This was the same demo available at E3. As such, there are certain things I don’t cover in this preview. For the full picture, check out our E3 preview!
Back at E3 I previewed Shinobi 3D for the first time. I loved what I got to play, but my time with the game was limited. At last month’s New York Comic Con I was able to give the game another go, so I’d like to talk more about it.
I would like to first reiterate one very important point: this game feels like a Shinobi game. More specifically, Shinobi 3. Many attacks and moves are carried over from Shinobi 3, lending the game a very familiar feel. Walk jumps require the exact same button combination, homing kicks still provide a valuable way to strike enemies quickly from above, and even the aerial spinning shuriken attack feels the same. The difficulty is still here as well. Shinobi 3D is not for the casual gamer, or anyone who’s used to video games giving you grossly over powered characters or scripted scenes. This game will kick your ass. I would go so far as to say it’s even more difficult than Shinobi 3, since out of the dozen times I’ve played the demo between E3 and NYCC, I was only able to get to the final boss twice. This game is not for pansies who can’t play a game without permanent check points every few minutes. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a SEGA game with this level of old school difficulty. The first level has some crazy wall jumping segments that require some very precise timing and movement, loads of enemies that require quick reflexes to parry and kill, a sub boss that requires very exact timing to even hurt and I couldn’t even beat the last boss on the rare occasion I reached it.
Don’t take Shinobi 3D to be a mere Shinobi 3 clone though, because the game takes many steps to improve the formula. The combat is much more fluid in Shinobi 3D then it has been in past games. I would like to refer you to the last preview for details on the battle system, but needless to say some serious changes have been made. In addition to having access to a wider variety of moves, players can also parry with the right trigger button. Parrying is easily the best addition to the battle system, lending a whole new dimension to the way Musashi fights. A skilled player can deflect attack after attack and rack up some serious scores in the process. It feels really good to parry kunai in mid-air and block and counter attack after attack from an army of ninjas. Parrying is hard, too. It requires very precise timing to pull off. Only truly skilled players will be able to wreak to full benefits of it. Difficulty? Timing? Sounds like a natural progression of the Shinobi formula, right? Feels like one too.
Now, being a 3DS game, Shinobi 3D naturally needs to use the 3D capabilities, right? Well, by and large, it doesn’t and most of the game is perfectly playable with the 3D effect off. I find the sense of depth during the side scrolling action segments to be pretty cool, though it serves no practical purpose. There is an on rails horse segment that relies on the 3D, though it’s easily the weakest part of the demo. This is largely due to how simple it is: you have to jump over or avoid trees, and kill enemies that ride up alongside you. Compared to the depth of the main game, the horse riding segment feels especially dull. It’s also especially difficult if you have the 3D off. Because the camera is position behind the horse, the 3D is critical to judging the distance and position of the obstacles you have to avoid. I found the segment to be very frustrating until I turned the 3D on, which made it a bit less frustrating. I hope that the other 3D segments of this game are more exciting, because the vehicle segments of Shinobi 3 were some of the coolest parts of the game, horse segment included.
Shinobi 3D has caught a lot of flak for its graphics. Honestly? I enjoy the stylized look. The game looks better on the 3DS screen than on the blown up screenshots on the internet. That said, the polygon count is obviously not up to snuff with a lot of the better looking 3DS games, and it certainly doesn’t make full use of the 3DS hardware. That being said, the frame rate is great, and in a game as fast paced as Shinobi, that’s really all I want.
I’ve wanted a new Shinobi game ever since I bought and loved Shinobi 3 a few years ago. Shinobi 3D was a pleasant surprise, and I’m happy to say the game seems to be living up to the Genesis originals. It offers a rare hardcore experience that can be difficult to find these days. The demo is incredibly difficult, so anyone who’s used to games holding their hand or giving them super guides and invincible tanooki suits, you will get frustrated here. If you’ve been dying for a new Shinobi game, or a new game that is willing to unapologetically kick your ass? Unless something changes in the final product, this game is for you.
Shinobi 3D launches exclusively for the 3DS next week on November 15th. I’ll be picking up my copy alongside Halo Anniversary at midnight at a GameStop.Ad: