Name: The GG Shinobi 2 (full name of "The Game Gear Shinobi 2: The Silent Fury")
Format: Sega Game Gear
GG Shinobi 2 is the sequel to The GG Shinobi. The two games are very, very similar - so much so that there is only really one difference of note.
However, similarity is not a bad thing by any means, as the first game was a very pleasant, if slightly short, burst of 8-bit 2D platforming action.
The sequel follows the formula of the first almost to the letter - the player starts off controlling a single Red Ninja. He goes on to rescue his four companion Ninjas, and they all go on to kick the ass of some evil guy. However, the new element that is added in the sequel is an important one. That difference is crystals.
For each of the four levels (plus the fifth special, final level) the player must guide the Ninjas they have rescued through (once you have rescued more than one Ninja, you can switch between them at any time using the Pause Screen) to beat the boss. Once the boss of a level is beaten, a new Ninja becomes available to the player. However, the level must be revisited (this is a change from GG Shinobi 1 - after each boss was beaten in that game, the level could not be revisited) until the player finds the crystal for each colour. Crystals are colour coded to the Ninja which the level contains - that is, if you beat a boss in a level and rescue the Green Ninja, then the level will contain the Green Crystal.
To get onto the last level of the game, the ominous sounding "Enemy Base", the player needs all five and all four Crystals from the four basic levels (the four can be tackled in any order). The final Red crystal is hidden deep insdie the enemy base, and is very difficult to get to...
The five Ninjas look exactly the same except for the patches of their respective colours on the clothing - in reality, it's the same sprite being displayed, but with a palette change or two to make them look different. This is fair enough, as the tiny Game Gear screen isn't exactly given over to showing detail...
Below are the attributes of the respective Ninjas:
- Red: The starting Ninja. His weapon is the Sword, which does decent damage, and has a large attack radius. His Ninjujitsu (a special attack of which the player has a limited number) is a reasonably standard kill-everything-on-the-screen job, as seen before in any number of games... He is not exactly the best choice of character, but he can easily get through the first four levels without any problem. Unfortunately, he has no really useful special ability, so to find the crystals or to get to the extra life bars it is necessary to use the other Ninjas. Make sure you put in some practice with the sword though - Red is the only character who can be used to kill the final boss...
- Pink: This is the guy I always end up rescuing next. His attack is a bomb throw, which is quite powerful, and useful because it can attack people a fair distance in front of the player. However, it does have a quite sharp falling trajectory, so not the best weapon to hit high up enemies... Pink's Ninjujitsu is a Flash which stuns on screen enemies, and lights up dark areas which have to be explored. Pink's special ability is the insanely cool walking on the ceiling trick, which is necessary in many parts of the game to get over lethal traps.
- Yellow: Yellow's attack is a large shuriken which returns like a Boomerang. The bonus is, if you are skillful enough, you can get the Shuriken to hit an enemey twice; once on the way there, and then again on the return. This means Yelllow can be a very damaging character. Yellow's Ninjujitsu is a Lightning based one, which puts a barrier of invinicibility around him. This can be useful to get through rooms laden with enemies. Yellow's special ability is that he can walk on water - necessary in many areas.
- Green: Probably the joint best Ninja. This guy has a shuriken attack which can be used very rapidly, and made to do much more damage than Yellow's attack. It also has a better range. Green's Ninjujitsu is a earthquek move, which breaks any rocks which happen to be in the way (for some reason, in the first game in the series, Red had this ninjujitsu, while Green had a really crappy suicide one. This is the only changed Ninjujitsu between the games, and I guess it's because the developers realised that Green's Ninjujitsu was... well, crap). Green special ability is just brilliant - a double jump, which allows amazing height, and, when timed correctly, a rain of shuriken can be fired downwards while doing a double jump. This simple obliterates any enemies which happen to be hanging around. Definitely the Ninja of choice, along with...
- ...Blue: The other joint best Ninja. Blue's weapon is a sickle and chain, aka a kusarigama* which fires out very quickly in a similar manner to the Hookshot from the Legend of Zelda series. This is a very powerful way to kill enemies, and so Blue is my favourite character (unless there are some jumps to be made, in which case I favour Green). This sickle/chain device can also be used to swing from points in the wall, in a similar way to Super Metroid (except that Blue cannot hang on indefinitely - he falls off once has made the swing) or Super Castlevania, although I believe that this game predates both of those more well known titles... Blue's Ninjujitsu is a Whirlwind move, whih allows him to fly in any direction for a short amount of time. This is an essential move for finding most of the Crystals.
So once the Bosses have all been beaten, and the levels have been revisited to collect the four Crystals (I recommend finding all 4 of the extra life bar pickups as well, as they will come in handy), it is time to visit the Enemy base. in the tradition of the Mega Man games, beating all the basic levels is only half the game - the Enemy Base aka Dr. Wily's base is a huge challenge after that. In fact, if you think about it, the Mega Man analogy goes further - you beat a boss and get a new Ninja, but a new Ninja is effectively a new weapon... Anyway, if you manage to get through the treacherous Enemy Base filled with the most taxing problems 2D platforming has to offer, then you will face 5 bosses. The first four are relatively easy - they mimic one of the rescued Ninjas, but to a greater extent (the mimicer for Blue has a massive spiked ball on the end of his chaion, not a puny little sickle). They can only be harmed by the weapon possessed by the Ninja they imitate, which allows for some great battles, pitting the similar weapons against each other.
Red has a very hard time though, he gets to fight a boss which uses the attacks of all of the other Ninjas one after the other, which makes for incredible difficulty. If you manage to finish that, you get to face the immensely difficult final boss: good luck with him....
The game tends to somewhat wear influences on it's sleeve: I can see elements of Metroid, Castlevania, Mega Man, and others in the game. However, the game is by no means devoid of it's own ideas, and I wouldn't say that the similarities to other series should be putting you off.
Overall, The GG Shinobi 2 comes highly recommended. It's the first game for ages where I have been bothered to actually finish it, and while the ending is not exactly spectacular, the gameplay of the Enemy base is very satisfying. If you go for 2D platformers in any way, I recommend that you pick this up. I don't know if you are likely to find it in bargain bin somewhere; somehow this seems unlikely. Check a good second hand games shop, or Ebay, or just give up and try emulation. The ROM is not too difficult to pick up, and there are plenty of decent emulators available. Many will emulate Master System games as well: I recommend Meka. The emulation is not perfect, but it's playable. Give it a go - it won't take that long to beat, but it might make you smile a little.
Playing the ROM in Meka.
Thanks to Psuedo_Intellectual for pointing out that a Sickle and CHain is properly called a Kusarigama.