(GG / Game Gear)

Shinobi (GG / Game Gear)

Game Review

Shinobi Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

On-the-go ninja, go ninja, go.

The Shinobi series has been sneaking about the gaming world for over two decades, and the 1987 original arcade entry remains a classic to this day. The 1991 Game Gear instalment — also called Shinobi — has now infiltrated the 3DS eShop, and we're happy to say that it's aged better than we would have expected.

You play as Joe Musashi, Red leader of the Oboro School of Shinobi, on a mission to bring down the corrupt Neo City. Before you can mount a siege, however, you must rescue four other conveniently colour-coded ninjas. That's no easy feat.

This edition of Shinobi takes an interesting approach in that it allows you to choose from any stage at any point, much like a Mega Man game. That's not where the similarities to that franchise end; when you rescue a ninja you can choose to control them instead of Joe, each one holding their own special weapons and abilities. Progression through these stages feels decidedly Mega Man-like in that regard, as each stage can be tackled differently — and more easily — depending upon which weapons you have in your arsenal at the time.

The four initial stages are relatively brief, but they're difficult. Players can expect to die, and die frequently. The enemy placement is almost comically devious, and a four-hit life bar means you can't afford to rest your reflexes often. Health extensions are available, but they're not easy to reach, and many are impossible without having the correct ninja in your party. Stages end in unique boss fights, and while they are each locked into a definite pattern, discovering how to do that is a good deal of the fun.

Each stage looks fantastic. The graphical work in this game is impressive for its time, and its enemies and obstacles are still clear and distinct from the backgrounds. The environments all feel unique, from a forest to a city to a building that crumbles beneath your feet as you ascend. There may not be a large number of levels, but what's here clearly had a lot of care put into its design. The music is also fantastic, if a little quiet.

The final stage in particular is quite interesting, as it's less combat heavy and more reliant on your ninjas' special abilities to overcome deadly obstacles. It's a long and difficult stage, peppered with rematch battles, and it's the perfect way to cap off the frantic mayhem of the previous enemy-packed levels.

Learning to use your five ninjas and their various weapons and special abilities is essential not only to completing Shinobi, but also to experiencing all it has to offer. Different routes through the game are indeed possible, and recommended. You might think you know how to make it through a particular level with a projectile weapon, but if you were limited to a short range attack, would you do as well? Self-imposed challenges like this turn Shinobi into a great playground for experimentation.


Shinobi for SEGA Game Gear offers a simplistic but very satisfying adventure. Its total of five stages suggest a brief experience, but clever traps and tricky enemy placement make for a lot of trial and error along the way. There's also a fair amount of replay value thanks to the different paths you can take through the game, accumulating abilities in a new order as you go. Some might be left behind by the difficulty, but those who stick with it will be glad they did.

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User Comments (32)



Shiryu said:

Hope the sequel lands soon. Never finished that one back then. And these tracks need a little remixing from yours truly.



MakeMyBiscuit said:

I am so glad Sega did not just adapt this game from an existing game but made this it's own entry. This is one of the games I missed since I never had a Game Gear and opted for a Nomad instead.

GG Shinibi ROCKS. It even has parallax scrolling! Very impressive for an 8 bit system. Although I like the retro Game Gear border, I love how you have the option to play as full, stretched screen and even the normal viewing mode fills up a big chunk of the screen. This will ensure I will buy more Game Gear games. I was not too keen on having to squint at tiny graphics in a small screen made smaller from a big Game Gear border.



RR529 said:

Fantastic game! As the review stated, it's pretty short, but greuling (and so addicting I can't put it down). Definately a must have VC game!



Gavin_Rozee said:

I'll likely get this and Sonic TT if they ever release in Europe, and at a reasonable price. Anything over £3.60 and I won't get them.



fredtoy said:

I was curious about the Game Gear games on 3DS VC, but I was on the fence about getting any of them. This review made me want to play Shinobi.



ennan said:

I still have this for my game gear. It's a great game. Will probably pick this up for the 3DS too.



Bass_X0 said:

Anything over £3.60 and I won't get them.

It'll likely be £3.60 for Shinobi and £4.50 for Sonic.



Mayhem said:

Did always like this when we had a Game Gear. Completed it a few times.



