#131 Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master

  • Original release year: 1993
  • Consoles: Mega Drive/Genesis (later: various compilations and Virtua Console)

My only experience of the Shinobi series as a youngster was Revenge of Shinobi, which was a fairly common and popular title for gamers in the early 90s, thanks mostly to it being a pack in title as part of various compilation cartridges here in Europe. It was an okay title, but years later it doesn’t do a lot for me.

I never really knew about Shinobi 3’s existence until years later. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because my parents had a really conservative attitude to video games and tried to encourage me to play games with educational value (remember those awful ‘edutainment’ MS-Dos and Windows titles that were so prevalent in the 90s?) or that were just completely inoffensive (cutsey platformers for the most part) and therefore I missed out on a lot of the more ‘violent’ 16 bit titles until I was a bit older. I never understood the attitude and belief people have that violence in video games will automatically turn innocent children into violent thugs. Then again, I did accidentally break my elder brother’s nose attempting to copy a roundhouse kick I’d see on Power Rangers, which unfortunately did make contact, so maybe they had a point…

So, all these years later, I must admit that I’ve yet to actually complete Shinobi 3. I first experienced it via various Mega Drive compilations that have been released over the years on PS2, PS3, PSP etc. More recently, I decided to buy a physical copy of the game so I can enjoy it on the original hardware.

Not only can I safely say that it is vastly superior to Revenge of the Shinobi (by the way, no I haven’t played Shadow Dancer sorry), but I can also say that it’s probably one of the finest games on the Mega Drive and Genesis. It’s fluid, it’s fast, the graphics are gorgeous, the gameplay is rock solid and it’s tons of fun, despite its difficulty – which is arguably well balanced too. Story-wise, I don’t really know much of what’s going on. Neo Zeed is back, evil as always and Joe Musashi returns again to kick more ass. That’s all you really need to know with gameplay as strong as Shinobi III’s.

Awesome!

What makes Shinobi III stand out from its predecessors is all the new moves and gameplay mechanics it added, enriched by the superior level design. Wall bouncing as well as the ability to run really add to the gameplay and help make the experience much smoother and more enjoyable. To stop the action from feeling too repetitive, there’s even sections that diversify the gameplay, such as levels that feature Joe riding a horse and a dolphin (yes, really).

Overall, Shinobi III is one of the best examples of side-scrolling excellence of all time. From the challenging epic boss battles to the great platforming sections that really make you feel like a ninja, as you bounce of walls, this is a game that Genesis/Mega Drive owners should have in their collection.

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