Name: Shinobi III - Return of the Ninja Master aka The Super Shinobi II
Format: Sega Genesis / Sega Mega Drive
<Army Agent has asked the Martial Arts expert if he will infiltrate General Klan's base and rescue the kidnapped nuclear scientist. He has promised a large payment.>
Martial Arts Expert: I'm afraid you underestimate me, general. I owe my allegance to a <looks upwards> higher source.
<Martial Arts Expert proceeds to look thoroughly uninterested in the Agent>
Government Agent: But you'll get to kill 50, maybe 60 men.
<Martial Arts expert is suddenly all for the idea...>
From A Fistful of Yen, part of The Kentucky Fried Movie.
After the success of one of the classic Genesis platformers, Revenge of Shinobi, the distinctly lacklustre Cyber Shinobi, and two admirable, if basic, Game Gear ports (The GG Shinobi and it's sequel), the Shinobi series had become something of a dead-cert for Sega's sales. And since of the home conversions so far, Revenge of Shinobi was by far the best, they naturally decided to develop a sequel to it. This is that sequel, and it surpasses all possible expectations...
Once again, the game is a 2D scrolling platformer, in which the player controls Joe Musashi, the enigmatic Ninja Master of the title. The player must use Joe to fight their way through 7 rounds full of traps, enemies, and bosses who are naturally all after our Joe's blood. The game contains all the moves available in the Revenge of Shinobi, plus a few more added for good measure. The new moves allow for very graceful movement through the levels, whether using the Samus Aran-in-Super Metroid style wall jump, swinging from the ceiling, or double jumping around the place.
As with previous games, there are also numerous ways to dispatch the large amounts of enemies Joe will encounter on his journey. Joe begins with a limited number of shurikens aka throwing stars, which will kill most of the weaker enemies with one hit. If he is close to his enemy, he can slash them either with his sword or a shuriken, or if he is crouched he will kick them. In the air, another set of moves become available to Joe. While he can fire shurikens forward as normal, if the player presses the attack button while Joe is mid way through his spin jump (activated by pressing the jump button again at the peak of the jump), then Joe can fire a hail of shurikens, obliterating any enemies below him. This is probably one of the most useful moves in the game, but because of the amount of shurikens it uses, it should be used sparingly.
Other moves which Joe can call on if he sees the need include a running sword slash which can be used while dashing, and a mid air kick activated by pressing down and attack while in the air. This is probably the other really good move in the game, because it can kill enemies without using up shurikens (although it has to be said, it is possible to build up hundreds and hundreds of shurikens if the player has enough skill to avoid dying for a long time.
The enemies Joe faces are similar to those pioneered in the original Shinobi game - stationary ones who simply sit there and shoot occasionally mixed with ones who actively seek the player out. This mix makes for an interesting challenge (although not quite as risk as past versions in the series; Joe has a pretty forgiving health bar, so unlike the original arcade game, death is quite rare) even if there are a whole heap of enemies set up, with mounted machine guns, and a bunch flying around, it is never much more than a formality to simply kill everyone on the screen.
In addition to the normal martial arts attacks, Joe can also call upon his Ninjujitsu powers. These special attacks can usually only be used once per life, unless you can manage to find a Ninjujitsu pick up. These, however, are very rare. The Ninjujitsus (which can be selected through on the Pause screen) are:
- Jitsu of Ikazuchi: a bolt of lightning surrounds Joe and makes him invincible for a few hits worth of damage. It wears off quite fast though.
- Jitsu of Kariu: A dragon appears to kill all weaker enemies on the screen and harm any stronger ones, such as bosses.
- Jitsu of Fushin: Joe gains the ability to jump much, much higher than he previously could. Very useful in some areas of the game.
- Jitsu of Mijin: In this attack, Joe effectively commits suicide by exploding his body to damage enemies on the screen. He then reforms with another use of magic and a full life bar - but with one less life...
The plot concerns the recurring Neo Zeed organisation, which Joe has spent his entire video games career fighting. Although it was thought that they were destroyed, Joe hears rumours of the organisation reforming in the darkness, and sets out to destroy them again before any more harm can come to the world.
There are 7 levels in the game, each split into a number of distinct areas. Most areas will have a small miniboss at the end, followed by a pretty tricky boss at the end of each round. The levels always begin with a sequence of Joe standing on a rocky outcrop, looking out over a forest. The camera then pans across to a little icon of the level, the name of which is displayed at the top of the screen. The levels are as follows:
Level 1: Zeed Resurrection. This easy first level starts in a forest populated by easily killed enemies, although the ones hiding in trees can occasionally be tricky to spot. Getting through the forest leads to a cave, in which resides a boss very similar to the first boss in Revenge of Shinobi. However, this one is much easier to kill, as he only takes one shuriken to die. He is followed by many more identical enemies, and since they fire out a powerful bolt of energy along the floor, they must be treated with caution. At the end of the cave is a mid boss for the round, who is like the previous "tough" samurai, but takes a few more hits. Defeat him to get to the second part of this level, set in a watery cavern. This level contains a lot of spikes, which must be treated with extreme caution. Also, the first real opportunity to use one of the game's best moves, that of climbing hand over hand along ceilings and ropes, presents itself here. Get through this relatively simple section, to face the final boss of Level 1: The Samurai Master. He only lets his guard down for a split second every so often, but with practice it becomes easy to predict, and so this battle is simplicity itself.
Level 2: Secret Entry. The start of this level is the first vehicle based section of the game, although to be honest it cannot really be called a vehicle; Joe begins riding a horse into the enemy base. In the distance, you see some kind of kites floating, and then groups of distant enemies jump out and run off the front of the screen. They appear shortly in front of Joe, and proceed to try to attack him or the horse. This level is more difficult compared to the first level, but luckily controlling the horse is an equal mix of fun and challenge. After a short time of Ninja killing, you meet the boss of this area - the shadow Ninja from District 2 of Revenge of Shinobi. He runs and jumps the length of the screen, throwing down spears which can either hurt you on the way down, or when the horse runs into them on the ground. Once he is beaten, you progress into the next area, which sees you ditching the horse. The next area sees you in a location that will become very familiar; that is, a base loaded with enemies to kill. There is little of note in this level, except some fixed machine gunners. The next area is far more interesting, it is that old stalwart of many a 16-bit platformer - the elevator ride! This involves dealing with gunner enemies which crawl in vent shafts both to the left and right of the elevator. It's not too tricky, but it sure is fun.... At the top of the elevator, you meet the boss for this round. Essentially, the boss is a heap of junk, although it goes under the name of a "security robot". Aside from when it puts up it's flashy shield which pushes shuriken away with a cool effect, you can pretty much just fire constantly at this boss, while dodging his simple attacks. mfk notes that this boss can reverse your controls, so watch out for that. Once you have defeated him, this Level is complete...
Level 3: Body Weapon. This level is set in a genetic research laboratory run by Neo Zeed. It appears that they are doing some dodgy cloning and trying to create super soldiers, but that doesn't matter - the only thing that matters is that Joe has to kill some more bad guys! This level features some very pretty brains on legs for enemies, which are surprisingly agile and tough to take down. The level is also full of a very pleasant green slime which thoroughly messes up Joe's day if he lands in it. Time to use the ceiling climb move methinks.. At the end of the standard platform antics, another old favourite appears - conveyor belts! And naturally, this all takes place over a big slime pit. Great fun. The mid boss of this level is a little different from normal - it is a number of cylinders containing brains on legs which keep falling down into the screen. Hold the enemies off for long enough and the area will end, taking you to a nasty sludge filled waste area. This should be navigated with extreme caution, because not only does Joe sink if he is left for too long, he is also targeted by a monstrous creature in the background of the level. So long as you stay away from the slowly moving crosshair that flies around, you should be alright. At the end of the sludge section (which luckily only has a few relatively simple enemies) you face the boss of the level, which is, predictably enough, that massive beast which has been trying for ages to shoot you from the background. He only has a very small weak spot to attack, but it's quite easy to hit. The only thing you need to watch out for is whenever you hit him he will send up a massive hand to swipe at you - but a well timed jump can easily avoid this.
Level 4: Destruction. This level starts with the second "vehicle" level in the game - Ninja surfing. Joe is on a sort of wakeboard type device, except with no visible boat or otherwise pulling him. Presumably there are supposed to be engines of some sort in the board. Anyway, this level is set over water, and is an excellent set piece, with enemies on jetbikes great fun to kill. Alert signs will appear on screen before an obstacle, but all the obstacles are in this case is ship wrecks, which can be used as kicker ramps for some insanely high jumps, usually to pick up a load of power up icons. At the end of the area you will meet the mid boss, a Gundam Wing style flying robot, equipped with a massive gun (natch). Assuming you can avoid his immense firepower, he can be pretty easy to beat. The next area of the level is in an oil refinery, which features quite a lot of clambering around on pipes. The sublime control system of the game is really shown off here, and getting around the pipes in any direction becomes second nature. At the end of the pipes section, assuming you survive all the bursts of steam determined to knock you off, you face another Gundam Wing robot. This one is much, much harder to kill, so be prepared for a long battle.
Level 5: Electric Demon. This level begins in the pleasing background of a burning forest, with a load of large oil silos around the level. Many of these are safe to walk across, but just as many blow up when you step on them, so be wary. Luckily, you can jump across them with the double jump quite easily if you're not sure as to the safety... The level is full of enemies with fied heavy machine gun placements, who are incredibly satisfying to use the mid air kick attack on. When you get to the end of this area, you will face a third Gundam Wing style robot for the mid boss. Luckily, this one isn't very good at blocking your shots, and so can be taken down with few problems. The next area for this level is very interesting - it consists of a number of platforms which block your way. These platforms can only be got rid of using bombs. Bombs normally appear in pick up crates every so often, and are extremely annoying - if you are standing near them when they are revealed them can explode very quickly. However, in this level it is necessary to reveal all the bombs so that they can be detonated to get rid of any platforms which are in the way. This level can be quite tricky to get through, as many time you come to a dead end and have to back track to find the relevant bomb which must be exploded. The next mini area is quite simple, and only contains a few easy to kill enemies. However, skilled players should be able to use double jumps and wall jumps to access a heap of hidden power up caches. The last two mini areas are similar to the first one with explodable platforms, except this time elevators are incorporated as well. Fun, and an excellent challenge for all. The final boss of this level is a massive Mecha Godzilla, who is similar to the District 7 boss in Revenge of Shinobi. First the player must destroy the monstrous dinosaur's head, and then take out the rest of his body.
