SHADOW DANCER / Sega / Genesis (1990)

Now here ... is a game that truly understands Badass Platforming.

This is the real sequel to arcade hit Shinobi ... Revenge of Shinobi was sort of a tangent game that went off and did its own thing, yet made off with the Shinobi name. Despite the lack of Shinobi in the title this one is much more true to the original arcade game. You have an urban setting, and similar enemies such as the boomerang throwing guys and the guys who fire three shots then fumble around reloading, etc. You also have a number of tied-up hostages to free on each level, and the first boss is a cybernetic reworking of Ken-Oh.

The game's a touch on the short side - five levels broken up into two sub-levels each plus a boss battle -- but it's also really hard (but in a good way). The graphics, gameplay and music are all quite Badass and a marked improvement over the original arcade game.

There's also a new gameplay touch in that you have a dog companion who can be sent bounding forward over crates and other obstacles to tie up a foe while you move in on them. It's not a bad idea but there's actually very few areas of the game where it's practical, as it only really works on the pistol guys, everyone else rebuffs the dog pretty much.

The only other minor complaint I have is that the last boss is highly disappointing. It's this dude named Union Lizard, and the snapshot of his level makes you believe it's sort of this armored shadowy ninja lizard thing. What it actually ends up being is this gigantic guy in samurai armor who can't even get up off his ass to attack you directly, so he just summons endless waves of annoying ninjas and occasionally spews some fire at you. It's a tedious final battle and a disappointing way to end the game. The first four levels are totally worthwhile though. I wish there was just a little more meat to this one, but it is a true Badass Sidescroller with full honors, titles, privileges, etc. and a fine representative of its kind.

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