At New York Comic Con, one of the third party games on display at Nintendo's booth was Sega's Shinobi for 3DS. This action-packed ninja adventure promises to bring back the old-school arcade experience that gamers have been wanting for the last few years. We got to play some of it there, and it feels like it is going to match the old school pretty well.
The demo started off with the protagonist talking with his sensei about basics and some advanced controls, and there was quite a lot to learn. I quickly decided to skip through the tutorial and jump head-first into the game, although in hindsight perhaps I should have gone through the tutorial a little bit. From the quick-passing screens, I could see a large amount of moves that the main character can do, from sword slashing to parrying to a new magic move which clears the screen in one blow.
As soon as I passed the tutorial, invading forces attacked the dojo and the game began in earnest. Like the older Shinobi games, this game is a side-scrolling action game in which you use the circle pad to move the ninja around and attack a vast onslaught of enemies using long-range shurikens and close-range combat. Unfortunately, the enemies can also throw throwing stars at you, and at the time, I did not realize that the parry move could knock off projectiles as they came to me. As a result, I got pummeled quite often in my time.
Like real ninjas, the enemies do not give you much time to react, making the whole demo a high-octane experience, which was only made more complicated around the crowded and loud convention floor. If you can manage to sneak behind an enemy, you can take them out in a one-move takedown; if they spot you, you earn a sword to the face. While fighting, you can throw a chain upward to launch yourself toward higher places and especially toward airborne enemies for special combos. However, I could not find a way to launch the chain in any other direction; this was no Bionic Commando for me.
Besides fighting, the platforming felt pretty straight forward. The game allows you to use ninja skills to grab onto platforms, ropes, and anything else that a badass ninja needs to grab to get the job done. The game is clearly more combat-based, and perhaps that is a good thing when it comes to the Shinobi franchise.
Graphically, the style is more comic-based, if the boxart did not give this away. The fire effects and cel-shaded enemies further emphasize the comic style, but the backgrounds are pretty flat and lack detail where it should be expected. With stylized games like Okamiden showing up at the end of the DS's life with great aethetics, Shinobi came off to me as a simple, upgraded DS game in the texture department rather than a full-blown 3DS game. In 3D, the game looks nice, but there could have certainly been more usage of the display with the actions in the backgrounds. There should have been more to emphasize the 3D effects where possible.
While I was fairly inept at playing the game at the show floor, Shinobi looks like it will match the difficulty expectations of the series. I continued to get beaten up by the enemies and was confused by all the moves throughout; NYCC was probably not a good venue for me to try the game out, especially having skipped the tutorial entirely. Initial qualms aside, the game looks like it'll meet the expectations of Shinobi fans of yore.
Shinobi is expected for release this November.