video arcades. It is of course the cry of Shinobi, and one that countless Amiga owners will get used to hearing, now that Shinobi has finally been converted. Thankfully, all the war cries have been incorporated, along with the rest of the sounds of battle. Sadly, one of the things that has not crossed over from the coin-op is the gameplay. Shinobi is fun and quite playable, but it is not even close to its arcade counterpart. Both scrolling and animation are exceedingly jerky, and the latter is limited to two or three frames per character. No prizes for guessing that this somewhat spoils the game.

As for the plot: You have been hired by the government to track down numerous crime bosses, all of whom are guilty of kidnapping girls. You have to seek through the enemy bases, killing every henchman you come across and freeing all the little girls. At the end of the level, you come across a multi-hit guardian. Destroy him, and go onto the bonus stage, which is a split-level shooting gallery where you fire an infinite amount of shuriken at ninjas. These race across the screen on two platforms and occasionally leap forward from the rear to the middle platform. Beware of ninjas who threaten to come all the way forward, because if they get too close you will lose your bonus. All of the leaping backwards and forwards makes the game feel very similar to Rolling Thunder.

Your enemies are thugs, who just wait to be shot, and gunmen, who take shots at you, and then wait to be shot. Additional challenge comes in the form of shielded guards, who harbour the hostages and can only be shot from up close. Oh, and enemy ninjas do have a tendency to appear from nowhere and leap all over the place.

Choose from four ways to kill an enemy. First, and possibly the one method you will use, is to throw shuriken, but as you progress, you can collect guns and shoot bullets instead. Should you get close to an enemy, you can swipe him with your sword rather than fire a missile. Finally, there is your Shinobi, a mystical, magical ninja spell that results in dozens of ninjas appearing and killing everything, rather like a smart bomb. And just like a smart bomb, you get one to use per level or life.

Having grown to love the coin-op, I must say that this version of Shinobi leaves me feeling disappointed. The end result looks careless, and with so much potential wasted, that is a far worse criticism than if the game had been a duffer in the first place.