SHINOBI 3 / Sega / Genesis
Not too long ago I took a look at Shadow Dancer, the other representative of the Shinobi series currently available on the Wii Virtual Console, and noted the split that occurred in the evolution of the Shinobi series. Shadow Dancer was more of a true sequel to the original arcade Shinobi, hewing closer to it's gameplay mechanics and level design, whereas Revenge of Shinobi hung on to a few of the original game's conventions but largely took it into a new (and more generic) platforming style. Well, Shinobi 3 is more of a direct follow-up to Revenge of Shinobi than it is to Shadow Dancer - the levels have more open space, there's no hostages, the tone is a little less dark, there is a long health bar, etc.
My thinking on the Shinobi series seems to be actually the polar opposite of what the "popular" (or at least the most vocal) opinion seems to be - gamers mostly seem to worship this game, or at the very least it has some really hardcore contingent of fans that rushes into every possible outlet to give it gushing 10/10 reviews. I actually find the "Revenge" branch of the Shinobi series to be the more boring path, and while this game is a slight improvement on Revenge I hardly thought it was great. Shadow Dancer was very short and far from perfect, but I thought it represented Badass Platforming very capably; this one, to me, just feels like Standard Action Platformer #37653234 (ninja subgenre variant #78956B).
It's the usual series of levels in which you run through tossing throwing stars at various naughty ninjers and cybernetic monstrosities. It uses the Revenge of Shinobi engine so it essentially plays the same way, but it's been tweaked up a bit. Joe Mushashi can now run, do a diving kick and triangle-jump off walls. The play control is pretty decent, but I do take issue with Shinobi's "I might feel like doing it and then again I might not" new double-jump.
Everything looks very nice, but the level design is uninspiring, and all the new moves really aren't put to full use. The music is at its best just kind of there - energetic but totally forgettable - and at its worst it is grinding aural pain that does not do well in working with the Genesis sound chip limitations. They were really missing Yuzo Koshiro on this one, instead the soundtrack was composed by three guys whom I've never heard of before.