Virgin Mastertronic/Binary Designs
£9.99 cass, £14.99 disk
Ninjas again?! Yep, but this time it's Ninja Magic! And you're a young Ninja type called Joe Musashi who's invited back to his Ninja school as special guest at the annual graduation ceremony.
Having bored everyone stiff with your speech, you are just about to hand out the prizes when in a puff of smoke Bwah Foo appears!
Who? Well, like yourself he's an illustrious graduate of the Ninja school, but has turned to the Dark Ways. And before you know it, Bwah zapps you with a holding magic spell! He then makes off with all the young graduates to hold for ransom. The ultimatum is simple: pay up all the dosh in the school, or it's curtains for the kids!
When the magic wears off you know it's your duty to save them.
Strapping on your sharp sword and picking up a plentiful supply of shiriken stars, you trail Bwah to his lair. Five mission, each split into three or four stages stand between you and the final confrontation with Bwah. The danger element is provided by hordes of his henchmen, some armed with shiriken, some with swords, and the occasional gunslinger.
As you battle through each section, you find children sitting on the ground: walk up to them, and your Ninja Magic will transport them back to their parents. Virtue is well rewarded with bonus weapons for rescued kids. Weapons are limited, so don't run out of them at the wrong time.
You do have your Ninja Magic, one blast per level, which like a smart bomb knocks out all adversaries on screen, but it is best saved for end of level big fatties. They're tough, and even the magic blast does not kill them outright. But it helps.
Bonus screens appear at the end of completed levels, with your hands in the foreground. Lob sharp shiriken stars at evil Ninjas for extra points as they zip 'shooting gallery'style across the screen.
The main sprite didn't impress me a great deal, he looks and moves more like a lame Bruce Lee than a dashing Ninja. But ignoring the slightly ludicrous hero the game is really rather good, with an oriental soundtrack that plays throughout and plenty of henchmen to beat up. Shinobi, like most other oriental kick-'em-in's is instantly playable and you can bet your last yen it will take a fair time for you to rescue the kiddies and avert disaster.
Where have you heard this before...'Enjoy frantic oriental action in this Ninja beat-em-up'. Well, there are quite a few games I could mention that start like that. So much for originality. Shinobi is a conversion of an arcade machine, and as I've never heard of it before I can't say how good a conversion it is. Loading up the game doesn't impress too much to begin with. Whatever happened to those brilliant full colour loading screens that built up in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways? Shinobi just has a variously shaded cyan screen, yeuk! But what about the game? Basically, It's Double Dragon with a few extra obstacles stuck on the ground to jump over. You have to be really careful and go slow, otherwise you wouldn't stand a chance. Shinobi is highly unoriginal, but if you're into beat 'em ups you may find something to keep you occupied here.
£9.99 tape/£14.99 disk
Reviewer: Jonathan Davies
There was a time when the copywriters who did the bumf for games were humorless people with bland expressions and similarly bland writing styles. Now we have to cope with quips such as "Foo, what a scorcher", "Goody Two-Shurikens" and other similar abominations. There's even one long word in here with Shinobi that I don't actually know - ignominiously. Luckily though, as long as you memorise and then dispose of the instructions, this isn't a bad conversion of the Sega original at all.
On the surface, Shinobi is a remarkably run-of-the mill scrolling beat- em-up in that it scrolls and you can beat people up. It also contains the usual abundance of add-on weapons, variably armed opponents and what have you. The twist this time is that you have to rescue a group of trainee ninjas who have been captured by the evil Bwah Foo (no, really!) and distributed evenly across five levels each split into three or four stages. This is done by walking into each of them in turn, whereupon they are beamed back to Mummy and Daddy". Hmm.
And as such games go, Shinobi is pretty darned reasonable. There's not much in the way of kicks and punches to be had, so instead you get to throw shurikens at people. In return you'll find yourself on the receiving end of boomerangs and peashooters, both of which can be avoided by simply keeping your head down.
The probs (there had to be some) start with the graphics. Although the backgrounds have been carefully designed, with rapid scrolling and a liberal splashing of colour, the sprites look very odd indeed. Everyone seems to have a crippling back complaint which causes them to take on a permanent forward stoop, and when a lot of them are all hobbling round together the resulting mess makes it extremely hard to tell what s going on. The animation is the real let-down however. Two frames per sprite if you're lucky, and none of the leg movements seem to fit in with the rate the characters are moving at. Much hilarity can ensue when Joe Musashi (your bloke) ducks to avoid a missile and then continues to scuttle about in a squatting position.
All the same, some people don't mind that kind of thing and as long as you don't examine it too closely Shinobi could prove quite a worthy investment. I still have my reservations not only with the graphics, but the way they keep churning out these flippin' identical games and then expect me to write a radically different and entertaining review of each one. Sheesh, it's just not on.
Most of JON PILLAR's friends are old speccy games. No one else really understands him...
Reviewer: Jon Pillar
Surprisingly good horizontally-scrolling beat-'em-up, that, again, popped up in Fists Of Fury. There are five levels chock-a-block with villains and the bashy-slashy gameplay is given a twist by your being able to jump offscreen to a different area. Very playable in a short-termish sort of way.
Author: Sales Curve
Shinobi is like a cross between Super Mario Bros and Human Killing Machine. It's colourful to look at and full of exploration but at heart, it's a combat game.
Your mission is to rescue an apparently infinite number of babies from the clutches of the evil ninjas. Actually, the "babies" are members of the junior ninja class at your old martial arts academy. They've been swiped by head meanie Foo (?) and if Foo doesn't get a big payoff, he promises that his henchmen will bump off the kids.
Of course, it's up to you to make Foo eat his words. And what a joy it would be to watch that - here it comes - Foo man chew.
