He is stronger than steel and moves faster than a whirlwind.
— Intro, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Shinobi is a series of side-scrolling action games that were released by Sega during the late 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s. The games has the player controlling a ninja (usually Joe Musashi, an obvious nod to ninja actor Sho Kosugi) who battles the forces of evil in each title.The original Shinobi was originally released in 1987 for the arcades. The player controls a ninja named Joe Musashi, who fights a criminal syndicate known as "Zeed" in order to rescue his kidnapped students. The original game featured a floor jumping system similar to Namco's Rolling Thunder. Musashi is armed with his punches and kicks, as well as an unlimited supply of shurikens (which can upgraded into a sword and machine gun), as well as different kinds of ninja arts which could be used to kill all on-screen enemies. Sega also made a Master System rendition which changed the game mechanics by adding more weapons, as well as a health gauge system and the ability to carry multiple ninja arts. There were also licensed versions for the Nintendo Entertainment System and PC Engine.A single arcade sequel was released in 1989 titled Shadow Dancer, which retained the format of the original arcade game, giving the player a canine companion who helps the player fend off enemies. A severely stripped-down version was released for the Sega Master System, while the Sega Genesis got Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, which had similar gameplay but with completed redesigned level layouts and different enemies.Shinobi had further sequels for home consoles, the most prominent being the two Super Shinobi games for the Genesis, which consisted of The Revenge of Shinobi and Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master. The Super Shinobi series completely revamps the game mechanics from the arcade games, ditching the one-hit-kill rule from the arcade game, while adding selectable ninja arts and abilities in the process. The series went into a hiatus after the release of Shinobi Legions for the Sega Saturn, which eschews the hand-drawn graphics from previous installments in favor of Mortal Kombat-style digitized graphics.Sega revived the series in the early 2000s with a new 3D game simply titled Shinobi for the PlayStation 2 in 2002, which had the player controlling a new ninja named Hotsuma, who wields the life-draining blade known as Akujiki (Eater of Evil). Joe Musashi also appeared in the new game as well as a hidden character. It was followed by a pseudo-sequel titled Nightshade in 2003, also for PS2, which featured a female ninja named Hibana. Many of the older titles (namely the three Genesis games and the original arcade game) had been re-released for the Wii Virtual Console.A new Shinobi game was developed by Griptonite Studios for the 3DS, and released in September 2011.Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed features Joe Musashi as an unlockable racer as well as a track based around Shinobi called Seasonal Shrines.
Airborne Aircraft Carrier: In the final mission of Shinobi III, Joe boards Neo Zeed's flying fortress and has to navigate past its automated defenses in order to reach the final duel with the Shadow Master.
The backstory for Secret of Shinobi differs between versions, particularly when it comes to the player character's identity. The Japanese manual identifies him as Joe Musashi's estranged son Hayate, while the American version changes him to Joe Musashi himself. The in-game text is ambiguous enough to favor either version. Note that the original arcade Shadow Dancer didn't even have anything to do with Musashi.
All the backstory for Shinobi X is only detailed in the manual, making the FMV scenes - especially the ones that deal with Kazuma and Sho - completely incomprehensible.
Apocalypse Maiden: The Ubusuna Miko in the PS2 game, whom Hiruko intend to use to power up Yatsurao. She's also his descendent.
Badass: Joe Musashi, by far. Hotsuma also qualifies.
Might as well throw in Hibana as well, no?
Jiro takes this even further.
Base on Wheels: The giant ballistic missile tractor in Revenge of Shinobi.
Battle Aura: In Shinobi III, the final battle with the Shadow Master starts off on equal footing as he uses shuriken and katana against Joe. Then when he takes enough damage, he calls down a beam of energy to power himself up with a corona of fire — at which point he starts firing energy bolts from his palms, hurls a huge Energy Ball, counters Joe's dive kick with a Shoryuken and sometimes unleashes his own Ninjitsu technique to spray the entire chamber with energy bolts.
Bonus Feature Failure: Joe Musashi can be unlocked as a playable character in the PS2 Shinobi, his bonus being that he has an unlimited supply of shurikens — which damage targets instead of paralyzing them, and no life draining Tate gauge (since he doesn't wield the Akujiku blade). He has the strongest magic attack as well. The benefit to this is that you don't have to worry about getting huge combos to keep your health and damage enemies, and you can just continually chuck shurikens at some of the harder to kill enemies. The downside is that there are some bosses that pretty much require you to get huge combos in order to defeat them in a timely fashion; however, you can also chuck shurikens at them infinitely. A perfect beginner character... only you don't get him until you've collected 40 Oboro coins, which is only possible if you've already beaten the game twice: once on Normal and again on Hard.
Using his infinite shurikens to defeat a boss sounds good on paper, but in practice it takes a ridiculously long time. The game was also designed around the 'stun' ability of Hotsuma and Moritsune's projectiles, which actually makes certain sections trickier with Joe.
