Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master Review

While we’re glad to see Sega supporting the iPhone, releasing old Genesis games one at a time and using a suspect emulator is perhaps not the best way to go. Their latest classic release is Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, a game old-school arcade hounds will almost certainly remember with fondness.

The original Shinobi appeared in arcades in the mid-’80s and developed a well-deserved following. The series has hit a number of systems, including Sega’s Master System, PCs, various portables, and the PS2. Shinobi III was released in 1993, and it’s been included in multiple Genesis collections. It was probably the best of the bunch, and at the time was definitely a great side-scrolling ninja adventure.

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Shinobi III offers seven levels of crazy ninja action with challenging (but not impossible) jumping, slashing, and star-throwing gameplay. The emulation here is solid overall, and unlike earlier Genesis ports, the game keeps a reasonable frame rate throughout. That said, Shinobi III suffers from the same big problem as the earlier releases– the controls. The virtual D-pad is almost always right in the way of ninja protagonist, Joe Musashi, and the buttons inevitably block the view of oncoming enemies.

There’s an option to shrink the game screen so that the controls appear below it, but even blown up on the iPad it makes the play window painfully small. Still, Shinobi III is playable, just not conveniently so. Since this is really just the old ROM running through Sega’s emulation software, the game is a direct port of the original 1993 game. The graphics are exactly what you’d expect– great nearly two decades ago, but not so much now.

If you’re a fan of the classics who can put up with the control pad issues, Shinobi III can be a fun, if definitely antiquated, trip down memory lane. The game itself is a solid example of old school 2-D arcade action, but given the control issues and the current price of $2.99, it’s hard to recommend it on the iPhone.

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