: The Super Shinobi
(Japan), (The) Revenge of Shinobi
(all other territories)
: Sega Mega Drive
(and see below)
The Revenge of Shinobi is the sequel to Sega's arcade hit, Shinobi. It was part of the first generation of software for the machine, and was developed by Sega's AM7 R&D Division (the core of the team that is now known as Overworks). The same team was also responsible for Streets of Rage and Phantasy Star IV. It was the first of a distinguished line of MD games to be scored by Sega's celebrated composer Yuzo Koshiro (now heading up the development company Ancient), who is credited on the title screen.
The premise of Revenge is broadly similar to that of the original game. In the role of ninja warrior and mystic Joe Musashi, the player must infiltrate a crime organisation (the Neo Zeed), defeating a cadre of powerful ninja bosses and countless henchmen along the way. Unlike the previous game, there are no hostages scattered around for you to rescue. There is an additional twist however: Zeed has kidnapped Joe's girlfriend (in accordance to Union of Video Game Bosses guidelines), and the game has two possible endings depending on whether Joe can save her in time.
And because Joe's such a stealthy ninja, he chooses to undertake the mission in a white and red outfit.
The actual structure of the game (a side-scrolling game with reaction-based combat) has been expanded upon greatly. The levels are much larger and of a greater complexity, with different routes and more realistic settings. Some areas are given the illusion of depth by allowing Joe to jump 'in front of' and 'behind' wire fences. Joe can dispatch his foes using his sword and sweep kicks at close range, or (more often) by throwing shuriken (of which you have a limited supply unless you use the cheat).
The jumping system has also been modified. Holding down the jump button gives you a little extra lift at the peak of your jump, which can be directed to allow you to perform kung-fu movie floating jumps onto rooves and high plaforms. Tapping jump at the right moment while in midair causes Joe to crouch into a ball and tumble through the air (a 'double jump'), affording a little extra reach. When curled up, tapping the fire button fires a spread of shuriken in the direction you are heading. Joe's increased versatility coupled with the more spacious environments allows for the level designs to incorporate lots of tricky jumps and obstacles, breaking away from the constrictive linearity of many of Shinobi's stages.
The final ability at your disposal is, of course, Ninjitsu Magic. Joe can collect ninja magic items found hidden around the levels, and invoke them by pressing the 'A' button. The different forms of magic offer different effects: making you briefly invulnerable, unleashing dragons to attack enemies, increasing your jumping ability, or for those desperate situations, causing you to explode, taking anyone nearby with you. These abilities are similar to the special powers seen in Shinobi, Golden Axe, Alien Storm, Moonwalker and Streets of Rage. This particular game mechanic eventually fell out of favour due to over-familiarity and an obvious lack of interactivity.
Revenge's gameplay is rock hard (in the same league as Mega Man) and requires a large time investment (and a lot of repeating the same sections) to make progress. The bosses don't follow the standard conventions of following set patterns and parading their weaknesses, they continuously and viciously attack you, maybe letting their guard down for a split second here and there. Making progress against such unforgiving odds is satisfying, but the game could still be said to have aged quite badly. As with the first Streets of Rage, later titles raised the bar so much higher that returning playing the older games again is jarring. As with much else in popular culture, you had to be there at the time to appreciate it fully.
Graphically, although things seem very flat and static for the most part, the actual artwork is of a high quality throughout, with level scenery appearing coherent and sharply defined. There are lots of subtle atmospheric touches, such as falling leaves and darkening skies (and lots of other palette manipulation effects). As with other games of this era, the developers are still learning the ropes so there are none of the virtuoso technical effects that would become prevalent at the post-Sonic peak of the system's popularity. The effects that exist are designed to impress an audience only familiar with 8-bit titles until this point (e.g. parallax scrolling, and the photo-based animated intro screen). Some sections have dated very badly indeed, such as a gaudy mess of flat coloured circles intended to represent disco lighting.
One part of the game that has been largely spared the ravages of time is the Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack. Although lacking the multi-layered refinement of his Streets of Rage I and II works, the compositions are enjoyable to listen to and are well matched to the different areas. There is a good deal of variety, from plodding 'action movie' incidental music to upbeat dance themes and the occasional traditional-sounding oriental tune.
The game was followed up in 1993 with Shinobi III (The Super Shinobi II). There was also a Mega Drive port of the arcade pseudo-sequel to Shinobi, Shadow Dancer, in 1990. (See the node Shinobi for a list of all the Shinobi games thus far.) It influenced a number of similar games on the system including Chakan The Forever Man and the two X-Men platformers. Revenge of Shinobi was 'ported' to the Mega CD (i.e. the ROM was transfered from cartridge to disc) along with several other early MD titles as part of a compilation disc bundled with the machine.
In 2002 Sega released (through Infogrames) a game for the Game Boy Advance based on the game's intellectual property license and titled 'The Revenge of Shinobi'. This was an original game and not a port or adaptation of the Sega Mega Drive version. It was developed by the now-defunct Canadian developer 3D6 Games. The game is (and I can safely say this without a hint of subjectivity) vastly inferior to the original Revenge of Shinobi in every way, systematically dispensing with every element of the original game that worked, taking massive liberties with the series' setting and recasting it with crudely rendered, primary-coloured cartoon figures. It falls somewhere between Rise of The Robots and Mortal Kombat in appearance, more specifically right in the middle of 'uncontrollable, ugly mess'. (Most damningly of all, the protagonist is actually called 'Shinobi', suggesting that the developers had failed to research the source material at all- in the other Shinobi games, the protagonist is Joe Musashi; to use 'Shinobi' as a proper name makes no sense...)