Shinobi vs. Dragon Ninja
With original titles from two beloved franchises released on the system, 1991 was a good year for Game Gear-owning ninja fans. Although the system was pretty much completely ginormous in size, there simply wasn’t room for two ninja titles on it in 1991- so, as ninjas tend to do, they faced off in a duel. Which 1991 Game Gear ninja release emerged victorious? Read on to find out…
Round 1: Visuals
On a technical level, both games are pretty similar and about what you’d expect for the Game Gear, but Shinobi (known as “GG Shinobi in Japan) does a better job at creating exciting environments. I imagine there were a more than a few blown minds in 1991 when people played the first part of the highway level, in which protagonist Joe Musashi slices enemies while bounding across moving cars. Though effects like rain and lightning may be a bit primitive in Shinobi due to hardware limitations, the developers still do an admirable job creating atmosphere.
Round 2: Music
While the music in Ninja Gaiden is good, it’s not really noticeable and certainly not memorable. It’s also not by legendary composer Yuzo Koshiro. Catchy, unique, exciting, and atmospheric, Koshiro’s music in Shinobi is yet another successful pairing of artist and series.
Round 3: Control
Although the controls in Shinobi are precise, functional, and similar to other games in the franchise, Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden feels a bit faster and more agile.
Winner: Ninja Gaiden
Round 4: Ninja Honor
This is probably the most important category. A ninja can have 1080p visuals running at 60fps, 7.1 Surround Sound, and controls like Mario, but without honor, he is nothing. So which game did a better job honoring the ninja?
Both games make you feel agile, deadly, and near-superhuman. Whether you are climbing up and jumping between buildings in Ninja Gaiden or running across water in Shinobi, each game does many things to make you feel like (pop-culture’s portrayal of) a ninja, and not just a dude with a sword running around in his pajamas.
Overall winner: Shinobi.
While the Game Gear version of Ninja Gaiden is certainly solid and worth playing through, Shinobi is the better complete package, and its Mega Man-esque structure that allows you to play the levels in any order adds to replayability. It’s also available in fine form on the 3DS Virtual Console for only $3.99 if you want to play it on the go but don’t have six fully-charged AA batteries for your Game Gear.
Though both games are enjoyable, challenging, and worth hunting down ninja style, if you are going to play only one 20+ year old ninja title on Game Gear this year, play Shinobi.