Review: The Revenge of Shinobi (Sony PS3)

The Revenge of Shinobi
Developer: Overworks
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Side Scrolling Platformer
Release Date: 05/22/2012

I’m a big fan of all Overworks’ games, especially the Sakura Wars and Phantasy Star games. Before those titles, they were known as Team Shinobi, and as you might have guessed, gave us the original Shinobi games for the Sega Master System and Sega Genesis. I owned the original version of The Revenge of Shinobi for my Sega Genesis and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, when the game was re-released as part of the Sega Smash Pack for the Sega Dreamcast, it was a buggy, near unplayable mess. Rumours began that the original code for the game was lost, and so Sega accidentally used a beta version of the game in Smash Pack. The rumours appeared to be true when The Revenge of Shinobi was left out of both the Sega Genesis Collection for the PS2 and the current Ultimate Genesis Collection that is available for the PS3 and Xbox 360. We got Shinobi III in both, Shadow Dancer in the PS2 collection, and the original arcade game in Ultimate Genesis, but still no The Revenge of Shinobi. Was this game permanently lost, like Panzer Dragoon for the Sega Saturn (Sega uses a port of the PC version when needed, like the unlockable in Panzer Dragoon Orta)? Well it appears that the rumours were just rumors after all, as in 2009 Sega released The Revenge of Shinobi in all its 16-bit glory for the Nintendo Wii, and then, earlier this month, for the PS3 and 360. After all this time, does the game still hold up as one of the best Sega titles ever, or did it turn out that this release shares many of the same problems as the Smash Pack version?

Let’s Review


There isn’t much of a story of Revenge of Shinobi. You’re out to kill all the members of the Neo Zeed organization because they kidnapped your wife. Now you, as Joe Musashi, must clear out eight stages (comprised of three levels each) before your wrath is abated. In the original version of the game, you got to fight Rambo, the Terminator, Spider-Man, Batman and Godzilla. With each passing edition of the game, these were all edited out. Unfortunately, such is the case with the 2012 version of the game. The game loses a lot of its nostalgia value with the removal of all the pop culture licenses, but almost certainly, it was the loss of these licenses that kept the game off the various Genesis collections released over the past few years, rather than a loss of the original code.

To make up for the redone bosses, Sega has provided you with the ability to play the North American version of the game, the European Mega Drive version of the game and the Japanese version, known as The Super Shinobi. This is pretty cool, but if you’re hoping the licensed characters are intact in those versions, you’re in for a disappointment. There’s no actual difference between the games.

So I’m happy the game is available to systems other than the Wii, and I’m even happier that all three regional versions are available. The only thing that could have made this better was if all four builds of the game were selectable. Pink Spider-Man or undead skeletal Godzilla don’t pack the same punch as the original versions of the characters, but Sega tried to leave everything else intact, including the unlimited shuriken trick.

Story & Modes Rating: Good

2. Graphics

As a 16-bit game, the visuals are definitely dated and nowhere near what people would accept from even a budget game in 2012. This is, however, meant to be port of the 16-bit version rather than a rebuilt or remastered Sega Ages style game, and I’m fine with that. I’d rather play the game as it was meant to be than a re-imagined version. Besides, back in 1989, this game was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Even today, the visuals still hold up well. Older gamers will be able to instantly recall how great this thing looked when they were kids, and younger gamers will find the visuals striking, if not impressive. The game looks fine for what it is, and I’m definitely hit with a wave of nostalgia each time I play it. We’ll call it a push here as the game was one of the best looking of its era back in the day.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

3. Sound

For older gamers I should just have to say, “Koshirio Yuzo” and leave it at that. For younger gamers, I’m just going to have to say the score is pretty awesome, and it’s worth playing through the game just to listen to the music. Selections from the soundtrack are often played at video game symphony concerts and are pretty memorable, even if you haven’t played the game. Do yourself a favour and listen to some of the tracks on YouTube. You won’t regret it.

