Whenever I think of Shinobi, I think of freshly cooked chips with salt and vinegar. Why? Well, pull up a chair as this goes back a few years to my schooldays. During our lunch break, one of my friends and I would race down to the local fish and chip shop to play this game before any one else could. The game made that much of an effect on us that we would do this nearly every day until the game disappeared to be replace with a different one. We would often lean against the arcade cabinet trying to catch our breathe before playing.
The game’s main character is a ninja called Joe Musashi who has to infiltrate a criminal organization who are kidnapping children. You have to progress through the various platform levels freeing the hostages all the while disposing of the enemy. And the enemy includes gunmen, samurai warriors with boomerang swords, ninjas, while extravagant end of level bosses would also try to thwart your mission.
Your main standard weapon is an unlimited supply of shuriken with your fists and feet coming in useful at close range. When you receive a power up you gain a gun that fires explosive bullets. Ninja magic can also be used once per level, and involves little ninja figures flying all around the screen taking out any enemy.
The first person perspective bonus screen was particularly memorable for the time: you have to shoot shuriken at ninjas that run across three platforms in front of you. Randomly one or two would jump and advance towards you. If you succeed in killing them all you gain an extra life.
This game is pretty tough in the later levels, particularly the high-rise block of bamboo sticks where one wrong step or jump means you fall to your death. I don’t recall ever completing the game, but vaguely remember fighting a lobster type creature with a huge samurai sword that used to whack me over the head (the character, mind. Not me).
There is something truly unique about Shinobi. The presentation, graphics, sound, gameplay, and level design, are all excellent, but it is all these elements, together with some unforgettable memories, that make it very special indeed.
The game has been ported to various computers and consoles with various success. Revenge of Shinobi, a follow up, was released as one of the first killer apps for the Mega Drive in 1989, Shinobi III a couple of years later, and various other games have been produced since. However, none of them came close to re-creating the feel of the arcade version, especially the memories of a warm atmosphere created inside a busy and hot chip shop.
Go on give Shinobi a quick go – I’m sure the game is around somewhere. You’ll love the smell of shuriken in the morning; it smells like fish and chips.