Level 6: Traps. Traps is the name, and traps is the content of this damn tricky level. Joe starts off on a treacherous ride down a ravine, falling to the bottom. Luckily, there are a load of rocks also falling with him at the same time. Some are falling at different speeds to others, but you need to jump between them to avoid falling off the bottom of the screen. This is a tricky level, especially with the flying bat type enemies who circle round firing shurikens at Joe. If you manage to avoid falling off, and keep climbing up the rocks, eventually you get to the miniboss. He is a sort of bird man, who spends half the time in a "flying circle of feathers" form, which is impossible to damage. When he does form into a proper shape, though, be sure to give him a good killing, it's not too hard. The next area of the level is possibly the trickiest level in the game. It is a maze area, returning from Revenge of Shinobi, but made even more complex. This really is very tricky to complete, partially because of the feats of wall / double jumping required are so complex, and partially because even knowing where to go is damn tricky. Although the exit to a room may usually be obvious, that exit will take you round in circles. Usually, doing a load of double jumping will get you to another, but that will also take you round in circles. Some serious skills are necessary to find the real exit from the level, at which point you meet the level boss, the Kabuki Warrior. The boss arena is a room with 6 doors in two rows of 3. The boss, and an identical looking clone, will come out of the doors simultaneously. Only the real boss can be harmed, but unfairly enough, they can both harm you. Trial and error is the only way to work out which the real guy is, but since it change every time, and you only have a second or so to attack, your best bet is just aiming for both the bosses all the time, and you should cause enough damage to kill the real one eventually.
Level 7: The Final Confrontation. As the suitably malevolent title should tell you, this is the final level. It begins outside a massive flying airship, with Joe needing to climb along random bits of pipe sticking out the bottom to get to a door. The only real hazards on this level are the rocket booster engines, which will easily kill you and make you fall to your death. Once Joe gets inside the ship, things become a bit more complicated - after another short elevator ride, Joe arrives on the top of the ship. Huge pieces of artillery abound, and unfortunately, they are often pointing at exactly where Joe is coming from. Good jumping skills are the order of the day here, although if all else fails, you can use the block ability to block the huge bullets. Not sure about the plausability of that (the bullets, if lying on the floor, would come up to Musashi's waist) though... Once Joe gets through this relatively simple area, the final, and naturally, the hardest part of the game appears. There follows an absolutely huge area, which has no enemies at all, except for the appeal of bottomless pits and the new hazard of electrified areas. This really is an incredibly hard section to get through, I can only hope you have a lot of lives at this point. You'll need the. When you get to the elevator / electricity section, the only advice I have is to pray. One point, though; if you are tempted to use the Jitsu of Fushin, to jump a lot higher, well, beware, because having a Ninjujitsu to use on the boss makes it a lot easier. The final mini area of the game is a very thin shaft, which you must climb with the wall jump skill. However, just to make things harder, it's a Star Wars trash compactor style shaft, which gets narrower on the way up. Oh, and some bits of wall are electrified, which could make you fall allllll the way to the bottom. Fun? Err.... a bit. It's a hell of a good feeling if you manage to complete it, let me tell you that. And once you get to the top?
Final Boss: Virtual Fighter. This baby is very difficult to kill, and I highly recommend having a Jitsu on hand that will damage him immensely. Watch out for the firing-out-crapload-of-green-stuff attack, which will almost certainly hit you a number of times. If / when you do manage to finally beat him, congratulations, you have finished Shinobi III.
As the preceeding paragraphs show, this is a long, looong game. There is certainly plenty of lifespan in it, even for a seasoned platform player. And, naturally, the level design is sublime, the sound and visuals are polished to perfection (try playing in Gens with 2xSAI enabled.. mmm...), and the controls are some of the best I have seen on a 2D platformer. Along with Gunstar Heroes, this has to be a must have Genesis / Mega Drive game. I don't know about the availability of second hand copies, but the ROM is widely available, and playable perfectly in Gens (perhaps a tiny bit of slowdown; Servo5678 recommends Kega). I can recommend it to anyone who has played and enjoyed any of the previous titles in the series.
First found out about the game from fondue's excellent Shinobi metanode.
Interest grew at http://www.arcadeperfect.com/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=285&forum=7 - props to Servo5678 for pointing that out.
Playing the ROM in Gens
David Chen's FAQ at www.gamefaqs.com