Monday, August 17, 2009

Shinobi 3: Rise of the Ninja Master

Year: 1993
Rating: **

I don't often write about games I don't care about. But in the interests of stopping this blog from turning into a bunch of self indulgent love letters to games I like here's roughly 750 words about something that sucks.

Poor Sega, as a company they are a shadow of their former glory being reduced from the number two platform holder to just another publisher. But while that must hurt perhaps the greater shame is that as the history of the first great console war is written Sega is increasingly seen as the poor man's system. Mario, Metroid, Final Fantasy and Zelda are the series that now define the 16 bit era and they're all Nintendo. Sure Sega has Sonic the Hedgehog but really anyone with any taste at all only likes the first of those. Streets of Rage is awesome in a knuckle head kind of way but nobody is deconstructing it's level design the same way Metroid gets regularly pulled apart. So it was with thoughts like this going through my head that I read a couple of dumbarse "Best Genesis EVAR" lists wondering if I was missing something. Everywhere I looked I heard about a game called Shinobi 3. Apparently is was fast, furious, complex and unmissable. It's actually three parts dull, one part cheap bitch.

Load up the first mission, a title splashes up informing me that I'm about to enter "Zeed's Resurrection". Who is Zeed? Am I Zeed? Or am I going to have to fight Zeed? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, I certainly don't know what killed Zeed or what's resurrecting him now. All I know is I'm in a forest facing right and the memory of every platformer I've ever played tells me to walk forwards. Soon a dude jumps out of nowhere, I throw a Shuriken at him and he dies, I continue forwards. Another dude, another Shuriken, then just to break things up a dude in a tree. I jump, throw a shuriken and he dies as well. I have never felt less like a ninja master in my life, I feel more like a ninja master sitting on the couch eating Cheetoes, at least it takes some wits and dexterity to fish a salty cheese snack from behind the cushions. The game doesn't get better.

There are secrets to find but it never feels like your exploring anything more than the most on-rails linier path. You can mess around with the special moves and blocking, and to be honest there is a fairly interesting fighting system buried somewhere underneath the poorly laid out controls. But the fatal flaw is it's never as effective as simply Shurikening dudes and jumping around occasionally. I've said it before but it bears repeating, if you let the player defeat your game in a way that's simple but boring they'll do it, they're under responsibility to make the game fun that's the job of the designer. Worse are the moments it tries to break up the walk-Shuriken-walk-jump-Shuriken levels with weird chase sections like the horse riding section or the surfing section. They feel like playing a shitty Guitar Hero track while only using the red button and no star power. Cowabunga motherfuckers. I'm not saying these bits are too easy but they feel exactly like the time wasters they are.

Perhaps those sins are mostly venal, where Shinobi 3 becomes beyond redemption is the boss fights. To show you what I mean lets just discuss the first boss. How do you defeat him? You wait for him to get close and throw a Shuriken, it hurts him and he retreats a few steps before charging at you. In response you double jump, turn around and repeat the process. Again and again, again and again. And again.


No again.

Still again.

Repetitive enough yet? No do it again.

Oh you better believe again

Yes again.

Okay that's enough... actually you know what? Again.





What are you dead now? Couldn't you perform the same menial task a million times in a row? Pathetic, well back to the beginning of the Boss Battle with you.

Let's get something straight, I'm not against balls-in-a-vice tough boss battles (see Cho Ren Sha getting 5*s) but I am against a game that makes me repeat the same task ad infinitum to stretch the difficultly. Yes I figured out the trick, no I can't execute it perfectly every time but I get the point. Can't we just get on with it now? Shinobi 3 says no, I say Shinobi 3 can crawl back to the pit of despair shitty videogames come from.

Look it's not the worse game in the world, the few moment you get to sword some fool are pleasingly cathartic but really if this is the best the Genesis/Megadrive had to offer no wonder Zelda and Mario are the figures they are today. Honestly I just wished more Yanks would have played a PC growing up, then maybe I wouldn't have to hear about how important Mario and Zelda are constantly.

1 comment:

  1. The Mega Drive was a funny system. I never had one but was always jerking my prepubescent dick over the games that were coming out in '94 or so, pretty much all of which were ports from one computer system or another. Flashback, Dune II and the * Strike games all come to mind. Although research conducted literally 30 seconds after writing that reveals that Desert Strike was a MD original, so once again I prove myself to be a dipshit. Never mind.

    In conclusion, The Metroid series, except for that one game on the Game Boy Advance (with the living armour suit, not that remake thing) which was actually faintly enjoyable, is a massive pile of shit and the Master System ruins that Nintendo 8 bit abomination's day in every respect. If you want an excellent ninja game, my money is on the MS iteration of Ninja Gaiden.