Aside from that though, the sound effects are pretty humdrum. Most attacks sound alike, and there really isn’t a lot of depth or variety in the noises you’ll hear. It’s as if Sega put all their effort into the music and half assed the effect noises. Ninjas shouldn’t be clomping around like they have work boots on, that’s all I’m saying. So, one of the best soundtracks of the 16-bit era coupled with sub-par effects. Still good over all, but this is one time I wish I could have rated the soundtrack in a vacuum.

Sound Rating: Good

4. Control and Gameplay

Unfortunately, this is where the port of the game falls apart, and horribly so. As I mentioned in the preamble, the Sega Smash Pack version of Revenge of Shinobi had issues, but those were more things like the level playing itself or stages ending abruptly due to bad coding. The PS3 port of The Revenge of Shinobi has completely different problem which I honestly didn’t see coming, if only because I have the Wii version which played wonderfully (aside from a now pink Spider-Man). Sadly, this version of the game suffers from some pretty severe control detection issues, most dramatic of which is the use of Musashi’s somersault and “eight-in-one” shuriken attacks. The game only recognized my somersault command (Hitting the jump button at the apex of a jump) once in every ten times or so. As this and the “eight-in-one” are pretty necessary to getting through the game (especially the first boss for newer gamers), you are pretty much screwed from the get-go . Instead of having a fun time reliving your childhood, you’re instead frustrated by what’s here, swearing that you could do these two moves without even looking at the screen in your pre-pubescent years. I actually pulled out my Genesis and my Virtual console versions of the game and compared them to the PS3 one to make sure I wasn’t seeing things in a magical rose-tinted hindsight. Alas, I wasn’t. The Genesis version played wonderfully (I had to blow in the cart twice to get it to work though…) and the Wii Version played nearly as good. I haven’t tried the 360 version, so it’s either something is wrong with just this port or just the PS3 version. Either way, you might as well get the Wii version. For three dollars more, you’re getting a more precise version of the game, and I’d rather have a game that plays properly than one that does with a few more options and trophies.

All in all, the game still resembles its 16-bit progenitor. You chuck shurikens, stab things with your wagasashi and use four kinds of ninja magic to get through stages, but when two of your most basic moves fail to work the vast majority of the time, nostalgia alone isn’t enough to get you through this game.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

5. Replayability

Replay value is not one of Revenge‘s strong points. The core game plays exactly the same each time, although there are two endings based on how quickly you defeat the last boss. As the last boss had “SNK End Boss Syndrome” before the term was even invented, expect to see the bad ending almost every time. Aside from that, you do have the ability to adjust the difficulty, the number of shuriken you get and which version (NA/Euro/Japan) of the game you can play. All of these things add some slight replay value to the game, but with the control detection being what it is, you probably won’t want to finish the game a single time, much less multiple ones. It’s nifty to have all three region variants in a single game for five bucks, but after the issues I had playing this compared to the Wii and Genesis version, I deleted this off my hard drive and know I’ll never put it back on.

Replayability Rating: Bad

6. Balance

The Revenge of Shinobi was considered an exceptionally hard game by 16-bit standards. This is important to note because many gamers fondly look back on that era and state how much easier games are these days. So if we talk about one of the hardest games in an eras of difficult games, it’s worth noting that many newcomers will probably become VERY frustrated with RoS, even if they crank things down to “Very Easy” and give themselves nine lives. The control detection issues simply make things that much worse.

Look, I love this game. I wouldn’t have FOUR different versions of it (Genesis, Dreamcast, PS3 & Wii) if I didn’t. Even though I love it, I can’t deny that this game is pretty tough and with the lack of being able to consistently do somersaults and the eight-in-one shuriken attack, the game goes from being challenging to profanity-inducing. This simply isn’t a very good port.

