Title: SEGA AGES Shinobi
Genre: Action, Arcade
Age Rating: PEGI 10+ Fantasy Violence
Release Date: 23/01/2020
Preservation of game media and software is as important as the constant strive for bigger and better content. Whilst the debate about ports and remasters rages on, the joy of reliving a classic from a bygone era is undeniable. Cue Sega Ages. If the intelligent naming convention wasn’t impressive enough – ‘Ages’ is ‘Sega’ backwards for those not in the know – there is a plethora of titles under this umbrella that gamers young and old, seasoned and new, can enjoy.
Whilst Sonic is the name synonymous with Sega branding, Shinobi isn’t far behind. Almost a year after the Sega Ages games began releasing on the Nintendo Switch, we have been graced with the first of the Shinobi titles which originally released in arcades in 1987. Playing a game released some thirty plus years ago is always an opportunity to learn more about game development and design from that time, but also to remind us of the good ol’ days – Shinobi does just that.
The backdrop to the action is simple: Joe Musashi, armed with an unlimited supply of shurikens and a vendetta, is looking to save the students of his clan by defeating the terrorist organisation that has kidnapped them. It’s a fairly standard affair that sets the tone for the game well and has evidently inspired games that have released in the years that have passed.
In true arcade-style, Shinobi is a side-scrolling action game whereby you defeat the enemies on screen, moving from left to right until you reach the end of the level. Along the way, there is an eclectic cast of foes to defeat, and they each have their own unique movements, outfits, and quirks to overcome. Some duck and shoot whilst others jump towards you to attack. They have a set routine that they follow and learning the patterns to aid your attack is just one of the many ways you will work towards completing Shinobi.
What is apparent from the off is that Shinobi has aged as well as can be. From the visuals which are interesting and detailed enough to invite players in to the accessible yet difficult to master combat. Whilst the term ‘Souls-like difficulty’ has been coined in recent years, ‘Shinobi-like difficulty’ could have come before it. It is easy to see how people would have invested a lot of time and money into the arcades in the late 80s when Shinobi released as it is not an easy game to beat.
Thankfully, the features that have been introduced to the Sega Ages releases pay dividends here. You are equipped with the option to play in the Arcade Mode, as the game was intended, or to play with upgraded weapons and increased durability. You can even rewind in real-time to learn from your mistakes and, most importantly, save the game state at any moment.
To some, these functional enhancements will be seen as detrimental to the preservation of Shinobi as it was intended to be played. For others, it will be the perfect introduction to the world of Shinobi and makes it much more accessible to players everywhere. It is these quality of life improvements which help Shinobi stand out as one of the best Sega Ages ports we’ve seen to date. The game plays homage to all that made it great, yet the developers aren’t precious enough to acknowledge that this alone is no longer enough. Providing new and improved functionality is a very welcome addition to the package and allows this beloved series to receive a new lease of life.
The aforementioned visuals are an example of how well M2 has ported Shinobi to the Switch. The aspect ratio can be altered to suit your preference and the graphics haven’t taken a hit in the porting process from then to now either. It is smooth and polished which is exactly what Shinobi deserved.
Shinobi is a shining example of game development of old but more so than that, is still incredibly fun to play today. It’s great to pick up and play, and the functional improvements that the application of Sega Ages polish has provided makes it all the more enjoyable. Purists can still have their fun with it and can even see a replay of their entire playthrough if they so wish – buttons presses and all – to improve on their high scores.
It could never have been said before, but Shinobi now feels like a game for all to enjoy. While it isn’t the longest game in the world, the modest price point and quality of port make it excellent value for money. Here’s to hoping it sparks a chain reaction of Sega Ages releases which are more in keeping with all that’s great about Sega.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy SEGA AGES Shinobi at the following link.