A scrolling platform beat-em-up in which the player takes on the role of Joe Musashi, a Shinobi Ninja, who must fight his way through 5 tough missions – each made up of between 3 to 5 stages – in his quest to rescue the kidnapped Ninja children of the Iga clan; now hostages of an evil Ninja syndicate called “Zeed”. To complete a mission, the player must rescue all of the kidnapped children on each level, with the number of hostages remaining displayed on a meter in the bottom left corner of the screen.
The Shinobi Ninja begins each level armed with either ‘shuriken’ throwing stars or a gun for long-range attacks; and a Samurai sword for close-range combat. In addition, the Ninja also has one ‘Magic Attack’ per level; a smart bomb which kills or damages all on-screen enemies. A points bonus is awarded whenever a level is completed without the Magic Attack being used. An end-of-level guardian awaits the player at the end of each mission, and each takes several hits before it is killed. Once a boss is defeated, the player is taken to a bonus stage in which a large number of Ninjas will try to ‘jump’ from the back of the screen to the front to attack the player. A bonus life is awarded if the player manages to kill all of the Ninjas without being attacked.
Shinobi was a huge success for Sega, and deservedly so. Its perfectly realized blend of platform and fighting action and is as fine an exponent of the ‘easy to get into, difficult to master’ gameplay ethic as video games have seen.