Nasty Neo Zeed is back causing trouble again, and it’s up to our hero Joe Musashi to teach them a lesson they won’t forget with his supreme ninja skills. Unlike the original arcade classic, however, there are no hostages to be rescued and you now have an energy bar to spare you from one-hit kills.
You have a limited amount of shurikens but there are ample replacements in crates along the way, if you do happen to exhaust your supply you can always get up close and personal with your sword.
No ninja game would be complete without ninja magic and Shinobi III does not disappoint. You select between spreading fire across the screen, gaining temporary invincibility, jumping much higher than normal or committing suicide! The last ninja magic sounds bizarre but you do inflict a devastating amount of damage on your opponent even if you have to sacrifice a life for doing so (recommended for some of the later, tougher bosses).
There are a number of improvements made on Revenge of Shinobi; this isn’t just a soulless update like Sega’s Golden Axe II. You can now block projectile attacks and do a double-tap on the D-pad to run; this ability is a great addition to the game and can be combined with a slice attack so you can take out unsuspecting foes with style.
For the first time Shinobi Joe can wall-bounce as well, much like Ninja Gaiden. The new technique is used to great effect in the intricate level design and helps create a feeling of interaction with the environment.
There are all the usual clichéd backdrops for the action to unfold against such as forests, caves and industrial areas. To break up the action, however, there are sections where you get to ride a horse and even show off your surfboarding skills; this might sound silly but variety is the spice of life, you can’t blame Sega for trying something new.
The difficulty level is very balanced so you will find this game puts up a good challenge. However if you do find the going too tough then you can go against the path of the ninja and select the EASY option, giving you nine lives.
Graphically this is one of the best games on the Mega Drive / Genesis with detailed backgrounds and beautifully drawn sprites. Despite rumours at the time that the music was arranged by legendary Yuzo Koshiro this appears to not be the case. As a result none of the game’s music feels as memorable or epic as Revenge of Shinobi but it does its job well, nevertheless. It was always going to be a hard act to live up to!
Shinobi III is really the best sequel you could ask for. It’s one of the best examples of a action/platform game there is and has enough variety and challenge to keep you coming back for more time and time again. A must buy on the Virtual Console and comes highly recommended.