At first glance, Sega’s new Shinobi doesn’t resemble the games of its namesake. It looks like all the other 3D ninja games of late, be it Tenchu or the upcoming Ninja Gaiden. But there’s something different about this Shinobi, something that sets it apart. Not only is it faithful to its action roots, but also manages to remain fun, even if it is marred by a number of problems.
Shinobi has always been about pure action, and in many ways this new updated version takes over right where the others left off. Instead of worrying about sneaking around, and generally being stealthy, this Shinobi is more about kicking butt and taking names.
This is not one of those games where you earn a lot of extra power-ups, collect different items, and master new skills. In fact, this is the opposite of that. Hotsuma, the hero in this Shinobi outing, has all of the moves, skills, and items he needs from the very beginning.
No action game would be complete without the impressive arsenal of attacks. While Hotsuma’s list of unique moves isn’t very long, all of them are extremely useful, and not in just one or two circumstances, but throughout the game. Hotsuma can, for example, run horizontally on the walls with the greatest of ease, this enables you to shoot shurikens down at your enemy, or even just get away.
The shurikens themselves play an important role in this game, as they stun an enemy for a few moments. This will allow you to get the upper hand in a close battle, and even allow you to escape, if you are in a pinch.
Hotsuma is also able to dash (or side step) extremely fast. So fast, in fact, that it is invisible to the human eye. All you are able to see is a flash of light move from where you started to where you end up; it also leaves the outline of your body to confuse the enemies. This dash is by far the most useful tool in the entire game, and can be used on land or while you are jumping.
True to its roots, this new Shinobi offers a few different forms of ninjustsu (ninja magic) that can be used to get you out of a jam. Though you are limited to only three different forms of magic, each is useful in its own way. The Ka’en magic, for example, looks like you dropped napalm right in the middle of the screen, effectively ridding your surroundings of enemies. There is a defensive magic, Raijin, which tosses a shield around for a short amount of time. The final magic, Kamaitachi, is a long distance magic that uses your sword to thrust waves at whatever is blocking your path.
New to Shinobi is the addition of a cursed sword, Akujiki. This sword desires to eat the souls of the fallen, leading you to look around for enemies to kill just to feed its ferocious appetite. If the sword goes too long between feedings, it’ll start consuming your soul, which I don’t think I need to remind you, is not a good thing. This element may not be very original (didn’t I see this in Onimusha?), but it manages to keeps the pace up, and certainly gives you the feeling that there is no time to rest.
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