(VC Arcade / Virtual Console Arcade)

Shinobi (VC Arcade / Virtual Console Arcade)

Game Review

Shinobi Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Darren Calvert

Put on your ninja suit and rescue the kiddies once again!

After treating retro gaming fans to the delights of Revenge of Shinobi and Shinobi III from the Mega Drive / Genesis, it is only right that SEGA bring us back to basics and let us get our grubby mitts on the original arcade game from 1987 where this glorious franchise began. Considered to be SEGA’s emphatic answer to Namco’s excellent Rolling Thunder - which came out a year prior to this – Shinobi is still regarded as an all-time classic of the genre.

The plot is refreshing simple - a nasty criminal organisation named Zeed has kidnapped all of the Oboro clan’s kiddies in a move which even Gary Glitter would not approve of. As such it is up to our hero, Joe Musashi (or Shinobi Joe as he is known to his friends) to rescue the kiddies and kick some good-for-nothing ninja butt.

If you are used to Shinobi Joe’s later adventures on the Mega Drive, the first thing you will notice about this game is that it is a lot more punishing. It hails from a time when gamers were made of sterner stuff and one-hit will result in instant death. If you want to perfect your ninja skills and “one-credit” this baby then you are going to have to invest a serious amount of time to memorise the enemy’s fixed patterns. Of course, that’s what old school coin-ops like this are all about and we personally wouldn’t have it any other way!

To aid you in your quest Shinobi Joe is supplied with a never-ending supply of shurikens and a sword for close up melee mutilation. If things get too messy then you even get some ninja magic to wipe out all the foes on-screen, but high-score chasers will do well not to use this in order to gain a mighty end-of-level bonus. Finally you can upgrade your shurikens to an UZI in each level which takes out more troublesome fiends with greater ease.

Shinobi Joe is quite a nimble chap and can quickly dart up to a balcony above should things get tricky on the ground. When ducking you can move and sneak up on baddies in a stealthy fashion too.

There are five missions in total which each contain a variety of levels. Predictably each mission ends with a fiendish boss fight against the likes of a robo-samurai or even a helicopter! If you are skilled enough to get to the end of the final mission you will have to take on the mighty grandmaster Zeed, who happens to be a more than formidable opponent.

To break up the side-scrolling action, at the end of each mission there’s a bonus stage which gives you the chance to gain an extra life - but only if you can keep all those pesky ninjas at bay.

As you might expect the emulation is top notch on the Virtual Console and runs in smooth 60Hz (480i/480p). It’s faithful to the arcade completely, with the only difference being that the Spider-Man-like baddies on level 1-2 have been coloured in green and yellow, but then again we could have predicted this by the recent VC release of Revenge of Shinobi’s where SEGA made a few sneaky tweaks to avoid a bitch-slapping by Marvel. The Virtual Console Arcade version of the game allows you to adjust the amount of lives (from the default 3 up to 240!) and game difficulty to suit your skill level. You can even change the in-game text to Japanese if that floats your boat.

Graphically, Shinobi still stands up to scrutiny for a game which is pushing more than 20 years of age. The colourful bitmapped environments do the job nicely and the game oozes character and charm throughout. The music is particularly memorable; if you played Shinobi much as a young whippersnapper then the catchy tunes will doubtlessly be etched into your mind for all time. Heck, there is even a cheeky bit of digitised speech such as “Welcome to bonus stage” thrown in for good measure too, which adds to the charm factor even more.


Shinobi is a classic slice of arcade goodness which has effortlessly stood the test of time. It’s not an easy game to master and requires lots of practice to complete using only one-credit. If you like quick-blast games where you compete with friends for the best high-score then this is the game for you. The controls are wonderfully responsive and the collision detection is perfect too, unlike many games of this era. Of course this type of game cannot be recommended to everyone, but for classic arcade lovers it doesn’t get much better than this. Go on, reveal your inner ninja and give Shinobi a try today!

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User Comments (34)



pixelman said:

Are "credits" basically continues? IE, if you keep "putting in coins" after each game over then you can continue forever?



Reala said:

Looks a lot more detailed than my Master System version, can't wait to try it on VCA.



Dazza said:

@pixelman You can put in as many virtual coins as you like to buy 'continues' so you don't have to start the game from scratch again when you lose all your lives.

It still doesn't make the game a pushover though, because when you die you go back to the start of the level, you don't respawn!



pixelman said:

@Dazza: Ahh, thanks. As long as you can continue infinitely, I'm good. :3 I'll probably pick it up when it hits the states.



