Shinobi wasn’t one of the first games released for the Sega Master System but it surely is one of the more recognizable franchises to originate from the console. Released in 1988, Shinobi is a port of one of Sega’s arcade titles, which made up a decent chunk of available games for the SMS in the first couple years of it’s existence. Sega needed to rely on the strength of their own arcade ports in order to compete with the NES and Shinobi was part of that plan. Shinobi would precede Nintendo’s Ninja Gaiden by a few months in the battle for 2D ninja platforming supremacy and would go on to find minor success on the NES and then further with sequels on the Genesis.
The gameplay itself is basic 8-bit action platformer 101. You play the game as master ninja Joe Musashi, who’s mission is to stop the terrorist organization the Ring of Five. They have kidnapped children of the world’s leaders and you must rescue them while using stealth techniques learned over the course of your entire life. You have weapons such as throwing stars aka shuriken, swords, nunchucks and other long distance weapons such as bombs, knives and guns. You also have your fists and legs to deliver lethal blows, if necessary. Each larger level has sublevels you must complete before meeting up with one of five bosses in the game. Between certain levels, depending on the success you have with rescuing the kidnapped children, you are provided an opportunity via a bonus level, to achieve additional magic skills. Hopefully you’ll be better at these than I am. I can only achieve the requirement to earn the magic spell a tiny fraction of the overall times I attempt these bonus rounds. Luckily, these magic skills are not mandatory for completing the game, but certainly may make passages in the game easier to complete.
For me, Shinobi is a quintessential 8-bit action platformer. The graphics are good and the controls are easy to master. Your ninja character can jump up and down different levels on the screen by first pressing the direction on the controller then the jump button. Which is a bit different than typically pressing up and jump simulatenously as found in other platformers of the time. This was the first hurdle I had to overcome in the controls department as it was not something I was familiar with or ever had to do on a platformer before. Once I got the hang of that, I found Shinobi to be a top notch title for the Sega Master System that has a near perfect balance between challenge and fun. I just wish there was a continue option!
Currently in my collection: game, manual, case