Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Shinobi (2002)

Go To
You can't fight what you can't see...

"Ignite the fiery vengeance of Hotsuma, the last of the Oboro Clan. Scale walls and slash your way through the demon-filled streets of post-apocalyptic Tokyo. But beware, you'll have to keep your bloodthirsty sword satisfied or suffer its deadly curse yourself."
Back of the cover

A Shinobi game for the PlayStation 2, developed by Overworks (previously Sega AM1).

Two years prior, a pair of brothers in the Oboro Clan, Hotsuma and Moritsune, duel to be the next leader. Hotsuma wins and is bestowed the cursed sword, Akujiki. In the present day, a massive earthquake strikes Tokyo and erects a large golden palace. Hotsuma, now wielding Akujiki, sets off to search the cause, all while being attacked by resurrected clansmen...

While older Shinobi titles are pure arcade games, this iteration is a 3D character action game in the vein of DevilMayCry. Hostuma platforms and fights in a 3D environment, using Shinobi techniques like wallrunning and shuriken to take down his foes. The main gimmick is that Akujiki being a "cursed sword" isn't just for show- the blade will constantly leech Hostuma's life force to sustain itself, translating as a constant health drain. Akujiki can be satiated by killing enemies, preventing the sword from stealing Hotsuma's life. On the upside, the sword also gives Hotsuma the TATE Technique. If Hotsuma kills or stuns an enemy, he will charge a single pip on the TATE Gauge. When the gauge is full, Hotsuma will instantly kill every enemy in the arena at once, including bosses. This encourages the player to be fast and aggressive, as successful play allows Hotsuma to safely eradicate everything that comes his way and speed through tough encounters. The game encourages quick prioritization of enemies and reward strong reflexes and on-the-fly thinking, which translates into the game being hard as sin.

Hotsuma would go on to appear in 2015's Project × Zone 2 as a playable character (teamed up with Capcom's Strider Hiryu), with Hibana, the protagonist of Nightshade (2003) (this game's sequel), accompanying him as a Solo Unit. Both Hotsuma and Hibana would also reappear in 2018's Sega Heroes.

This game provides examples of:

  • Abstract Eater: Hotsuma's sword is inhabited by the Akujiki, an ancient metaphysical parasite that feeds on blood, eats yin, and drinks souls.
  • All There in the Manual: Much of the backstory for the various ninja boss characters is only ever told in the Japanese version's manual. Tidbits include:
  • Always a Bigger Fish: The Hellspawn may be immensely powerful demon lords, but the Akujiki will devour their souls all the same.
  • Anyone Can Die:The game may have a rather small cast, but the only character to make it to the very end is Kagari Ubusuna.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: Kagari, the Ubusuna Miko, whom Hiruko intends to use to power up Yatsurao. She's also his descendant.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Some of Hotsuma's lines when performing a TATE attack are "Forgive me" and "I am sorry".
  • Asian Rune Chant: The kanji on the markers that denote the number of enemies currently active on screen make this when read aloud.
  • Attack Its Weak Point:
    • The Tate system tended to require human foes to be hit in the back for one-hit kills.
    • 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.
  • Badass Arm-Fold: Hotsuma's idle stand has him crossing his arms.
  • Big Bad: Hiruko, the Evil Sorcerer who killed the Oboro Clan and summoned the Hellspawn.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Hiruko is killed but Hotsuma stays on his palace as it collaspse to ensure Akujiki is destroyed.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Previous games besides Shinobi Legions had small blood spurts at best, before they explode or poof or so forth. Here, every enemy Hotsuma kills falls apart to gory little pieces with blatantly red blood spraying all over the place. Even Nightshade (2003) made the blood purple to be a bit less gory.
  • Bonus Feature Failure: Joe Musashi from the original games can be unlocked as a playable character, but the mechanical differences between him and Hotsuma as well as his unlock conditions fall squarely into this trope. To explain:
    • Joe's main draw is 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 Akujiki 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 Joe's 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 helped 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.
  • Boss Banter: Every single one. You can actually attack them while they're taunting.
  • Brother–Sister Team: The two teens Shirogane and Akagane.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Hotsuma will yell "BURN!!" as he casts his jutsu. Hiruko too, but he could be justified being a warlock.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The fourth area 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.
  • Damsel in Distress: Kagari Ubusuna, since Hiruko needs her essence to revive Yatsurao.
  • Darker and Edgier: Besides Hotsuma's rather gory slayings of his foes, this game's story is less about cool ninjas fighting bad guys and saving the world, and more about how It Sucks to Be the Chosen One and almost every cast member dying one way or another, including Hotsuma himself.
  • Dark Secret: The duel Hotsuma fought with his brother Moritsune wasn't to decide the leadership of the Oboro, it was to give a soul to sate Akujiki. Hotsuma isn't pleased to learn that, especially when by the end of the game we see that he has Akujiki to blame for all of his woes.
  • Death of a Child: Shirogane and Akagane, a pair of teenage twins, were not spared by Hiruko and were turned into Hellspawn like the rest of the Oboro clan. Hotsuma is horrified by the implications when they ask him to Mercy Kill them.
  • Difficulty by Region: The U.S. version removes Easy entirely and adds an extra "Super" difficulty level.
  • Dirty Coward: Hakuraku, who will summon ninja hounds and keep healing himself using scrolls from his magical box.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Akujiki may look like a katana, but it's actually some sort of metaphysical parasite. It's so ancient that nobody remembers where it came from, it can remain dormant for centuries until it's awakened by the taste of blood, and it feeds on the concept of yin. It forces its host to slaughter enemies constantly to keep it fed, and will drain their soul if they neglect to satisfy it. Even Hellspawns are terrified of it, and for good reason.
  • Elemental Powers: The Hellspawn lords have them.
  • Evil Counterpart: The four Hellspawn Lords are actually twisted and dark counterparts of the Four Gods: eg Shirogumo stands for the White Tiger of west, and is a white Giant Spider with Tiger's head and earth powers. From the same game, Moritsune is one to Hotsuma, having many of the same attacks and abilities he later doubles up when he is possessed by Aomizuchi, who stands in for the Azure Dragon of the East.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Ageha released Hiruko in the hopes that he would revive Moritsune. Trusting an Evil Sorcerer to uphold his end of the deal proved to be terrible idea as he revived Moritsune with Aomizuchi in control who kills Ageha.
  • 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.
  • Evil Weapon: The sword Akujiki feeds off the lifeforce of those it kills, and if not given fresh blood for too long, feeds off the wielder instead.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Hotsuma is aware that Akujiki's power will either force him to kill others to stay alive or die sealing it away. He chooses the latter, but not without slaying Hiruko first.
Hotsuma: "I am prepared to face my fate."
  • Fake Difficulty: The game is hard but is difficulty is mostly fair. That is except for the fight with Hiruko, since the enemies he summons have no clear front or back so it's hard to tell which side you have to hit in order to set a "TATE" attack, which you need to do because Hiruko has far too much health in order to be taken down with regular attacks.
  • The Four Gods: The four Hellspawn Lords are actually distorted versions of the classical Four Gods, each of them using the alternate reading /different kanji for the color: Shiragumo is a giant tiger-headed spider with powers over earth, standing for Byakko, Benisuzume is a giant fiery moth with a human face and torso standing for Suzaku, Kurokuda is a Kitsune themed humanoid with a giant black snake for legs and able to summon eight more standing for Genbu. Finally, Aomizuchi is a humanoid green-skinned dragon man who controls lightning and is a distorsion of Seiryuu.
  • Fuuma Shuriken: Kongou wields a gargantuan, kite-shaped shuriken that he uses as a shield and a flying saucer-like platform.
  • Genocide from the Inside: Hiruko resurrects the remaining members of the Oboro Clan to fight Homura throughout the game after initially killing them so Hotsuma can collect their souls for his later usage. Hotsuma essentially has to kill off his clan members after they've already died.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Akujiki, despite Hotsuma being the one using it. Everything is caused by the sword. Hotsuma and Moritsune's duel was so that one of them would die sate the blade. This caused Ageha to release Hiruko, whose entire plan was for Hotsuma to kill the revived Oboro and the Hellspawn so he could merge with the souls consumed by the blade and obtain ultimate power and Take Over the World. Hotsuma vows to end Akujiki himself as he realizes it was responsible for all the pain in his life.
  • The Hero: Hotsuma sets the story by avenging the deaths of the Oboro Clan and slaying their malicious enemy Hiruko Ubusuna.
  • The Hero Dies: Hotsuma stays behind in a collapsing Golden Palace after killing Hiruko to seal Akujiki away for good.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: Hotsuma's scarf is designed to make him this so the player doesn't lose track of him during the action.
  • 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 Kongou, who uses his extra-spiky iron Geta in order to chain lightning bolts at you.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Hotsuma's sword can cut a tank in half.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Moritsune when unlocked as playable character is faster and stronger than Hotsuma, but his yin meter drains more quickly causing him to need to kill more enemies to keep his health from being drained.
  • Living Weapon: Akujiki feeds off of the yin of its victims souls, if Hotsuma doesn't kill anyone in time, it will consume his soul instead.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Ageha betrayed the Oboro Clan and broke the seal to release Hiruko, hoping that he would resurrect Moritsune, a childhood friend who saved her from having her soul absorbed by the Akujiki when they were children.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Gameplay example with the fight with Hiruko. Hotsuma's attacks will only remove a sliver of Hiruko's health, so he can only reliably be killed with "TATE" attack. If Hiruko didn't summon minion to allow Hotsuma to do a "TATE" then he may well have been impossible.
  • Nintendo Hard: This entry is probably the hardest game in the entire franchise, between juggling a life-draining sword that forces you to play aggressively to survive, Bottomless Pit galore with even having to combo enemies over them from wall to wall, and straight up hard boss fights that require you to use all the tools and abilities as well as have reflexes to survive; death means an entire stage restart unless you reached the boss and if you run out of continues altogether, not even a boss checkpoint will spare you from a stage do-over.
  • Pyromaniac: Homura is very fond of roasting people.
  • Red Herring: Yatsurao. It initially looks like reviving it is Hiruko's goal, but his plan was actually for Hotsuma to destroy it so he could absorb the Yin and regain his youth.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Ageha having betrayed the Oboro to resurrect Moritsune for Hiruko, he rewards her by reuniting her with the ninja she loved. But then, Aomizuchi who is controlling Moritsune kills Ageha.
  • Rule of Cool: Hotsuma's sword-parachuting, cutting tanks, missiles, and helicopters in half...
  • Scarf of Asskicking: Hotsuma's scarf. Hell, they tack one on JOE in his model here... It doesn't trail or get brushlike... but it's the principle that matters.
  • 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.
  • Secret Character: None other than the original trilogy's Joe Musashi.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: After Hiruko explains his Evil Plan and does an Evil Laugh, Hotsuma asks he's through talking. The sorcerer is stunned, before Hotsuma says he doesn't care if he dies, but he will kill Hiruko and Akujiki.
  • Signs of Disrepair: A neon sign 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".
  • Soul Eating: The Akujiki feeds on the souls of those that are slain by it, and it can and will also feed on the soul of its wielder should he fail to keep it sated.
  • You Are Already Dead: The whole TATE sequence. Attack the enemy enough times until they freeze, go to the next one, and when all the enemies are frozen, Hotsuma will pose or sheath his sword, with all the enemies exploding simultaneously.