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Old 08-30-2013, 06:51 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Pirated Games Part 10: Super Shinobi (NES / Famicom)

The Eric Corp Gamer's Retro Uprising Exclusive Review 40

Pirated Games Part 10: Super Shinobi (NES / Famicom)




I'm going to put the Namco Museum PSX reviews on hold until later (when I feel like finishing) so, I could dig deeper into the unlicensed territory, especially on the pirated side of things. We have previously seen pirated stuff on popular games and franchises like Mario, Sonic, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter II, Contra, and Donkey Kong Country. This time is another one of Sega's franchises: Shinobi.

More specifically, Super Shinobi (also known as Super Ninja 2 on some carts) for the NES / Famicom, developed by a company known as SUPER GAME in the mid-late 90s (post-1993). Despite the name, it is actually a port of Shinobi III / Super Shinobi II, the sequel to the Revenge of Shinobi / Super Shinobi.

As for what I think of Shinobi III, I find it a really enjoyable game that adds more variety in your moveset, the level design, and enemies, while ironing out some of the issues with the previous games, and keeping the precise controls and fun gameplay the same. While I still admit that Revenge of Shinobi is my personal favorite of the series (mainly due to charm and nostalgic reasons), I will not argue that this is the best of the three MD / Genesis Shinobi games
(eventually, I will review this in more detail).

Now, how does this 8-bit port hold up? Let's find out!

Graphics: D+
The sprites for Joe, shurikens (actually kunais), most of the enemies, and the bosses have good detail and are decently animated. However, there are some issues with some enemies and the . For example, some of the enemies aren't even animated at all. Also, the entire horse riding level has really choppy animation on the enemies and mini-boss (makes this level harder (in a bad way) than it actually is), and every sprite in the game (as well as the HUD) have only one shade of color or aren't even colored at all. As for the backgrounds, they are more of a mixed bag with some actually don't look too bad and are quite presentable, but some others are either bland with lack of much detail, terrible choice of colors, and/or no background at all. The graphics of the game are mediocre at best featuring some acceptable detail and animation in the sprites and some neat-looking backdrops (for a pirated game) in certain levels, but its other flaws with uneven quality in its scenery, color scheme, and animation in some parts really makes this have a cheap look to it. What a shame, because it seems they actually tried to make it look somewhat presentable, but the typical-ness (if that's even a word) of pirates not caring prevents this from happening.





Gameplay: F-
Being a 8-bit port of Shinobi III, the gameplay is fairly similar to that game, but nowhere near as polished or enjoyable as the aforementioned game. Like in that game, you take control of Joe Musashi on his way to destroy (part of, you'll see what I mean) Neo Zeed again. Like the source material, it is a side scroller where you take down any enemies and bosses that come your way with your ninja skills by throwing limited shurikens (according to the game series, but they are actually kunais), swinging your sword, and using your ninjitsu magic. This may sound like a winner, but poor programming and the transition to weaker hardware really shows here. There are some notable omissions from the original game like some of Joe's moves that includes the shuriken rainbow throw (throw 8 shurikens at once while double jumping), the air kick (he kicks diagonally down while in the air), and the running sword strike (swings his sword when he's running). You know, the cool moves that made the game more interesting and fun to play around with, but nope. Also, one of the ninjitsu: Fushin (the one that makes you jump much higher) was removed. The worst of the omissions being that only four of the seven levels (Rounds 1, 2, 3, and 7) are in the game with parts of the levels are from other rounds too like the burning forest section in Round 5. Strangely with that being said, only the bosses from Rounds 1, 2, 3, and 5 are there, which means the final boss of the game: The Shadow Master isn't even in this pirated port, making this whole journey not worth the effort and even more pointless. Seriously, what were they thinking? Let's not include the main bad guy who is the reason for this game happening. For this reasons, there is no ending as it simply resets to the logo and title screen. The omissions are ridiculous enough, but the gameplay is even worse. First of all, I find that the game is artifically difficult, which is due to poor game design and not actual fair challenge. First of all, Joe moves way too quick when he's walking and runs like he's Sonic the Hedgehog, and that includes when you're ducking. This gives you no time to react when you come across a projectile or an enemy, unless you are slowly moving forward. It doesn't help that the level design, items, enemy placements, and other miscallenous things leave a lot to be desired. Many of the level designs from Shinobi III had to be changed to be more linear by fitting it in the entire screen without the need of vertical scrolling, which made the game just going through the motions without any interesting ideas or any sort of excitement that would want you to keep going. The items are the same as S3 (POW, 5 or 20 shurikens, Partial or full health recovery, 1UP, and extra ninjitsu), but they appear much less often than normal and even then, you'll rarely get shurikens or health, but it strangely gives you a lot of ninjitsu though you will need it... and the small health powerup isn't very helpful, as it only refills one square instead of four like in S3. Also, another annoyance with these items is that instead of simply walking over the item to receive it, you have to stand for at least a second on a powerup to allow the game to give you the item. The enemy placements are so bad in this game that you'll end up being hit by an enemy or a projectile if you are not careful with your movements as mentioned above. As for enemies, most enemies take way too much hits than normal (especially in the later levels), as your normal weapons are very underpowered without POW. The sword is weak enough, but your shurikens are so useless that it's the equivalent of hitting someone with a plastic fork. In S3, most enemies die in one to three hits, but in this, your sword takes out enemies at least three to fifteen hits, and your shurikens literally take about 30 to 100 to take out an enemy. You might as well just simply slash at anything you see. Even the ninjitsu isn't very helpful either as the Kariu and Mijin magic is so underpowered here that it isn't even worth using, making Ikazuchi the only one you'll be using often (note that the effect is different being you are invulnerable for about 10 to 15 seconds (similar to the one from the Revenge of Shinobi prototype) instead of being protected from four hits). This is really offset with horrendous collision detection (equal to (if not worse than) Sonic Jam 6). Sometimes, I get hit when I'm not even close to an enemy and when I am close to an opponent, I am not taking damage, and this also applies when I am attacking as the game likes to pick and choose when the enemy or boss is getting hurt or not. This really takes a turn for the worst in boss battles when I am clearly dodging the boss' projectiles and I still get hit when I am like at least 3 feet above it. To add on that, the game has an issue with scrolling sometimes. When the game stops scrolling with an enemy encounter, you'll have to defeat the foe to move on. However, the game doesn't always keep you in the middle while it scrolls which you have to be forced to walk in the middle or otherwise the game will still scroll while at the edge of the screen, making you vulnerable to anything if you're not careful. Finally, there are no continues, so once you lose your lives, it's back to the beginning of the game. The only mercy that the game gives you is that during a boss battle, you can continue where you left off there. Anywhere else, you are back to the beginning of the level. The game only barely resembles the game its based out of, but the lousy execution makes for a painful unenjoyable experience that's isn't worth going through once.


