The true Ninja Master has returned to the Genesis -- and it's about time! After three years of waiting for a follow- up to Sega's portrait in perfection, Revenge of Shinobi, Joe Musashi's finally back in the 16-bit saddle. The action artists at Sega of Japan have struck again, and Shinobi III is worth its wait in gold!
Musashi Makes Good
As usual, the Neo Zeed crime organization has resurfaced to cause more trouble, and ever-vigilant ninja Joe Musashi is on their backs like a Sega CD used to be on a Genesis. This time, the Zeeds leave Joe's girlfriend Naoko out of it and take over a city instead. While this may be bad news for the rest of the world, this is great news for video gamers!
You take Joe on a blowout, slash-and-shoot adventure through seven of the coolest- looking Genesis action levels ever! Thankfully, this game abandons the comparatively lack-luster game play of Shadow Dancer in favor of the classic Revenge of Shinobi style. Joe's a lone wolf in Shinobi III. His canine friend, Yamato, from Shadow Dancer Yamato, must have been rounded up by a dogcatcher. Boo hoo.
The Way of the Ninja
In this go-round, Musashi's armed with some new rump- roasting fighting techniques. Joe's still got Shurikens for long-range dicing and of course his Katana Sword for up-close slicing. His somersault leap and the rainbow Shuriken spray are as deadly as ever. New combat attacks include a dash-and-slash, a jump kick, and high-and-low blocking. The blocks add more skill and strategy to the fighting.
ProTip: You can block almost anything -- even laser cannon blasts!
Joe is also more maneuver- able than ever. Now that he can rebound off walls with his jump (a la Strider for the NES) and scramble hand-over-hand across overhead ropes and pipes, Joe seems more like one of those stealthy movie ninjas. The controls can be tricky, but the challenge of mastering Musashi's moves adds to the fun.
- Hop off the elevator in Round 2, then use the platforms as stepping stones. If you don't, you'll be one flat ninja.
- You'll have to go against the flow of the conveyor belts to find power-ups in Round 3.
If all else fails, Joe's got one other slick but familiar trick up his sleeve: Ninjitsu (ninja magic). Fushin magic enables him to jump higher; Ikazuchi provides a temporary shield from danger; Kariu ignites everything on the screen; and Mijin sacrifices one of Joe's lives to damage opponents. The magic is a great idea, but it's an old one -- all the Jitsus are lifted from Revenge of Shinobi.
If you're about to perish when fighting bosses, always use the Jitsu of Mijin. You'll continue the battle from that point instead of having to start all over again when you die.
The Art of Ninja Fighting
Shinobi III blasts you through seven superb multi-scrolling scenes as you hunt down the Zeed crew. Terrific "layering" effects create that ever-popular 3D look. You fight across a forest, where enemy Shurikens mingle with leaves in the breeze, through a horrible lab that's home to the Zeeds' mutation experiments, into a fire- rimmed enemy encampment that resembles a scene from Apocalypse Now, aboard the Zeeds' spaceship, and more. One level in particular really grabs you, literally. Lurking in the shadows of Round 3 is a humongous slug that takes potshots at your hide with an on-screen missile sight that follows your movements. Later, you encounter this creature face-to-fang... and he's one ugly S.O.B.!
- Move close to the Round 3 worms to draw them out of hibernation, and then slash them with your Katana.
- Wait for grenadiers to launch their loads in Round 5, then nail them with angled jump kicks.
This game is long and satisfying. You encounter standard side-view fighting scenes, confounding mazes that require careful planning and backtracking, vertically scrolling jump-and-survive platform segments, and two all-new vehicle-style areas. You even ride horseback across a marsh as enemy ninjas drop like flies in Round 2, and you surf a polluted bay in Round 4.
If you see this dungeon In the Round 6 maze, you've gone the wrong way!
Like the rest of the game, Shinobi 3's enemies mix familiar faces with fresh blood. Out to use Joe's face as a cutting board is Zeed's squad of ninjas, corrupt samurai, machine gunners, mutant beasties, hovercraft, airborne assailants, and heavy-hitting bosses. Gruesome boss sprites, which range from big to stupendous, will give you video game nightmares!
- Round 2's boss tiles to throw off your concentration by reversing the controls. Keep your mind "as clear as a lake!" When the background shifts, do all your moves backwards, and aim for the brain.
Adjustable challenge settings affect your starting number of lives, the length of your energy meter, and the number of hits needed to kill enemies. These differences are fairly cosmetic -- there are no special endings or other rewards for playing the game on a harder level, unlike Revenge of Shinobi.
Music to Musashi's Ears
Despite the absence of Sega's master musician, Yuzo Koshiro, Shinobi III manages to surpass its predecessor in audio quality. The tunes range from soft, restful melodies to full-bore, thunderous tracks. Your only sound wish is for more songs, because the music starts looping about halfway through the game. The sound effects are so clear and distinct that you even hear the clomping of your horse's hooves!
From Japan with Love
Shinobi III proves that Sega of Japan is still on the cutting edge of side-scrolling excellence. This game plays as smooth as fine Asian silk. Like Sega superstars Montana and Musashi, this game's no ordinary Joe!