On another note all together, the long time fans will note that this isn't much of a surprise for Joe, as all of his titles focused much of the combat on rapid-fire shuriken throwing (save for latter installments like Shinobi III, where the running slash and jump kick help to ease the difficulty by a good notch), Making this something of a throwback to the arcade games.
Some other things to note. Hotsuma has the weakest sword strike but average speed, defense, and magic. He doesn't lose energy to his sword like Moritsune. Moritsune has the most speed and power, but the worst defense and second strongest magic. Joe Musashi has the slowest speed, but the second strongest sword and the most powerful magic; in addition, he doesn't lose energy to Akujiki, and he also has unlimited Shurikens. He's there to beat the game on Super difficulty if you need it.
Bribing Your Way to Victory: Averted in the final stage of the arcade original. You can continue as many times as needed in previous levels, but here losing all your chances is Game Over, with no continue prompt. Quite a nasty surprise, really.
Calling Your Attacks: Hotsuma will yell "BURN!!" as he cast his jutsu. Hiruko too, but he could be justified being a warlock.
Cherry Tapping: the essence of most of the older games, as getting close enough to use your blade is suicidal lest you're quite skilled... you spend most of your time at a distance, chucking shurikens like it's going out of style. Lampshaded by Joe's unique ability when he's unlocked in the PS2 game...see Bonus Feature Failure above.
Continuing Is Painful: In the Master System version of the original game, dying resets the length of your life bar down to its default, and brings you back down to the slow-shuriken weapon. The former can be particularly frustrating in levels 4-2 and 4-3, which feature bottomless pits.
Continuity Nod: Of sorts in the 3DS version. Enemies from past games like the Brain Mutants make an appearance, and one stage has Jiro board a Zeed warship identical to the one in the final level of Shinobi III.
Convection Schmonvection: The fourth area in the PS2 version is filled with lava pools and fire-spitting foes. Yet, Hotsuma has no problem whatsoever walking around. He's damaged only if he hits the magma.
Early Installment Weirdness: Originally, Joe was not the most traditional ninja around. He didn't wear his headress-mask and he was a One-Hit-Point Wonder. The guy also went the high tech route when it came to his weapon power-up. When he powered-up, he exchanged his regular shurikens for a machine gun that shot rocket-propelled explosive shells. So basically he was packing a bolter from Warhammer 40K! The flaming shurikens that he uses now are no less powerful but a lot less stylish and he's taken to covering his face.
The Shadow Master is this to Joe, especially since he was cloned from the Musashi bloodline.
Evil Plan: Hiruko is more interested in collecting souls than the Yatsurao. His actions are focused on collecting them, or getting the player to collect them for him. Nonetheless, the Yatsurao thing is the opening conflict.
Flechette Storm: The Punishing Rain technique, from The Revenge of Shinobi onwards. Also, the Shadow Master's Ninjitsu technique.
For Massive Damage: Both Lobster samurais had their heads as their weak point. Some bosses have this as well.
The PS2 game's Tate system tended to require human foes to be hit in the back for one-hit kills, while the massive Hellspawn Lord bosses had "taunt" phases to their attack patterns where they took hugely increased damage. Outside the US-only Super difficulty, every boss could be killed by Hotsuma in a single sword swing save the two iterations of the Blackhawk. Yes, even Shirogane and Akagane if attacked at the right time.
Fuuma Shuriken: Kogou wields a gargantuan, kite-shaped shuriken that he uses as a shield and a flying saucer-like platform.
Guide Dang It: Killing the final boss in Revenge of Shinobi can get like this, given he appears completely invulnerable and even the boss-killing Mijin magic deals no damage to him. As it turns out, you can only attack his body, which is usually protected by his deadly Kabuki hair — until he overextends it in his initial strike, which leaves an opening that Joe can throw a shuriken at... or even detonate a Mijin into For Massive Damage.
Highly-Visible Ninja: Hotsuma's scarf is designed to make him this so the player doesn't lose track of him during the action.
Lest we forget... Joe Musashi...a master ninja, fearsome shadow, all around badass... clad in WHITE.
Hibana doesn't do anything to be very stealthy either for the most part... as she too wears mostly white and has a scarf that trails ghostly pink.
Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Shadow Dancer on the Genesis uses faux-sequel numberings on its difficulty levels: level 2 and 3 change the title screen to Shadow Dancer II and III, respectively.
Improbable Use of a Weapon: In the 3DS Shinobi, Kunai are used as projectile weapons much like shuriken. Although not implausible in real life, Kunai were used primarily as tools and melee weapons (as depicted in Revenge of Shinobi and Shinobi III), seldom thrown.
Improbable Weapon User: A part from various weird shaped blades, we have Homura, who fights with a kiseru (pipe), Hakuraku, who uses a huge box full of scrolls, and Kogou, who uses his extra-spiky iron Geta in order to chain lightning bolts at you.
