Even though it was brutally unfair and almost impossible to complete thanks to a crazy checkpoint system, the original Shinobi did pretty well for itself in the arcades thanks to its badass 1970s ninjer/samurai movie panache. When Sega started thinking "sequel", however, they took weirdly divergent paths. They made two separate games that somehow both served as direct sequels to the original Shinobi - Shadow Dancer and Revenge of Shinobi.

Shadow Dancer was the one released in arcades, so you'd think that would be the true sequel ... but here's where things get messy. In terms of gameplay, Shadow Dancer is more true to the original Shinobi than Revenge of Shinobi is. But the arcade and Genesis versions of Shadow Dancer are actually very different; the arcade version sucks, while the Genesis version is one of the better Badass Platformers ever made. To make things even more messy, Revenge's intro cinematic seems to indicate that in terms of plot, it is the true sequel to Shinobi. So anyway.

Revenge of Shinobi does look and play like the original Shinobi for all of about the first segment of the first level. Beyond that, not so much. A lot of the gameplay fundaments are the same - you huck shurikens, you use a knife/sword automatically when an enemy gets close, you have various Ninjer Magic that has to be replenished by finding it hidden in boxes throughout the levels. But the levels are way more expansive, especially vertically. They also sometimes require backtracking, exploration, even a minor amount of puzzle-solving.

So those are good things, right? Well ... not so much when the level designers populate the levels with irritating precision-jumping contests. Sometimes they're fatal ... sometimes they just send you way the hell back to the bottom of an annoying segment, but that can be fatal too as there's a timer for each level. Throw in some seriously irritating boss battles and you have a game that's often a really frustrating slog. The plodding pace doesn't help, either - the game was one of the first releases for the Genesis and has some of the Sprite Inflation common to showoffy development from the early 16-bit period. Because the sprites are so big, there's a bit of a molasses feel to moving around and a lot of cheap hits come unseen from off the screen.

Some people love the game anyway because the gameplay is solid, it looks very nice for a 1989 release and Yuzo Koshiro turns in one of his usual badass soundtracks. Personally, the precision jumping and finicky boss battles really turn me off. I much prefer the Genesis iteration of Shadow Dancer. :

Gameplay Video