Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master review - Sega Megadrive

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Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master box artNeo Zeed is threatening the world once more. The evil crime syndicate - thought to have been vanquished 2 years earlier - has returned, headed by a man known only as the Shadow Master. Joe Musashi has felt their presence, and descends from the lonely mountaintops of Japan to face his arch-nemesis once more. He is the Shinobi, stronger than steel and faster than a whirlwind, the last keeper of the Oboro Ninjitsu techniques. Only he can stop Neo Zeed.

Compared to its predecessor The Revenge of Shinobi, the action in Shinobi 3 is considerably smoother, with less emphasis on difficulty (performing trick jumps) and more on speed. In addition to the ability to run from place to place (instead of walk), Joe comes equipped with a new array of moves and techniques, including a mid-air dashkick, the ability to jump-scale walls and a powerful running slash that renders him temporarily invincible.

The D-pad controls Shinobi's movements, while the action buttons A, B and C are used to perform a special ninjitsu technique, throw shurikens (or sword-slash), and jump, respectively. Shuriken, as always, are the basic staple of Shinobi's attacks. He can throw them straight toward his enemies one at a time or launch eight at once during a somersault. In addition, the power-up bonus triples all knife damage as well as enhancing Shinobi's close-combat skills.

What the Mean Machines staff thought


" Revenge of Shinobi remains one of my favourite Megadrive games ever so I was extremely anxious to get my hands on the sequel. Now I have, I'm in two minds about it. I can see it's a brilliant game that's a lot bigger than Revenge of Shinobi with better graphics. "

Overall Score88%

Retrospective comments


The naming conventions in the Shinobi series sort of got a little confused on the Mega Drive / Genesis. Shinobi III is actually a sequel to the Mega Drive launch title Revenge of Shinobi and shares many similarities with the legendary game. Shadow Dancer is Sega’s second 16-bit Shinobi game so it all sort of makes sense in a strange way even though the Japanese names are different.

Nasty Neo Zeed is back causing trouble again. It’s up to our hero Joe Mushashi to teach them a lesson they won’t forget with his supreme ninja skills. Unlike the original arcade classic there are no hostages to be rescued and you have an energy bar to spare you from one-hit kills. You have a limited amount of shurikens but there are ample replacements in crates along the way, if you do happen to exhaust your supply you can always get up close and personal with your sword.

No ninja game would be complete without ninja magic and Shinobi III does not disappoint. You select between spreading fire across the screen, gaining temporary invincibility, jumping much higher than normal or committing suicide! The last ninja magic sounds bizarre but you do inflict a devastating amount of damage on your opponent even if you have to sacrifice a life for doing so (recommended for some of the later tougher bosses!).

There are a number of improvements made on Revenge of Shinobi. This isn’t just a soul less update like Sega’s Golden Axe II. You can now block projectile attacks and do a double-tap on the D-pad to run! The running ability is a great addition to the game and can be combined with a slice attack so you can take out unsuspecting foes with style. For the first time Shinobi Joe can wall-bounce as well much like Ninja Gaiden. The new technique is used to great effect in the intricate level design and helps create a feeling of interaction with the environment.

There are all the usual cliqued backdrops for the action to unfold such as forests, caves and industrial areas. To break up the action there are sections where you get to ride a horse and even show off your surfboarding skills! This might sound silly but variety is the spice of life, you can’t blame Sega for trying something new.

The difficulty level is very balanced so you will find this game puts up a good challenge. However if you do find the going too tough then you can go against the path of the ninja and select the EASY option giving you nine lives.

Graphically this is one of the best games on the Mega Drive with detailed backgrounds and beautifully drawn sprites. Despite rumours at the time that the music was arranged by legendary Yuzo Koshiro this appears to not be the case. As a result none of the game’s music feels as memorable or epic as Revenge of Shinobi but it does its job well still. It was always going to be a hard act to live up to!

Shinobi III is really the best sequel you could ask for. It’s one of the best examples of a action/platform game there is and has enough variety and challenge to keep you coming back for more time and time again. Highly recommended.

Stayrsaigh - 08 Mar 2008, 17:18 GMT

In my opinion possibly one of, if not THEE best game ever to grace the Sega Megadrive. At first glance it looks like it's older brother Revenge Of Shinobi, but delve deeper and it's a whole different story. The Graphics are Stunning, using some amazing effects that most people thought just wernt possible on the old MD, everything is slick and smooth with nice touches like leaves blowing in the wind. the sound.......ohhh the sound.....this has to be on of the best aspects of the game. Pumping oriental influenced tunes blast through the speakers at you, the songs are ultra catchy and get the juices flowing. I was suite surprised (And please correct me if I'm wrong) that the music was not by Yuzo Koshiro as I consider it to be some of the best on the Megadrive. Kudos to whoever it was though. The sound effects are equally impressive, with some nice crunchy smacks and slashes. Gamplay wise, well theres' just no beating this game (And in saying that I don't mean it's hard!) Fast, smooth action is the order of the day. The gameplay is deviously addictive with loads of moves weapons, techniques and one or two brainscratching moments. A perfect learning curve ensures a superb challenge but get's you that little bit further every time and has that X factor which makes games into classics. The 'One more go!' element is here in force, and with the challenge level higher than a high thing you'll be playing this game for a long time!

All in all this game is a masterpiece of Sega development. Many people slated it saying it was too similar to 'Revenge Of Shinobi', but it has shown itself to have improved on and far surpass 'Revenge' in Graphics, sound and gameplay! The game is a shining example of what Sega developers can really do with their 16 bit beast if they really want to!

A true classic!

luke - 31 Oct 2008, 03:38 GMT

I found that the first Shinobi game, while quite good, this was much better.
I loved the graphics, music, and gameplay.
Alot of the time I just listen to the music on its own its that good.
Also, I think there was like 3 people who wrote the music for this game as apossed to Just normally Yuzo Koshiro who wrote them on his own...

Jono - 19 Aug 2012, 10:01 GMT

Wow, way to cut-back Riches original comment to the utmost. It’s been summarized (or should that be slaughtered) to the extent that the most important thing has completely been left out – his (honest) opinion!

Mean Machines Sega
Platform Game Sega Megadrive
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Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master

Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master

Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master

Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master

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