E3: Shinobi 3DS


You are a ninja. You jump a lot and beat the hell out of other ninjas. That’s Shinobi for the 3DS, in a nutshell.

One of the best action-platformers of the 90s returns, although not in an immediately recognizable form. Due to a change in art direction, scale and controls, this Shinobi reboot seems to be a follow-up in spirit only. However, this is not a bad thing. Developer Griptonite Games have made the game they wanted to make. It’s a game inspired by the Genesis’ Shinobi titles, but not one that slavishly follows in their steps.

Upon picking the game up, it’s surprising to discover how quick Shinboi feels in comparison to past games. You can now double jump, dive kick, slide, parry and perform other powerful attacks not available in any previous Shinobi entry. These new additions, along with a grappling hook, make the combat fluid and fun. All these additions work toward making you feel like a ninja. Bouncing off walls, parrying projectiles back at enemies and slashing ninjas while points flash over their heads gives the combat depth and immediacy.

The level design is excellent. Each section enforces platforming, while raising the stakes with more roadblocks and trickier enemy placement. One section will have you wall jumping and somersaulting over spikes, while the next will pit you against a mini-mini-boss that requires you to learn his attack pattern. The levels have a nice difficulty gradient, reminiscent of the 16-bit era. The brief demo contained a variety of challenges and areas, but it remains to be seen if the same can be said about the game in its entirety – which is over 20 hours long.

Graphically, the title leaves something to be desired. Nothing about the game screams “3DS,” and the 3D didn’t impress. If anything, it annoyed. The game contains horseriding scenes where you must jump over obstacles, while hacking at opposing riders. During this scene, the camera shifts to an angled perspective which makes it hard to tell exactly where you are. I died many times, as I battled with the sluggish horseriding controls and perplexing camera view. The 3D was most noticeable in this scene, but to a fault: It got in the way of the game.

Shinobi is neither a faithful update to the series or a great display of the 3DS’ capabilities. Nevertheless, the combat, controls and level design are top-notch and have me interested in playing it more. It brings back great memories of old school action-platformers, even if it doesn’t conjure nostalgia for its namesake.

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