Saturday, July 25, 2009
Shadow Dancer, another entry into Sega's echelon of time-tested classics, released to arcades in 1989 and a port showed up on Sega's Genesis console two years later, I believe. What's the noise then?
A little backstory - Shinobi was a fairly popular Sega property in the late 80s. A beautiful arcade game which inspired an equally incredible spinoff early into Genesis' lifespan, known as Revenge of Shinobi. Shadow Dancer was the "official" sequel in the arcade, though the Genesis version shown here was only loosely based on this arcade. To complicate it, there were direct ports of that arcade title for oter machines, including Sega's own previous-gen console. It sounds a little confusing, but this was all fairly normal back in those days.
I was a superfan of Revenge of Shinobi, and so there was no way I'd not buy this as well. The boxart looked fairly crappy and the logo unspectacular (why did they ditch the better-looking JPN ones? Ah, game politics...) but neither were good enough reasons to dissuade me. Upon booting up, I saw a game which immediately looked much more rough around the edges than either the arcade on which it was loosely based, as well as the console title which preceded it (Revenge). The art and music both felt like a downgrade, and the control seemed a little less exacting. Still, I had just plunked down my $50, so off I went into Ninjaland..
Despite my initial discouragement, the game held up. The visuals, though murky, were still detailed and serviceable for 16-bit. The sound was scratchy and kinda gross, but still catchy and fairly rockin'. Gameplay wise, you were traveling through a post-apocalyptic backdrop fighting weird MadMax-looking goons or... something.. and the style adopted the older Shinobi motif of "rescue hostages to clear the level." Gone was the precision attacking and particular magic upgrades of Revenge (such as high jumping and suicide kill - don't you love that name?) and instead you just had cheesy "hurt everything on screen magic." In spite of these detriments, it was still a solid enough affair, and challenging enough of a contest to keep you pushing further through the game. It just felt kind of like a backstep, slightly, after the masterpiece that was Revenge of Shinobi.
The game did sport some cool Shinobi conventions like the bonus rounds (jump off a building and kill as many ninjas as possible!), bizarre boss-fights, and a fair enough level of challenge that you weren't gonna be Mario cake-walking your way through this game. I am ashamed to say that in spite of my hours of play, I never even made it to the final boss (I was the sort of masochistic player who'd always set the difficulty to hard, mind you!)
Overall, Shadow Dancer is a fun little game that I would still recommend. I kind of downplayed it in this review as it's not the game it's predecessor or progenitor were, but neither is it a bad game by any means. A fun, well (-enough) designed action game where it felt cool to shoot shurikens and lay sword slices into your enemies. The dog was fairly pointless though!