CanisWolfred said:

I have and always will love the Shinobi series. This'll be a must-buy for me when it finally hits the states!



Golgo said:

never played a shinobi game. which is the best option out of those available on VC?



Ren said:

Wow, this is awesome.
The arcade stuff we're getting here is really turning out to be fantastic, and takes me back to even when I was a little kiddie. My big brother was the only one who could get anywhere on these with one coin. I remember it being darker, but that may have just been the grimy glass on the screen in the arcade I probably played it in last.
finally I can play this stuff without spending all my lunch money just to get somewhere in it.



TKOWL said:

ok can someone tell me is revenge of shinobi the same as this game? or are they completely different?



Reala said:

@ golgo - Shinobi 3 is the best game to start with

@ ryanknight717 - 2 very different games really



blackknight77 said:

Great review first of all. I also loved the bonus stages in this game. I shall put this on firmly on my wishlist now.



WolfRamHeart said:

This was such a great game when I played it at the arcade when I was a kid and it still holds up really well after all those years! This is a pure Sega classic that deserves to be experienced by anyone who loves video games.



odd69 said:

I might get this. I downloaded that other shinobi game on the vc and i enjoyed it alot



James said:

All I need to do is look at the screenshots and the music comes flooding back to me. I still hate the bonus levels, though.



Ristar42 said:

Downloaded the second (ish) it was made available. The memories and the game is still great, though I miss the Marilyn Munroe posters on the wall of the first stage... they were quite iconic.



Chunky_Droid said:

Oh Dazza, a Gary Glittler joke? I LOL'd, it's all good

I loved this game, and love the fact that the UZI didn't actually act anything like an uzi



Sean_Aaron said:

@Prosody: How can you not like BONUS TIME! The rare occasions I get them all makes it so rewarding; if it was easier where would be the sense of accomplishment?



StarBoy91 said:

I love the Shinobi games! [It's that obvious] I still remember the first time I played this game on the currently MIA CD MAME32. I thought it was really neat, and conceptual. I haven't played it in years! I'll bet it's still good.



deggs said:

first of all, just wanted to say that i got revenge and s3 when they came out on my genesis back in the day. s3 is amazing. i play it all the time still to this day on my ps2. revenge, i never ever liked for some reason. which is better, this or revenge?



Dazza said:

@chunky_droid I do apoligise, the Glitter joke was in poor taste haha

@deggs It's hard to compare this game with the Mega Drive Shinobi games really. They were designed for the home gaming market, they are easier, have energy bars, take much longer to complete, not really focussed on high-scores. More platforming action too.

So both this and Revenge are great, but in their own ways. Which is better really depends on your preference.



niggyt2004 said:

This is my best arcade game ever! why so long to get it? well least i dont have to buy a xbox or PS3 to play it. I used to be able to complete this with one credit but struggle now



StarBoy91 said:

Those bonus games, iirc, were awesome. Who could forget the first person view and those ninjas?



JamieO said:

I've been playing lots of the Arcade version of Shinobi and as @Dazza states, I really like the unforgiving difficulty of the one-hit kills typified by Rolling Thunder. The gameplay concept of learning enemy placements to advance represents real retro play mechanics and you feel a true sense of accomplishment with any progression earned.
During the PC Engine conversion era, gamers used to cry out about the missing bonus sections, so it is cool to play them again.
If push came to shove I would probably pick the Mega Drive games, but with all three of my favourites on Virtual Console it is all good, because we can download what are in my opinion the best Shinobis (the original, Revenge of Shinobi and Shinobi III).
Nice one @Dazza for a super Shinobi review.



michaelmax said:

I remember renting this for sega genesis. It was very hard but I loved it. Can't wait to download the arcade version next time I get some wii points!



BrickRockwell said:

GWWWAAAAHHH! I'm seeing spots, ANEURISM, massive ventricular thrombosis. Yeah, it's fun and "classic" and all that, but Joe Musashi = worst ninja ever. I'll take Ryu Hayabusa anyday.



idork99 said:

Great review! One of my all time arcade favorites. And now that I have it on my Wii (on my Wii U through the Wii Channel), this is easily one of my go to games to play when I have some downtime. To keep it old school, I only allow myself one credit and no continues ever to see how far I can go with one try.

Also, I find it sad that I play this more on my Wii U than any other game that is intended for the Wii U : /

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