Spider-Man was more of a Special Guest, as Sega originally obtained the rights to use him in another set of games. In fact, he was the only one of the aforementioned cameos who remained the same until the Wii re-release, since Sega no longer had the Spidey license by that time. Especially noted is that he does not die in the Boss Fight; rather, he climbs out of the picture after taking enough hits before the Batman/Devilman rip off moves in to take on Joe.
In Shinobi III, Mecha Godzilla is the fifth boss, making him the second Godzilla-related boss in the series.
In the prototype of Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, titled Kid Shinobi, one of the bosses was named Mari-oh, who looked like the mascot of a certain rival company dressed like a samurai. Said company wasn't amused by the joke Sega made at their expense, so Mari-oh was renamed Kabuto and his face was concealed.
Here's a dialogue in a youtube comment section for an LP of Revenge of Shinobi:
sandwichoftruthiness: So you're a ninja and so far you've fought Rambo clones, Terminator-Hulk, Spider-Man, Batman and Godzilla. Did Sega's CEO just write some fan-fiction and tell them to make it into a game? slowbeef: Does the "Tropes vs. Ninjas" title make sense now?
Legacy Character: In the 3DSShinobi, it seems Shadow Master has become a title for the head of Zeed, as the one fought in this game is apparently the very first and is quite different from the Cyberninja in Shinobi III.
The Man Behind the Man: Orn in the 3DS Shinobi is the real mastermind behind the attack on Jiro's village, and is controlling the Shadow Master (and therefore Zeed).
Not the Fall That Kills You: The ending of Shinobi on 3DS has Jiro fall from space ALL THE WAY DOWN TO EARTH during the entirety of the credits. On fire. And then he walks away unscathed upon landing. Doubles with I Fell for Hours.
One-Hit-Point Wonder: The player dies in one hit in the original arcade versions of Shinobi and Shadow Dancer. This can be quite jarring to players more accustomed to the console versions, since even the Master System version of Shinobi gave the player a life gauge. The only console game in the series to retain the one hit rule was the Genesis version of Shadow Dancer.
Prehensile Hair: The final boss in The Revenge of Shinobi uses his hair as a weapon.
The name Shinobi alone could apply to the original 1987 arcade game and its console variants, the first Game Gear title, the 2002 PlayStation 2 game starring Hotsuma, and the 2011 3DS game by Griptonite (aka Shinobi 3D).
The Revenge of Shinobi could apply to the 1989 Sega Genesis game (aka The Super Shinobi) or the 2002 Game Boy Advance game by 3D6 games.
Recycled INSPACE: The arcade version of E Swat is pretty much Shadow Dancer with a RoboCop-esque setting. The Genesis version is more different, though.
They even tack one on Hibana - although hers isn't quite as epic, it does leave a rather cool 'ghost trail' effect.
Hell, they tack one on JOE in his model for PS2... it doesn't trail or get brushlike....but it's the principle that matters.
Jiro Musashi sports one.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Hiruko at first and then Yatsurao, a demonic living statue powered by the souls of the victims of all the earthquakes that struck Tokyo in the past.
Sequel Number Snarl: The Genesis games go from Revenge of Shinobi to Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi to Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master. Shinobi III is the true sequel to Revenge of Shinobi and features the same gameplay system, while Secret of Shinobi is actually a loose remake of the arcade's Shadow Dancer which kept the arcade version's one-hit-point-per-life system.
Signs of Disrepair: A neon sign in the PS2 game reads "SKILL UP" before the battle begins. As the boss walks towards you, the "S" and "P" short out, and the sign reads "KILL U".
Shout-Out: An organization named "Zeed"? An enemy named "Ken-oh"? Someone must have been watching too much Hokuto no Ken when they made the game.
One of the unlockable extra weapons is the Golden Axe. Also in the Oboro Village level next to one of the hidden Mastery Coins is the dwarf Gilius Thunderhead trapped in ice. Free him and he'll thank you with an extra life before moving on.
In the Game Gear games, you have a Five-Man Band of heroes colored in red, blue, green, yellow, and pink. Sounds like a Super Sentai team to me.
Suicide Attack / Taking You with Me / Action Bomb: The Art of Mijin sets off an explosion fuelled by Joe's lifeforce (i.e. one life) that'll wipe out Mooks and inflict heavy damage on Bosses. Also, for the longer stretches, it's a great way to avoid having to do a level from closer to the starting point - if you're going to die, might as well do it without having to do everything over again, no?
But if you try to do it when you don't have any lives left, this can fall right into Explosive Stupidity.
Super Mode: Again, the Shadow Master after he charges up.
A Winner Is You: The ending in the arcade Shinobi wasn't anything special to begin with, but it sure beats the Master System port, which awards the player with a blank Game Over screen (the same one you can get for losing the game).
Womb Level: The second half of level 3 in Shinobi III.