So. What we have is a fighting/grabbing situation. The junior ninjas sit trussed up on the floor like so many Christmas turkeys while their murderous guardians fling deadly boomerangs at you. A right old to-do.
Of course, you have at your disposal the fantastic qualities handed down over the years. It has to be said, your fantastic qualities seem to have been a little bit jaded actually, as you can only punch and throw your limitless supply of shiruken. You are also endowed with ultra-fab Ninja Magic which, once per level, will wipe out everything on the screen in a flash of energy.
Although the graphics are colourful, they're not especially fantastic. The detail it a bit iffy. Thankfully, despite the simplicity of the movements available, the gameplay has been tuned very successfully. There is a definite learning curve in the game, and the easy start rapidly becomes a tough middle and a virtually impossible end.
Each level has tough stages and areas where you can get your breath back after a heavy bout of combat. The action takes place on a number of platforms too. By employing a "super jump" option, you can bounce yourself onto a second level in order to snatch more kids.
Taking out the bad guys can be a tricky business. Individually, they don't present much of a problem. Usually a good shiruken to the pelvic region will sort them out. Once they're coming from both angles, though, you'll appreciate the benefits of a decent joystick. You can occasionally jump your way out of trouble, but you're more likely to come a cropper than successfully escape.
The further into the battle you get, the harder time you have of things. Personally, I couldn't get to grips with the horrid floating enemy ninjas.
Shinobi, it has to be said, doesn't really offer anything new to anyone who has more than two kicky-fighty games in their collection already. If you're a fan of the coin-op or you're a loony psychopath into anything shiny and with points on, then this is the game for you.
A corker, but a tried and tested formula.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
MARTIAL ARTS MAYHEM
The adventures of Joe Mushashi - hero of this game - earnt 82% and TGM's second ever Star Player in issue 14. That was for the 8-bit Sega console: for computer owners awaiting Virgin's conversion, here's a rundown of the gameplay.
Joe has to find and eliminate all leaders of terrorist group the Ring of Five and rescue the hostages, children of world leaders. Five multi-part stages have to be run through and Ring of Five henchmen fought off with throwing stars and kicks. The impish hostages are found throughout the levels and kicking them high into the air gains extra points or weapons/powers. The bonus stage is a first person view of stalking ninja: hitting them all with a star bestows ninja magic to Joe.
The Sega version was polished and quite addictive, hence its Star Player accolade. The computer versions, though not graphically dreadful, have dubious scrolling, control response and character movement, seriously dampening playability. Computer Shinobi is an average scrolling beat-'em-up with limited interest which could have been so much more if the programmers had focused on gameplay.
If you're one of those who enjoys indulging in a bit of coin-op violence every now and again, you'll be pleased to hear that Virgin/Mastertronic have just put the finishing touches to their conversions of Sega's Shinobi, a game of ninjas, kung-fu, throwing stars and poking baddies with sharp and pointy ninja sticks.
The reason for all this action is because the local arch baddie has kidnapped ail the children, and is currently holding them hostage. Being a particularly wicked and scheming hoodlum, he's distributed them all over his side of town, forcing any potential hero to travel through all five levels of his horizontally scrolling patch before he can rescue them all.
And of course there is a hero - you, Shinobi, black-garbed ninja person, who comes complete with a repertoire of kung-fu moves, an unlimited supply of shuriken bunging stars and a limited supply of ninja magic - a sort of super ninja smart bomb thingie for use in emergencies only.
The chief baddie might be a wicked and scheming hood, but he's also yeller-livered, and has in his employment a whole army of henchmen ready to do battle with any potential good-guy. So pop on your best ninja espadrilles and prepare to partake in some serious chopsocky.
Within seconds of Shinobi starting his mission of mercy, the baddies attack with guns, swords and even kung-fu kicks and punches. A well-aimed lob of a spinning shuriken is enough to take out most enemy types, but some are tougher and require more than a couple of accurate hits before they expire.
As Shinobi walks further into enemy territory, he encounters an upper walkway which he can jump onto to avoid marauding villains - although sometimes they attack on the higher level too! Nippers in bondage (oo-er) are found scattered around the landscape, and these are rescued by simply walking over them. When, and only when Shinobi has rescued them all can he walk to the end of the level and duff over the guardian who stands over the exit. There's one of these at the end of every level, and each must be destroyed before Shinobi can continue.
As well as kiddies there are other useful items lying around which can be picked up by Shinobi and used to his advantage. These include swords, extra ninja magic bombs, extra lives and super shuriken stars (brilliant for chucking at the tougher baddies).
Entrances to the bonus screen are also located at points around the landscape - touch these and Shinobi gets the chance to earn himself some bonus lives.
The screen is presented in first-person 3D, and the idea is to kill advancing ninja baddies by sticking them with shurikens before they come close enough to do damage to Shinobi. The enemy come thick and fast, but Shinobi is capable of dishing stars out at an awesome rate - kill all the evil ninjas and an extra life is awarded.
At the end of the last level is the evil one himself - and Shinobi fights him to the death. Defeat him and Shinobi can go home to a hero's welcome, youngsters in tow. Fail, and you and the children are history.
The best version of Shinobi is the C64. Excellent graphics, fast action, good tunes and faithful arcade gameplay make for an exciting and thrilling action game that's easily the best of its type.
The ST is a bit of a disappointment. The gameplay and tunes are true to the arcade game, but the graphics are terrible and the scrolling is juddery. Still, it's the playability that counts, and while Shinobi fans are fully justified to moan about the graphics, they won't complain about the action.
Amstrad and Spectrum versions are great fun, the former is colourful and slightly jerky, and the latter is smoother but less colourful, but both have plenty to satisfy fans of the arcade machine.
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