Balance Rating: Bad

7. Originality

Unlike a lot of old Sega Genesis games, The Revenge of Shinobi hasn’t been seen for well over a decade. Although the game is back, it’s a shadow of its former self. Even the superior Wii port doesn’t capture the magic of the Genesis version since all the pop culture references have been thoroughly scrubbed out. While the core mechanics of a side-scrolling platformer had already been done to death by the point The Revenge of Shinobi was released, it still managed to stand out as something pretty unique thanks to the magic, limited shuriken and unique end bosses. The game obviously doesn’t feel as innovative in 2012, but while you play the game you can still tell this was something that stood out from the pack back in the day.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

I enjoy a good playthrough of Revenge of Shinobi every once in a while, but the PS3 version simply makes me want to play the game on my Wii or Genesis rather than sit through this again. Yes, the PS3 version is three bucks cheaper, but it plays like crap. Yes, I can play The Super Shinobi instead if I really want to but again, would you rather play the game how it is meant to be played, or a version where it can’t detect two basic moves on a regular basis? Sure there’s a bit of novelty here and if you don’t have a Wii or Genesis, this is the only option you have, but you might be better off leaving the game as a nostalgic memory than sitting through this version.

Addictiveness Rating: Bad

9. Appeal Factor

This is a tough category to judge. I mean, if we were talking just The Revenge of Shinobi, it would be through the roof. Unfortunately we’re talking about a bad port version. Like the Sega Dreamcast port, the PS3 version is going to be a mix of, “Yay! At least I get to play it even though it’s a third rate version” and, “Oh my god, what did people see in this game back in the day.” People are going to make the mistake of thinking the game hasn’t aged well, was never very good to begin with or that older gamers that speak fondly of this title are nuts. That’s never good and it has the potential to tarnish the legacy this game has earned over the past two and a half decades. At the same time the Sega Dreamcast port was terrible enough that people knew to actively avoid it and stick to games like Shining Force or Sega Swirl, but the horror of that version was forgotten after a few years and everyone was excited in 2009 when it was once again released, this time in an edited form for the Virtual Console. So perhaps the legacy of this game is safe after all.

The bottom line? Stick to the Wii version, wait for this version to be patched, or go get an old cart and working Sega Genesis. This version, as it is, is just going to leave you unhappy.

Appeal Factor: Poor

10. Miscellaneous

At the end of the day, I’m happy to see Sega breathing in new life to The Revenge of Shinobi. On the other hand, their need to tweak it as part of the Sega Vintage Collection or whatever they are calling it was well-intended but fell far short of said intent and made the game almost embarrassing to play through. On paper getting The Revenge of Shinobi with a juke box, a few tweaks, trophy support, online leaderboards and the ability to play all three regional variants for three dollars less than the exact port the Wii’s Virtual Console received would be a no-brainer that any gamer would think was the better deal and then probably rush out to get if they were even remotely a fan of the game.

That is, until this version was actually PLAYED.

I appreciate all the things Sega did here. The add-ons and the regional variants. So on and so forth. However, what I care most about is a quality engine or being able to play a classic game the way it was meant to be played. If I encounter severe move/control detection that certainly wasn’t there in the original, well, I’m going to be disappointed or disgruntled. The Revenge of Shinobi deserved better; it really did. However, Sega chose to focus on extra instead of the core game and that’s why things fell apart. Cross your fingers for a patch kids, because if this gets one, my review would probably be far more glowing than the mostly negative one I regrettably have had to write.

Miscellaneous Rating: Bad

The Scores:
Story & Modes: Good
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Bad
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Bad
FINAL SCORE: Below Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
The Revenge of Shinobi is an awesome game. Unfortunately this port of RoS suffers from control and movement detections that make the game nigh unplayable at times. Sure the game has trophy support and the wonderful option to play different versions of the game ranging from Japan’s The Super Shinobi to the US’s most recent take on the game, but when basic moves that you need to get through the game aren’t recognized by the controller most of the time, all the added extras and spiify add-ons aren’t worth anything at all. Instead, pay three dollars more and get the Wii version of this game. Spider-Man may be pink and it may be three dollars more without the fluff, but it actually plays like The Revenge of Shinobi is meant to be played. It’s like the Sega Smash Pack version of this game all over again, but with completely different issues. Boo-urns.



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