Tucked away in the very back of Sega’s booth was the new 3DS reimagining of Sega’s classic Shinobi. It was weird to see what was once one of Sega’s flagship franchises be given so little fanfare, but then again, this is the same company that also seems pretty content to let great, classic series’ like Shining Force and Shenmue fall in obscurity. But don’t let Sega’s neglect fool you, as the new Shinobi is definitely worth your time.
Let’s get this out of the way first, since its probably the first thing you think when you see a screenshot for this game: Shinobi looks terrible, even by 3DS standards. This game has a lot of good qualities, but visuals aren’t among them; everything has a blocky, low polygon look to it, and the art style suffers from some garish direction (the stage in the demo was basically made of two colors: bright orange and black, and wasn’t very easy on the eyes.) Still, while the game is admittedly mostly hideous, it does make good use of the 3D screens: certain sections of the demo were viewed from an angled, three quarters perspective, and having the 3D effect on did it make it easier to judge the spacing and timing needed to dodge obstacles and attacks.
But as bad as the graphics are, the gameplay for the most part seemed like it was able to compensate for the visual trainwreck. Fans of the classic Shinobi games on Genesis will be glad to hear that protagonist Joe Musashi has all the same moves as he had in the excellent Shinobi 3, and he controls with the same responsiveness and ease. Likewise, the level designs and enemies were evocative of the best moments of classic Shinobi games as well, with excellent enemy placement that made the game challenging but not unfair.
I overheard the developers of the game talk about it on the E3 show floor, and it was clear that they were big fans of the original games and very enthusiastic about the project, and that love of the series clearly showed through in the game’s mechanics and gameplay. I just wish they’d put some of that love and care into the graphics, but even as it is now, Shinobi on 3DS was actually one of the better games at Sega’s booth this year.