SEGA AGES Shinobi (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 13.04.2020

Review for SEGA AGES Shinobi on Nintendo Switch

When most people think of Shinobi, they are either thinking of the sequel, The Revenge Shinobi on Mega Drive, or the 2002 PlayStation 2 reboot. The original 1987 Shinobi has mostly fallen into obscurity, but thanks to the bodacious boys and girls at M2, it has been faithfully preserved as part of the SEGA AGES series. The path of this ninja has expanded thanks to the increasingly improved sequels and entries. From the humble arcade beginnings, gamers can now enjoy some retro ninjutsu and hostage-saving action on the go, with SEGA AGES Shinobi on Nintendo Switch.

Any gamer that grew up in the late' 80s and early '90s can clearly remember that ninjas were everywhere. Comics, cartoons, toys, movies, and most importantly, video games. There was no escape from the phenomenon. When SEGA released the original Shinobi for the arcades in the late '80s, it grabbed everyone's attentions with its large ninja sprites and easy to pick-up gameplay. Younger gamers would get small glimpses of these masked assassins between the hips of much older arcade patrons, hoping to see something violent. The bombastic music by Yasuhiro Kawakami ft the style and tone of a sleazy ninja movie, and would always draw the attention a passerby. If an arcade machine featured ninjas, it was always expected to be a hit with crowds.

About 30 years later, the Shinobi franchise has had its ups and downs. It was something that was around for the perfect time for it to flourish, and sadly, the venerable franchise has been dormant since the 2011 release of Shinobi 3D on the Nintendo 3DS. Even then, the franchise's last releases had a gap of about eight years since the two PlayStation 2 titles: Shinobi (2002), and Nightshade (2003). What can the arcade Shinobi offer in today's era where there are so many compilations of various SEGA games, which include the fan-favourite entries on various platforms and on multiple mini-consoles? Other than for the sake of authenticity, not much.

Screenshot for SEGA AGES Shinobi on Nintendo Switch

The first Shinobi came out at a time when game designers were just getting to grips with 2D action game concepts. So much of all that everyone takes for granted had not yet been discovered. Things like balance or pacing were after-thoughts, and the general idea was to always bombard gamers with stimuli and action as much as possible. In arcade games in particular, the designer's only priority was to get players to dump as much cash into the machines as possible. This meant to be extremely unfair at times, and to have unbelievable odds stacked against anyone who dared to walk up to a cabinet. Shinobi was no exception.

The challenge is very much doable, but it is obvious that the intention of the designers was to siphon cash out of people, not to actually allow for a fair experience. There are some outrageous enemy placements that must have been meticulously designed to rob a person at their chance at a perfect play-through. There are some moments that also seem randomized slightly, something that can also be unfair while platforming over pit-falls. Joe Musashi has no life-bar after all - any enemy projectile will kill him instantly. Shockingly, he can actually touch or make contact with threats, and it does not count as a hit. This is probably the most fair Shinobi ever gets.

M2 knows that Shinobi was designed to be pay to win. The team was gracious to add a variety of modes and modifiers that can allow anyone to make the experience less cruel. Things like the rewind function is useful, but all this does is highlight just how crushing the inherent design is. The foundation is so rotten, that any substantial adjustments would change the heart and soul of Shinobi. There really is no solution to a situation like this. Arcade games from this era were created so specifically, and without changing some major fundamentals, they would cease to be what made them. At best, SEGA AGES Shinobi is something solely for people who grew up with it. The average modern gamer will be put off by its sadistic difficulty, and will be bored if they cheese it using the rewind.

Screenshot for SEGA AGES Shinobi on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


As always, M2 has done a commendable job at preserving a piece of gaming history. Shinobi was an early and influential action title that set things in motion for greater things to come. The amazing Mega Drive sequels would cement the franchise as a legitimate action platformer franchise that gave SEGA an edge over Nintendo. Even the two highly underrated PlayStation 2 releases could give Capcom a run for its money with their take on 3D character action. Only the most die-hard of retro game enthusiasts will get something out of SEGA AGES Shinobi. Everyone else would find a much more enjoyable experience with the other Shinobi instalments found in the SEGA Mega Drive Classics compilation, or by just downloading Shinobi (2002) onto a PlayStation 3 off of PSN.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


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