Shadow Dancer


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 7

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Ninjas are great, aren't they? Not only do they dress cool, kill silently, and defend the world from evil-doers, they make a desirable video game characters. Joe Mushashi is certainly one of the more revered members of this unique video game society and his first foray into the 16-bit era is a classic for the ages.

This sequel to the first arcade and Master System classic has Joe avenging the death of Kato, a close friend, who was murdered at the hands of Union Lizard (Who names these guys????). The gameplay has been taken directly from the first game and has our favorite resident ninja flinging shurikens at hundreds of attackers who's job is to stop Joe at any cost. Unlike later games in the series, the shuriken count is unlimited without using a code.

At close range, players slash, kick, and punch enemies until they go down. Frustratingly, our lead character can only take one hit from the enemy before he goes down. Joe also has a canine companion who will charge at enemies, stunning them and allowing players to take out the thug. However, the dog mysteriously disappears once the boss battles begin. This combination of gameplay quirks makes the boss battles excruciatingly difficult at times and a life bar would've made things somewhat more bearable.

Each of the 5 stages feature hostages scattered throughout the stages that must be rescued in order to move on. For some of the sticky situations players can be found in, Mr. Musashi's ninja magic can clear the screen instantly. These can only be used once per stage, so the situation must get real ugly before its use. Also, the real ending will only reveal itself after the hardest level has been beaten providing players with some incentive to play it again.

The look of Shinobi has gotten a serious overhaul. Tons of detail in the backgrounds bring the stages alive including the opening stages spectacular fire-filled city. Each character has a decent amount of detail, especially considering this was an early title in the Genesis library. The soundtrack is LOUD, with deep bass filling the sound field. It's hard not to appreciate the accomplishment of the soundtrack considering the Genesis' meager sound chip.

While it was only the second game in the long running series, it's one of the best. It's a short ride, but in order to see it all, completing the hardest level will take some practice. The combination of classic gameplay, thundering soundtrack, and great graphics combine to make this one of the better platformers for the console.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:31 PM