Sound: C-
Compared to most pirated games I reviewed, it doesn't sound too bad, but it isn't that great either. The soundtrack consists of 8-bit versions of about four of the music tracks of Shinobi III and some original music, which manages to sound a little catchy and capture a bit of how each of the music is supposed to sound given the more limited hardware, but it's tempo for most of the music is a bit faster than normal and it is still not good enough to constantly hear it since the music loops a lot more since it much shorter in length and it has a tendency to repeat the same music over and over again a lot more than usual. The sound effects are quite the opposite, either contain sounds ripped from Contra and Super C and typical 8-bit sound effects, though the shuriken being thrown sound more like a laser blast than a throwing weapon. Also, in one of the music tracks (I can't put my finger on the name), the sound just disappears completely. But still, I got to give them credit for at least making one of the better sounding pirated games, though it wouldn't be something you find memorable and/or having a lasting impression on you.


Controls: D-

Controls of the game:

Gameplay:
Press B = Throw shuriken or swing your sword
Hold B = After using shuriken or sword, block projectiles with your sword standing or ducking
Press / Hold A = Jump
Press A (while in air) = Double jump

Hold LEFT / RIGHT = Moves Joe in that direction
Hold DOWN = Ducking
Press LEFT / RIGHT (while standing) twice quickly = Run

Press START = Pause
Press SELECT = Activates ninjitsu (whichever one you chose)

When paused:
Press START = Un-pause
Press B / A = Change chosen ninjitsu (Ikazuchi, Kariu (except in the horse riding level), and Mijin)

Now with most Shinobi games, the thing that's complements the great gameplay and offsets the difficult nature of the series is the amazing control the games gives you to your ninja character. You may think by the controls above that it may seem that it controls well, but it really doesn't. Other than walking, blocking things with your sword, and executing the double jump is a lot easier than in Revenge or S3, everything else is a mess. First of all, the game can't seem to distinguish between when I am close or not, as it randomly switches between shooting shurikens or swinging the sword when you are pushing the B button quickly. Unless you push the B button (slower than you normally would) or you are really up close to an enemy, then it will know what weapon to use. To add to that, trying to run in this game is annoying (not that you want to), as you can press LEFT, then RIGHT (and vice-versa) quickly to run, instead of simply pushing the same direction twice, and even then, it likes to refuse doing the running action. To make it worse, you can't determine how high you jump like in the official games, which makes it hard to time dodging projectiles and hitting enemies at a slightly higher elevation than you. And finally, the idea of switching ninjitsu with the buttons and not the D-pad is pretty dumb idea. Speaking of ninjitsu, make sure you don't constantly press SELECT as you'll be using all your magic if you do, instead of the game knowing that you have no magic power. Because of these huge drawbacks, the poorly programmed control scheme really affects the experience (the little there is) and only artifically adds to the difficulty in a bad way.

Replay Value: F
Unless you are really bored out of your mind, you shouldn't play at all. There really is nothing here that makes it worth the experience.

Overall: D-

Super Shinobi for the NES / Famicom is a really lackluster effort in making a 8-bit version of Shinobi III and is no way a SUPER GAME (heh). While it has some admirable effort with some decent visuals and an okay soundtrack, the positives have been mostly marred by the terrible gameplay and controls. Once again, a great idea of a 8-bit Shinobi game has been foiled by the work of pirates for the sake of money. If you really wanted to play a Shinobi game for the NES, stick with the Tengen port of the 1987 arcade original instead, since it is actually trying given the hardware and you can at least have some mild entertainment from that (though really, stick with the arcade, TG-16, SMS versions etc. instead). Should this 8-bit Shinobi III port fail before even trying to finish the game, it will disappear from obscurity before you know it and vanish forever. Keep this away from your heart and mind.


Thanks to:
The NES Dump, The Lunatic Obscurity, YouTube (M0rtanius,D MAS,djkranoll) for pictures and videos

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