CaPPa said:

Shinobi was one of my favorite GG games so I didn't hesitate in picking it up for the 3DS.

Other than Columns I don't remember many other great GG games though and I actually used a Master System converter a lot to play MS games like Golden Axe and Spiderman (they looked really good shrunk down on the GG's screen).



alvieao said:

After downloading the game on my 3DS, I've found The G.G. Shinobi a blast to play. SEGA did a brilliant job with the level design; these stages are short but deviously challenging as one must learn each ninja's weapons and special abilities. The graphics are impressive for a handheld game, as SEGA took advantage of the Game Gear's capabilities. Yuzo Koshiro's soundtrack is also brilliant, and there's some 8-bit remixes of music from The Revenge of Shinobi. I'm impressed SEGA put so much effort into the emulation, even more than Nintendo did. The 3D effect in the classic Game Gear border is neat! That said, The G.G. Shinobi is an excellent Game Gear title worth downloading. I hope SEGA releases The G.G. Shinobi II: The Silent Fury on the 3DS eShop in the future.



chewytapeworm said:

Found this game impossible when I played it yonks ago. Wonder how I'd fare if I bought it this time around?



C-Olimar said:

SEGA put a lot of effort into their emulation - much more than Nintendo, plus they charge much more reasonable prices - the Game Gear games cost 300 Yen in Japan, the same as the cheapest Game Boy games.



NeoShinobi said:

Game is tight.
I definitely wouldn't mind trying one of these gamegear games on the 3DS.



WolfRamHeart said:

Thanks for the review Philip! I am definitely picking this one up now. It looked really impressive on the YouTube gameplay videos I watched. I never played a Game Gear game before so I'm looking forward to trying this out. Nice to see that SEGA put so much effort into the emulation of these games.



paburrows said:

Fun game! Only thing that I don't like is how you don't start out using throwing stars like the original.



mshope10 said:

this is the only shinobi i have ever played and i remember loving it!one of my best friends who i grew up with was one of my neighbors so he let me borrowed the gamegear and this game and the first sonic game made for it.

and if anybody is fan of megaman games and ninja games this game is for you!



DamnataAnimus said:

Anyone know the release date for england?

I rather want this game, I am a sad panda that its not out here yet though



warioswoods said:

I dig the 3D effect SEGA uses when you go for the unscaled mode. In fact, I've been playing full-on retro style: unscaled, motion blur, and all. I love emulation that truly tries to replicate the feel of old hardware.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Indeed, the emulation on these GG games is top notch, and I'd kill for Nintendo to update the Game Boy games in a similar fashion.

I didn't discuss it in the review because it's not specific to the game, but the effort put into these GG games is just wonderful.



cecesigue said:

im very impressed by this game. feels like mega man meets doble dragon... really cool and the modeling of the Game Gear actual console adds lots of fun... the options in the looks and ways to play it are really cool. To be Honest is the first time SEGA really satisfy me with a product. kuddos!!



MeloMan said:

Cool. I like Mega Man, and I've only dabbled in Joe's exploits, so I think I'll pick this up.



mac_hine said:

Fantastic game. I never played a Shinobi game before this but I am glad I made this purchase. Very fun game and great emulation.



colliric said:


Well there wasn't really a point in doing that, considering all the Master System titles were already playable on Game Gear with the Adaptor and that's what they probably would have considered doing had the adaptor not been out for years already. So they just made a new one for it.

And Shinobi on the Master System was always my favourite, as it was probably the most audacious port of an arcade game of all time. So many things were diffrent, and yet it all just made an already classic game much much better and more accessable. The best thing about it is, it feels like how the game should have been the first time around at the arcade. Same probably can be said for the NES Ninja Gaiden I guess... That was just as good.

Oh and frankly I never really got into the Genesis games, never played the GG games(But now I will obviously), but I'm glad I reaquainted myself with the franchise when the 3DS game came out... it's very old school.



CaPPa said:

I've really enjoyed playing through Shinobi, despite not remembering too much when I started out I found that I played through it in exactly the same order that I did when I first played it (yellow, green, pink, blue), probably as that is the easiest sequence.

I'm kind of interested in playing the new Shinobi for the 3DS now, maybe I'll pick it up if I see it under $20.

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