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3D Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master Review

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On 01/20/2014 at 03:00 PM by Nick DiMola

Takin’ it back to the old school ('cause I'm an old fool).

For all fans of old school action-platformers.

As an SNES kid, there’s a sizable selection of Genesis classics that I’ve never had the opportunity to play. With the exception of the first game, the Shinobi series unfortunately falls into that category. However, thanks to Sega’s recent efforts to 3D-ify some of their classic Genesis titles, I’ve finally been able to give Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master a shot. I’m happy to report that not only is this title still fantastic today, but that M2 has done a phenomenal job in bringing this game to the 3DS.

At first glance, Shinobi III is your traditional tough-as-nails action-platformer from yesteryear, but it only takes a few minutes to realize it’s so much more. First and foremost, the game is only lightly grounded in reality. You’ll battle the likes of genetic experiments, giant sludge monsters, and even Mecha-Godzilla. The environments and levels are equally diverse, with each requiring its own tactics for success.

Things start off simply, requiring you to only toss shurikens to dispense of foes. However, before long you’ll be wall-jumping to new heights, grabbing hold of horizontal beams, wires, and pipes to gain altitude, making well-timed attacks to defend yourself, and perfectly nailing double jumps to avoid impediments or cross gaps.

Despite Joe Musashi’s leisurely progression pace, Shinobi III never feels stiff. As a matter of fact, one of the many small improvements made to the game is the "Expert Ninja Mode," which provides a more fitting control scheme that splits all of Joe’s moves across the buttons on the 3DS. This is a clear improvement from the original controls and guarantees that you execute the intended move on command.

Some other small improvements include the ability to save anywhere, two modes of 3D (fall-in and pop-out), a level select mode, and even emulation options of either the Genesis or the Genesis 2. No matter which 3D display mode you choose, Shinobi III is a damn fine looking game that greatly benefits from the 3D display. With lots of parallax scrolling and some faux-3D images in the background, the entire game quite literally pops. The boss sprites in particular are extremely memorable and highly detailed, which speaks volumes of the art design.

Outside of the brutal difficulty in the last level, it’s hard to find any fault in 3D Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master. It’s one of the best action-platfomers of its time and this loving 3D upgrade has just about anything you could ask for. If the rest of the 3D upgrades Sega has released match the quality of this one, fans of old school games are in for a real treat.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




01/20/2014 at 05:48 PM

I contemplated this one the other day. I here that the 3D Sonic is good too.

The Last Ninja

01/20/2014 at 07:24 PM

Glad to hear this. I enjoyed playing this game on Genesis, but like you said, the brutal difficulty near the end kinda ruined it for me (its unforgivingly tough). With those added features, I'm tempted to get this one.


01/22/2014 at 12:40 AM

I played this on the Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection and was wowed by the visuals. I liked the gameplay too, but I didn't get far in it. Sounds like this 3DS version does some new things with it. I'd love to see those graphics in 3D!

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