Written by  :  Westwurtzly (1054)
Written on  :  Jul 31, 2017
Platform  :  Amstrad CPC
Rating  :  4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars
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Summary

One of the best action games for the Amstrad CPC!

The Good

Shinobi was a typical, but very good run&gun platformer game in the arcades of the time. It was normal that a ninja carries an endless amount of shurikens, and throws them at bad guys nearly at the rate of a machine gun!

Other notable features. Hostages to be rescued. There is a gun power-up. Furthermore, the hostages give you the gun, haha! You have a close range attack which is especially useful against the fat guy with the shield and boomerang. The enemy AI is good, they don't get stuck on crates or die from their own mistakes. 19 levels with distinguishable backgrounds/environments (what's up with the Marilyn Monroe posters?), each with different music (at least until the selection runs out), exciting boss fights, and minigame bonus stages between levels. Oh, and those ninjas that are cosplaying Spiderman.

Now, all this got translated to the Amstrad version so well! It is a very fun and playable conversion! Which is an exceptionally rare thing! If you know the systems, or those videos on YT where they compare an arcade game with its ports for home systems, you may have noticed that out of the three usual contender 8-bit computers, the Amstrad CPC always seems to pull the shortest with a slow, barely playable boring mess (if you don't get hung up on the cosmetics of the Spectrum version).

Lets compliment the technicalities and the effort of the programmer.

-the screen scrolls horizontally fast and smooth-enough (even if not by pixel) that it doens't get in the way, in a big-enough window to not to mind it. Finally, someone managed to do it just right! Scrolling is like the Achilles heel of the Amstrad CPC's hardware design. It can be done, it requires solely CPU overhead, but much of it, so with all things going on it is hard to balance the resources. Not even resorting to the "CRTC hack" (as seen in Legend of Kage or Ghosts N Goblins) which has it own not-so-subtle quirks.

-the sprites function well and there can be a convenient-enough amount of them on the screen before it would slow down. The bosses also remained large.

-there are sound effects AND music simultaneously during gameplay. Pretty good renditions too. It is unintentionally funny that the walking animation of the hero sync up with the music so it looks like he is dancing.

-the digitized speech on the mission screen is just the icing on the cake.

The Bad

The graphics is reasonably well crafted, but it arguable whether it looks good, especially compared to the arcade original. The lower resolution and smaller playfield also affects the controls. The smoothness lacks a little if that's what you are looking for.

When you finish a bonus stage, a slew of those Japanese thingies (whatever they are called) fall down from somewhere the ceiling trough the screen, and while they are visible, there is a major slowdown. That should have been left out.

There are little but notable tradeoffs compared to the original, like with the missile sprites, some enemies, and the missing map screens. Some compromises had to be made to fit the game into such a small space I guess.

Spoiler alert! At the start of the last mission it says "defeat the behind the scenes ninja". But the last boss is missing! You just enter the door to him and it goes straight to the ending screen! I guess you really defeat him behind the scenes, haha. In contrary to the Spectrum version (developed by the same), there is the last boss, but there is no ending.

The Bottom Line

Arcade hardware is many leaps ahead in budget and resources, but nearly the whole game got recreated in just 48KB and a single-load tape format, and works even on the lowest end machines of the CPC range. Most important of all it is just as playable!