Original Release: Genesis / December 2, 1989
Though his popularity has waned in recent years, primarily due to shifting tastes and a lack of memorable starring roles, Joe Musashi still remains one of gaming’s most famous ninjas. Musashi’s Genesis debut, The Revenge of Shinobi, is one of the system’s most memorable early titles thanks to its solid action, variety of stage locations, a mood-setting synthpop soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro, and copyright-infringing pop culture icons like Spider-man, Batman, Godzilla, and The Terminator appearing as bosses in the original version of the game (but not this one).
The PSN version of the game is developed by Sega emulation masters M2 and as per usual, packed with a variety of options and extras. On the visual side, there are the requisite screen size options, but also the ability to change the aspect ratio, apply scanlines, and add a “smoothing” effect that reduces the pixelation (in a much more subtle and visually appealing way than what Backbone did with the games in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection). There are a few attractive wallpapers for the background image, but I found myself turning them off, as I found them a bit distracting.
In addition, there is also an out-of-game jukebox that allows you to program playlists of the game’s music and some Trophies, if you’re into those. Maybe the most interesting part of the package is the option to choose which region’s version of the game you want to play; you can choose between the Japanese, European, and North American versions.
For $5, this is a pretty attractive packaging of a classic title, but there is still one huge factor that some players may find to be a deterrent: the game’s punishing difficulty. The Shinobi series has always had a reputation for its challenge, and this game is no different. The Revenge of Shinobi is clearly a game from 1989, a time when games were not designed to be finished by every player who purchased them. Bosses require quite a bit of pattern memorization and a slow and methodical approach is necessary in each of the stages, as there are countless just-off-screen dangers lurking. Combat in Revenge of Shinobi requires quick reflexes, as even some of the game’s common enemies have the ability to quickly drain your life bar if you are not careful. However, I find that the bulk of the challenge and frustration in Revenge of Shinobi stems from the platforming segments.
From narrow, moving platforms to jumping to areas of the screen that you can’t see, Revenge of Shinobi asks for quite a bit of patience and practice from the player. It also requires the player to be very proficient with the double jump- which is a bit more finicky than you may like; pulling off the double jump in Revenge of Shinobi requires impeccable timing, as there is no room for error. When first playing the PSN version, I was oftentimes failing to hit my double jumps, and felt that maybe the emulation was a bit off. I tried the original game and still didn’t double jump every time I wanted to, so I’m going to give M2 the benefit of the doubt and just chalk the issue up to a finicky mechanic.
Somewhat unfair difficulty aside, The Revenge of Shinobi is a likable game that earns its classic status primarily through the presentation and strength of Joe Musashi as the lead character. M2’s digital packaging of the title shows commendable love and care, and is a great deal at only $5.
Now when is Shinobi III going to get this treatment?