The GG Shinobi
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Gear
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publishers:
    • JP US UK Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy
  • Released:
    • JP 04/26/1991
    • US UK Brazil 1991
Score: 75%

This review was published on 09/14/2017.

The GG Shinobi, known simply as Shinobi in North America and Europe, is a side-scrolling action video game developed by Sega for the Sega Game Gear. It was originally released in Japan on April 26, 1991, and North America, Europe, and Brazil in 1991. Sega published the game in Japan, North America, and Europe, and Tec Toy published it in Brazil. This game is a spinoff from the Shinobi series, which began in 1987 with the release of the original arcade game before finding its way onto home consoles with various ports and sequels. The GG Shinobi is the first game in the series to be specifically created for a portable platform. As such, its quality is not quite on par with most of the other games in the series. However, it's one of the better games for the Game Gear, and certainly beats The Cyber Shinobi, which originally came out on the Sega Master System about a year prior.

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Rumors of terror and destruction have made their way to Ninja Valley, where the Oboro Ninja Clan resides. The master of the Oboro Ninja Clan sent his finest students to investigate the horrible tales coming from the suburban areas, and they returned with news of a powerful dark force that has established a base within Neo City. One by one, the greatest warriors from the Oboro Ninja Clan entered Neo City to locate and destroy the source of this evil. Unfortunately, Ninja Valley completely lost contact with them, which probably means that they're in trouble. The master of the Oboro Ninja Clan now asks Joe Musashi, the oldest and strongest of his ninja disciples, to take on this dangerous mission. Wasting little time, Musashi sets off to Neo City to find his missing peers and put an end to the threat that has taken root there. Joe Musashi is the protagonist for most of the Shinobi games, so he should be fine.

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Regardless of who you control, you use the d-pad to walk left or right, squat, and walk while squatting, whereas the 1 and 2 buttons are for attacking and jumping, respectively. Ninjutsu, magical ninja techniques, are also at your disposal. To use ninjutsu, you simply select it from the pause menu, but you have a limited quantity of these that must be replenished via items for continued use. The controls are both precise and concise, which is exactly what you're looking for in a Shinobi game. You again have a life bar like in The Revenge of Shinobi on the Sega Genesis, so you don't typically die in one hit like in the arcade titles. The life bar can be permanently extended by finding special diamond items, of which there is one per regular stage. This might all seem a little too simple, but there's more to this game than meets the eye.

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Unlike most games in the series, The GG Shinobi has multiple playable characters. You begin the game with only the red ninja, Joe Musashi, but will rescue ninjas of other colors throughout your journey. With the exception of the final area, you rescue a new ninja after completing every stage. Once you have more than one ninja, you can switch between them at virtually any time via the pause menu, and they all share the same life bar and ninjutsu charges. However, each ninja has a different weapon, ninjutsu, and special ability. For example, the green ninja throws shurikens and can double jump, the pink ninja tosses bombs and crawls on ceilings, the yellow ninja shoots energy balls and walks on water, and the blue ninja has a grappling hook that lets him latch onto certain pegs to swing around. Ironically, despite what the instruction manual may lead you to believe, Musashi is the weakest of all his ninja brethren, because he has no special abilities and is restricted to a puny sword with little range. Anyway, the different ninjas are sort of like the special weapons you get from the Robot Masters in the Mega Man games, except cooler.

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Taking after Mega Man, this game gives you access to a stage select screen right off the bat. This means that not only can the stages be tackled in a nonlinear manner, but you're also able to rescue the four colored ninjas in any order. Because the only character you have at the start is Joe, the game is extremely difficult early on, but gets progressively easier as you rescue more ninjas. The difficulty of some stages is also greatly impacted by what ninjas you currently have on your team, so your experience may vary wildly depending on the order you do things. Additionally, there are items that can only be acquired with the abilities of a specific ninja, such as the aforementioned life extension power-ups. Due to all of these things, this game has more replay value than the average Shinobi title. Unfortunately, you can't revisit beaten stages in the same play through, which means you'll permanently miss out on some nearly integral goodies if you do things in the wrong order.

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While the structure of the game as a whole is nonlinear, almost every stage is totally linear. Almost every stage is also totally awesome. One stage is set in a highway with impressive parallax scrolling backgrounds, where you're tasked with the dangerous task of jumping from one oncoming vehicle to the next. Another starts out in a forest before proceeding into a vertical climb on a Japanese tower. Then there's a stage in a harbor, which harbors many ferocious foes. There's also a valley stage where you ride logs across rivers and waterfalls. After you complete the four main stages, you'll automatically enter the fifth and final area of the game. Like The Revenge of Shinobi, the final stage is a giant maze that's infuriatingly difficult to navigate. Aside from that, all the stages have fairly decent design, but the tiny Game Gear screen will often make some of the challenge seem unfair. This is more of an issue with the hardware than with the game, though.

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Better than The Cyber Shinobi by leaps and bounds, The GG Shinobi is a perfectly solid title for the Game Gear. Sure, it's nowhere near the quality of most of the arcade and console Shinobi games, but The GG Shinobi is still decent. It's also rather unique, having a stage select feature and multiple playable characters, two things not found in most of the Shinobi games. The only other game in the series to feature such features is its sequel, The GG Shinobi II: The Silent Fury.

Word Count: 1,113

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