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Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi Reviewed by Matthew Clarke on . Rating: 64%
Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi
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Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi
  • Review Score:

  • B-
As a kid I got Shadow Dancer for Christmas, and considering I'd mostly played Alex Kidd games in the previous winter months, the game came as quite a shock. I wanted it mainly for the graphics, which had an almost 16-bit quality (or so the back of the box suggested). Seriously, the characters looked detailed and HUGE! Many Master System arcade conversions had compromised characters, so this was a minor revelation to my younger and far more superficial self. The 'real arcade game in my house' bells started ringing. (They only rang out properly when that incredible arcade mimic known as Street Fighter II on the Super NES waltzed into my life a year later).

Your character, Fuma, is neither a shadow nor does he show off any super disco dancer moves. But he does like to kick an ass or two and, in return, gets his own ass kicked a whole lot more. This is one of those hard-until-you-memorize-it old school arcade games. I'm not talking R-Type levels of rigid pattern memory required, but similar; mostly down to the strange boss levels, the bowling ninja and an evil train serve as good examples. Due to the lack of lives supplied and the fact there is no continue or save game options, you will be replaying that first airport level many times before beating this otherwise fairly short affair.

Shadow Dancer (Sega Master System)

So what of those huge and detailed almost 16-bit graphics I hear you ask about? Well, first off, those almost 16-bit graphics don't work as well on screen as they do in a two inch screenshot. The walk cycle of Fuma is smooth enough and the special moves are of an impressive screen filling variety so you know this is a real Shinobi game at heart, but the enemies barely have a couple of frames of animation and backgrounds are a bit sparse. I'm fairly sure all those huge character sprites hogged all the graphics memory.

For the same reason, I guess the arcade cabinet's ever-faithful ninja doggy had to be relegated to a restricted special move, instead of a more constant means of enemy dispatch. It does however have good sound and the game controls are responsive which is vital. It remains pretty accurate to the arcade game in terms of general gameplay, so well done to Sega for that.

Shadow Dancer (Sega Master System)

Around the same time of the game's release, successful German pop/dance group Snap! proclaimed "Rhythm is a dancer" (they also said "I'm as serious as cancer," but we won't go there) and rhythm is indeed the name of the game here. Once you can memorize the patterns of enemies and the boss fight timings, it all becomes quick and easy to navigate the four small-sized levels and extra rounds. The game then becomes a fun exercise in good timing to beat each section as fast and fluidly as you can. I have had a similarly decent experience with Danmaku, and bullet hell shooters like Ikaruga and P.N.03 on the GameCube. It's pure satisfaction from finesse, like an Olympic gymnast needs to master ... or indeed a very calm and calculated ninja.
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