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Shinobi
Box artwork for Shinobi.
Developer(s) Sega, Backbone Entertainment
Publisher(s) Sega, Asmik, Tengen
Distributor(s) Xbox Live Arcade, Wii Virtual Console
Release date(s)
Xbox Live Arcade icon.png
Xbox Live Arcade
Wii Virtual Console icon.png
Wii Virtual Console
Sega Master System icon.png
Sega Master System
TurboGrafx-16 icon.png
TurboGrafx-16
Genre(s) Platformer, Hack and slash
System(s) Arcade, Sega Master System, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64/128, ZX Spectrum, DOS, MSX, PC Engine, NES, Wii, Xbox 360
Mode(s) Single player, multiplayer
Rating(s)
ESRB: ESRB E10.png Everyone 10+
PEGI: PEGI 12.png Ages 12+
Website http://vc.sega.jp/vca_shinobi/
Followed by Shadow Dancer
Series Shinobi
Neoseeker Related Pages
This is the first game in the Shinobi series. For other games in the series see the Shinobi category.
For the Game Gear game released as Shinobi, see The GG Shinobi.

Shinobi (忍 -SHINOBI-?) is an arcade game, developed and published by Sega. It was originally released in 1987 and ported to numerous systems. The game spawned numerous sequels.

A re-worked version was released for Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade on June 10, 2009 with HD support and online leaderboards. The original coin-op version of the game was released for the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on July 14, 2009, in the PAL regions on October 23, 2009 and in North America on December 7, 2009.

Plot[edit]

Shinobi is about a ninja named Joe Musashi who has to stop a criminal organization called "Zeed" who are kidnapping the children of the Oboro clan. Through five missions of increasing difficulty, Musashi must make his way to Zeed's headquarters and free all the hostages before confronting Zeed's leaders known as "Ring of Five", which are formidable enemies on their own. "Ring of Five" are the bosses at the end of each level. Below is the list of them.

  • Ken Oh - A gigantic samurai-like wizard who can throw fireballs.
  • Black Turtle - A leader who is piloting or aboard an attack helicopter.
  • Mandara - A Hinduistic guru who is, in fact, cyborg.
  • Lobster - A large samurai with a V-shaped symbol on his head who wields a sword.
  • Masked Ninja - The main leader of Zeed and the last boss, he is a powerful ninja with vast magical and physical powers. His true identity is revealed to be Nakahara, Joe Musashi's mentor. Nakahara's name is a reference to the Musashi-Nakahara Station. His name is meant to be a hint of his true identity as "Nakahara Musashi", Joe Musashi's father.

Gameplay[edit]

The five missions in the game are each three or four stages long. Several hostages are being held in each stage; Joe must rescue all of them before he is allowed to finish the stage. The last stage in each mission has no hostages, but instead features a powerful boss character whom Joe must defeat. After completing each of the first four missions the player is taken to a bonus stage, where he can earn an extra life if he is able to kill all of the ninjas leaping towards him. Completing the fifth mission ends the game. Also, once the fifth mission begins, continues are no longer allowed; the player has to finish the game with however many lives he has left at that point. If the player earns a place on the high score board, the number of credits it took him to get that score is displayed along with his score.

Joe's standard weapons are an unlimited supply of shuriken, along with punches and kicks when attacking at close range. One hostage per stage gives him a power-up. When powered-up, his throwing stars are replaced by a gun that fires large, explosive bullets, and his close-range attack becomes a katana slash. Joe can also perform "ninja magic," which may be used only once per stage and kills (or damages, in the case of bosses) all enemies on the screen. Since most enemies appear in the same place on each level, it is possible to master the game by memorizing their locations and devising patterns to defeat them.

At the end of each stage, the player receives score bonuses based on performance. Completing the stage without using ninja magic earns or even without using any throwing stars or bullets earns the player a point bonus. The player has three minutes to complete each stage; remaining time at the end of the stage is also converted to bonus points and added to the player's score.

Home versions[edit]

Shinobi was released by Virgin Games to the following home computer platforms in Europe: versions were released for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga, and Atari ST in 1989. A PC Engine version was released exclusively in Japan by Asmik on December 8, 1989.

Sega themselves produced their own home version of Shinobi for their Master System game console. It was released in Japan on June 19, 1988, with subsequent releases in North America and Europe. The gameplay from the original coin-op version were altered for this version. Instead of the one-hit kills from the arcade game, the player now has a life gauge that allows Musashi to sustain more damage before losing a life. While the player can still rescue hostages in this version, it is now an optional task and not mandatory to completing any of the game's stages. However, rescuing hostages is still necessary for the player to upgrade weapons or replenish energy. Additionally, rescuing certain hostages is a requirement to access the game's bonus stages. The ninja arts abilities are now obtained from completing these bonus rounds and the player may hold up to four stock. The input method of performing these ninja arts is also different as well. The player can use between four different close-range weapons, four long-range weapons, and six ninja arts.

The Nintendo Entertainment System version of Shinobi was released by Tengen exclusively in North America as an unlicensed release in 1989. It features the same gameplay changes made to the game as in the Master System version.

The original coin-op version is available as a downloadable video game on the Xbox Live Arcade service, as well as on the Wii Virtual Console. The Virtual Console version has certain things edited out (such as the Marilyn Monroe posters in Mission 1 Act 2). The arcade version of the game is available as an unlockable extra in the Sega compilation Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection.

Edited and alternate versions[edit]

Shinobi is notable for two licensing issues that were rectified in later years with minor legal consult.

Around the time that Shinobi was created, Sega had acquired licensing rights to produce games based on Marvel Comics iconic character Spider-Man, the first of which appeared on the Sega Genesis in 1990. Oddly enough, Sega took this as an opportunity to use the Spider-Man likeness in other games that they were producing at the time, most notably Shinobi. Spider-Man would later appear in Revenge of Shinobi as a boss, this time complete with web-slinging.

No longer in possession of the Spider-Man license, which was infringed in the first place by including the likeness of Spider-Man in a different game that was not approved by Marvel, Sega was forced to make changes to any and all subsequent re-releases of the game in years to come. That said, the version of Shinobi released for download on Xbox Live Arcade and the Wii network have recolored Spider-Man to a green and yellow color scheme. Otherwise, the sprite is exactly the same. However, this was enough to satisfy any possible legal ramification that may occur, as the color clearly denotes that the sprite is not Spider-Man.

Also in Mission 1-2 were posters of Marilyn Monroe. They were a common image frequently used and seen during the 1980s. However, without consent from the Monroe estate, these images had to be removed and are no longer included in the version available for download from Xbox Live and Wii.

Table of Contents

Shinobi/Table of Contents