“In the Year 19XX, The Evil Crime Syndicate, Zeed was reduced to rubble by the powers of stealth possessed by the Shinobi Master. It seemed as if the world had returned to peace… But Three Years Later… The world was once again swallowed in darkness. Zeed had returned. With an incredible increase in power. Much greater than before. Neo Zeed became the strongest crime organization ever to exist. After establishing their mighty crime empire, Neo Zeed turned their efforts towards destroying the threat posed by these who possessed the powers of stealth. All of the followers of the power of stealth were attacked and their chief was killed. The Chief, with his dying breath, told Musashi that Naoko, his bride-to-be had been taken hostage but the Neo Zeed. So to get revenge for his comrades and bring back Noako, Musashi set out for the Heart of Neo Zeed.”
Revenge of Shinobi also known as Super Shinobi in Japan, released on December 2, 1989 and developed by Sega Consumer Development Division #3, a stunning title for the Sega Genesis. A system released a year before in Japan and in its 4th month in the United States. The first in the Shinobi Genesis/Mega Drive trilogy and frankly the best one. After saving hostages from Zeed, Joe Musashi returns for vengeance for the kidnapping of Noako and the death of his master. Using the legendary skills of the Shinobi master, Musashi puts his skills to the test against his new adversaries.
The game is a major departure from its prequel incorporating a darker setting observed in games like Double Dragon 2 and Belmont’s Revenge. Furthermore, a major addition Noriyoshi Ohba, director of the game points out being the inclusion of Health Points (HP). “In the original Shinobi, you died when you are hit once, but in the sequel Joe has HP. We designed it this way because while Shinobi was designed to be played for about three minutes with one coin, The Revenge of Shinobi was a console game and cost considerably more. It was also a much bigger game, so introducing a damage system was much more suitable,” Ohba states. Additionally, the objective of saving hostages was all but gone except for Musashi’s Fiancé. The game is challenging,so memorization is essential if one is to survive the challenges ahead.
There are a few exceptional examples of foreground and background switching which shows how far developers were pushing the Genesis’s hardware back in 1989.“If you look at its backgrounds, for example, in usual Mega Drive games there are only two layers of scrolling. However, in The Super Shinobi there are three to four in multiple stages, and this added a great deal of depth that just wasn’t seen in Mega Drive games at the time,” Ohba states.
Equipping Musashi with only his sword, a limited amount of kunai (unless you preform the infinite Shuriken cheat), and his Ninjutsu magic: Ikazuchi, a lightning shield protecting Musashi from attacks for several hits, Kariu, a fire dragon engulfing the screen with pillars of fire clearing out enemies, Fushin, having the ability to jump greater distances, and finally Mijin, where Musashi blows himself up only to regenerate consequently costing the player a life.
The game has a total of 8 stages modeling them similarly to the prequel: two levels and a boss fight.
Composing the music is done by none other than Yuzo Koshiro who masters the Sega Genesis’s audio capabilities early in its lifetime, foreshadowing his magnum opus, the Streets of Rage series. The game’s composition is one of the greatest gifts to the Sega Genesis’s music scene. Thankfully, the developers added a sound test so you can enjoy the music! Composing the music on a PC-88 which used a similar FM Synth to the Mega Drive/Genesis. Accordingly, he would continue this trend during the rest of his Genesis/Mega Drive composition career. Furthermore, the PC-88 version of the tracks features higher quality drum samples. Yuzo Koshiro’s goal was to combine traditional Japanese music with the growing popular electronic dance music. According to Koshiro, a source of inspiration for the track “Ninja Step” was Prince’s soundtrack to the 1989 Tim Burton film, Batman. Without a doubt, ranking among the best soundtracks on the Genesis. Unfortunately, he would not return to compose the Shinobi sequels.
Besides, heaps of the in-game fonts and sounds return in
the Streets of Rage Series.
Perhaps, any complaints I have with the game are regarding the bland pastel colors in the game which is common with early Genesis/Mega Drive games and the double jumps can be frustrating to perform at times. But, with a little practice and forgiveness on the developers since it was early in the Genesis lifespan these complaints can be forgiven.
The Revenge of Shinobi has several bizarre homages of copyrighted material from “Batman”, “Spiderman”, “Godzilla”, “Terminator”, “Hulk”, “Rambo”, and Jackie Chan. Apparently, the original copyright holders were not too fond of their unlicensed appearance so Sega removed “Batman”, changed “Rambo’s” appearance in later revisions, and “Spiderman” was officially put in since Sega had the license for a few revisions. Ironically though, they had the license for “Rambo”, but never used it in this game. “Godzilla” turns into a fossil in the later revisions as well, but the “Terminator/Hulk” remained in all versions.Accordingly, Obha stated that he made a bit of rough sketches from his mind and photos due to his lack of drawing abilities and unfortunately, the sprite designer reproduced them too well developing the sprites in game. In addition to that, by modeling the face of actor Sonny Chiba he was set as the face of Musashi (Kill Bill and Shadow Warriors) which eventually changed in later versions possibly due to legal reasons.
For those who want a trip down memory lane or wanting to start a Sega Genesis collection, the game itself is affordable with it being released onto different platforms like the Sega Smash Pack for the Dreamcast and PC (compatibility will vary) which instead includes a prototype which has many differences from the final product. Not to mention, also downloadable on the Wii Virtual Console, PSN, and XBLA. For those wanting a physical copy, I recommend the Sega 6-pack which has a great selection of Genesis/Mega Drive titles, including Golden Axe, Sonic, Super Hang On, and Streets of Rage. The game’s soundtrack is available on the The Super Shinobi & Works basing off the PC-88 compositions and Shinobi Music Collection – Legend of Joe Musashi which is based off the Genesis/Mega Drive version. Not only does Revenge of Shinobi look great, it plays well, having one of the best video game soundtrack, and the best Sega Genesis games. I highly recommend people try this game at least once since it shows how impressive Sega’s 16-bit system was in comparison to the NES and PC-Engine. In the end, the game’s legacy remains a respected one for Sega pushing the system’s capabilities early in its lifespan to state, “This is what the Genesis can do that Nintendo can’t!” paving way for Sega domination before the mighty Super Nintendo and a little blue hedgehog arrived.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQULJ98tHLA (Generation 16 Episode 4 by Greg Stewart)
500 Facts About Video Games Vol. 2 by James Egan pg. 53