Shinobi 3DS Hands-On Preview -- Adventures of a Palm-Sized NinjaBy Nikole Zivalich - Posted May 27, 2011
Shinobi has been a staple Sega game since the 1980s. The ninja series has graced many platforms from the arcade, Sega Master System, to the PlayStation 2. While Shinobi games have had a wide presence on Sega consoles in the past, the lack of next-gen Sega hardware means Shinobi games have appeared for other platforms. This trend continues thanks to Nintendo's latest platform and Sega's latest installment in the series, Shinobi on 3DS.
Shinobi focuses on being stealthy, on keeping secrets, and it turns out Sega took notice. They've been hard at work on the next Shinobi installment for a long time, and we never suspected it. Sega can keep a secret, because the game is near completion with a projected release date of late September.
I had a chance to play the first level of Shinobi at a recent Sega preview event. The first level acts as a tutorial, and I was playing an early build, so it wasn't as polished as the finished project will be. Also absent from the demo were the cutscenes, which were described as cinematic and anime style. They are still being hand-drawn in Japan.
The level starts out with Shinobi and an old man with a long white beard sitting in a room with wooden walls. He tells me I must go out and fight. Never one to disrespect old men (with the exception of Steve Johnson), I was on my way. I left the room and ventured out into what looked like a burning city in feudal Japan. The sky was orange and red while the trees and buildings in the background were black. The game wasn't “in your face” 3D. It felt more like there were layers separating the foreground from the background, and there was a great distance in between the two.
Within a few steps, I was being attacked by enemy ninjas. There wasn't much back story as to why I was being attacked, but when someone throws knives at me I like to throw knives back. There was an assortment of enemies, all hooded or with hats. Their attacks ranged from throwing kunai knives and spears to attacking with their fists.
My own attacks were equally varied. The controls were simple enough: B - jump, Y - katana, A - kunai, X - chain, R - parry/block/repel, L - magic. Parry attacks were the most important to understand. You couldn't just push the button and defend; timing was key. If it was properly timed, I could repel knives, spears, and punches. Magic expels a wave of power, knocking out foes.
The city I was in was somewhat of an enemy too. There was fire I had to jump over and spikes that often required skilled wall-jumps to pass. Well placed jumps were pivotal to progressing through vertical parts of the level. Shinobi ran at a fairy good speed. I never felt like I was moving too slow, but it was annoying to not be able to run faster if I wanted too, like in areas with few enemies.
In between cutscene holders and deaths (yes, there were a few), Shinobi loading screens appeared. Instead of just waiting, starring at a blank screen, Sega has added Shinobi-centered facts, hints, and tips. Some were helpful, and others were like, "Ninjas don't eat pizza." The more you know, right?
The tutorial I played wasn't easy; it wasn't super challenging either. I think it should be noted that Shinobi won't be casual-ed down for the 3DS audience. There will be helpful hints for new players, but this game was designed to reflect the Shinobi games from the Genesis era, so don’t expect a watered-down version of the series. Shinobi on 3DS hopes to be the real deal.
The game will be modernized with achievements from combat and support for the 3DS' StreetPass. Official details for StreetPass haven't been announced, but the game's developers assured me there would be a "physical reward" for utilizing StreetPass. Perhaps in-game items. You'll also get to record your playthroughs and share them with others.
Shinobi will most likely be rated T for Teen and is set for a late September launch.