As a Playstation 2 Classic on Playstation Network, I bought and played this game for the first time, on my Playstation 3. As a newcomer to Sega’s Shinobi series, this was the first game I’ve played in such a series; transitioning from the 2D Action-Platformer gameplay of it’s predecessors, this 2002 reboot of Shinobi is an Action-Adventure and a Hack And Slash game guided by a prototypical 3rd-person camera. The story has you take control of a brand-new ninja character named Hotsuma, who travels Japan to save it from being covered in darkness.
There are 8 Stages to play, and each of them are divided into 2 sub-stages labeled as ‘A’ and ‘B’. For example, the first sub-stage of Stage 1 would be inscribed as ‘Stage 1-A’ and 2nd sub-stage of Stage 1 would be inscribed as ‘Stage 1-B’. When you complete a sub-stage for the first time, the sub-level will be unlocked for replayability in Stage Select. Granted, unlocking Stage Select will necessitate collecting a few in-game Coins along the way.
While playing as Hotsuma in a New Game or Continue file, you’ll wield Akujiki, a sword that takes a toll on your Soul Gauge and if this Soul Gauge is left depleted for too long, your separate health bar will also be depleted. To replenish your Soul Gage, you must garner red-light energy in the form of Yin, which is mostly to be garnered by killing enemies. To replenish your health bar, you must garner white-light energy in the form of Yang, which is also mostly garnered by killing enemies. The same applies if you play as the 2nd playable character, who can be unlocked by earning a certain number of Coins; there’s a 3rd playable character who constitutes as the 2nd character to be unlocked by earning a certain number of Coins, and if you play as him, there’s no need to worry about the Soul Gauge in a New Game file, Continue file, or Stage Select; all 3 playable characters (Hotsuma and the 2 unlockable characters) have their gameplay advantages and disadvantages but I’ll go into minimal detail about that.
There is an Art Gallery that can be unlocked as part of the Extras section if you earn a certain minimum of coins but to unlock everything in the Art Gallery, you need to collect every Coin in the game; also as part of the Extras section, you can unlock the Movie gallery by collecting a certain minimum of Coins and unlocking Movies in this gallery will necessitate you to progress in the game.
The first difficulty setting to play is labeled as Normal and it is also the minimum difficulty setting. On the Normal difficulty setting, you will already receive a tough gameplay experience in itself. While every videogame obviously provides some sort of challenge factor on Normal difficulty setting, the Shinobi series’ 2002 entry does it in a fashion that took me by shock; the two bonus difficulty settings, which can be unlocked if you at least complete the game on Normal, are tougher than the game’s Normal difficulty setting.
Like any ninja-themed videogame, the Shinobi series’ 2002 entry makes sure to include shurikens for gameplay. The 1st and 2nd playable character have a limited shuriken arsenal. When using shurikens as the 1st and 2nd playable characters, the gameplay effect on enemies are identical. On the other hand, the 3rd playable character has an infinite shuriken arsenal and his shurikens have a different gameplay effect on opponents; as a complement to it’s 3rd-person, ninja-themed gameplay, Shinobi (2002 game) introduces the ability to run on walls. In some sub-stages, this ability will be necessary for survival.
There’s also 3 types of magic attacks that can be used by all 3 playable characters but there are gameplay variations on how they are used by each character. You will need at least 1 Makimono (which is the minimum number you start out per stage) to use any of these 3 magic attacks but the number of times you can use these magic attacks per stage is extremely limited as there’s a small number of extra Makimono to be discovered per stage.
There is an attack technique named Tate and it can be used by your sword on a group of enemies surrounding you. If you use it on least 4 enemies in a row, you will be treated to an epic cutscene of them being ripped apart while the player-character performs a pose. In the circumstance of a boss battle, you need to chain together attacks on the bosses’ minions and on the boss themselves to perform a Tate on the boss. By doing this, you will perform good fraction of damage to the bosses’ health bar or a cinematic 1-hit kill on the boss, which varies by the number of minions you used Tate on during the boss battle.
Having at least completed it on Normal difficulty, I’ll say the Shinobi series’ 2002 entry isn’t a bad game but there are some issues of frustration I have about the game; it’s Normal difficulty setting is unexpectedly tougher than that of other Action-Adventure or Hack And Slash games I’ve played; the lack of Easy difficulty setting as an unlockable or automatic option, makes me think this game’s development was rushed out in contrast to most Action-Adventure or Hack And Slash games I’ve played; though there’s a variety of unlockable content, the difficulty curve in unlocking such content is unusually time-consuming and has left me pondering how much will I unlock; conclusively, the videogame was enjoyable but had potential to be smoother than how it turned out.