[Review] SEGA AGES: Shinobi – Nintendo Switch

Written by Derek Wright
  • Developer: M2
  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Release Date: 23/01/2020
  • Price: $7.99 / £5.99
  • Review code provided by SEGA

Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!

Ninjutsu, the art of the Ninja. As a child, I thought I could grow up to be one. Storm Shadow, Donatello and Ryu Hayabusa were some of the ninjas I aspired to be when I grew up. Then the sad realization came that I would never actually become like them. I hadn’t discovered cosplay yet, but nevertheless, becoming a bonafide ninja just wasn’t in the cards. That didn’t stop me from idolizing them and constantly dressing up as them for Halloween. A standard black ninja, Scorpion and Rain from Mortal Kombat were just a few of ninjas I became for All Hallows Eve.

One ninja that I never had much of a connection with sadly was Joe Musashi. The star of the arcade classic Shinobi wasn’t on my radar as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I had a Genesis and I dabbled in Shinobi III, but it didn’t pull me in. Years later I played the punishingly difficult Shinobi (2002) and the excellent Shinobi (2011) on the 3DS. I have since come to appreciate and own many of the games in the Shinobi series. However, I had yet to spend much time with the original, except with the odd time or two at an arcade.

As mentioned previously, Shinobi stars the protagonist Joe Musashi as he goes against the terrorist organization Zeed. Zeed has kidnapped many of Musashi’s clan and only he can rescue them. It is a late 80’s arcade game, so the exposition is just enough to know ‘these are the bad guys, now go and get them’! I can’t complain about the fact, I love retro games and not many arcade or action games were known for their compelling stories back then.

Ninji Star!

Shinobi plays like many action games of its time. Controlling Joe, you can throw shurikens or attack with your sword depending on how close you are to the enemy. Eventually he can obtain power ups which allow him to shoot a gun, which will one shot most enemies, except for bosses. Joe has decent mobility as well, with a standard jump and duck, he is also able to switch between the foreground and background planes by holding up (or down) and pressing jump. Sometimes it is just shown as an upper level and lower level, but certain stages try to do the faux 3D effect and have Joe jump through a break in a fence allowing him to pass all enemies in the foreground.  This adds a nice layer of strategy as it allows the player to approach some situations either head on, from behind, or my favorite, smack dab in the middle.

Bosses in the game add a bit of a frustration to the game, as they require you to slowly drain the health of a giant samurai, helicopter, robot face, etc., while dodging many different projectiles. If I had to put quarters into this machine, I could easily find myself fuming. Certain bosses, like the stage 3 boss just feels like a gimmick. The stage begins and an electrical barrier is behind you. In front of you is a wall of robots slowly inching forward. The robots don’t hurt you, but if they eventually reach you, they will force you into the electrical barrier, which then kills you. Destroying all the robots before this happens took me more retries than the final boss and I was at the point of ripping my hair out. Thankfully after each boss comes one of my favorite mini-games, the shuriken throwing game. On two planes, ninjas will run side to side before jumping to the closest plane to you. If one jumps from the front plane, it’s over and they strike you. Successfully hit all ninjas and you are rewarded with a 1-up.

For the SEGA AGES release of this game, we have two standard modes, the original arcade version and AGES mode. The arcade mode plays like you would expect it would, straight out of 1987. There are still plenty of options that can be tweaked, such as difficulty, player count, etc. The AGES mode is the bulk of the new additions to the game. First off, Joe sports a new white outfit which allows him to get hit twice instead of the usual one time. He also starts off with the gun, so enemies don’t stand a chance. Both modes give access to the rewind feature which will allow more casual fans a way to defeat the cruel Zeed.

It Takes AGES to Be This Good

For a game that is over 30 years old, Shinobi’s graphics are still stellar. The characters are big and easy to see. The movement on screen can be chaotic, but not to the point that you can’t understand what is going on. Some of the colors can be a bit dark on some levels, leaving it to feel a bit drab, but part of that is due to the aesthetic this game was going for.

The soundtrack is full of bangers for anyone who is nostalgic for SEGA’s early sound chips. The song simply titled BGM 3 is my favorite track on the tragically short OST. The soundtrack lasts about as long as the game does, with five levels and 3 or 4 substages each. Composer Yasuhiro Kawakami created 10 tracks that can go toe to toe with many of the SEGA arcade game greats. Despite its brevity, the music has the power to stay with you long after you put down the controller.

Ninja Assassins

During my playthroughs with Shinobi on the Nintendo Switch, the game ran smoothly. Regardless if I was playing docked or handheld, it kept a solid framerate with no stutters or crashes. I tried my best to see how much the game could take by rewinding and rewinding over and over again. M2 made sure this port could handle anything you can throw at it, at least in my experience.

Final Thoughts

Sega Ages Shinobi is a solid port of classic ninja game of yore. It is not overly complicated, but it can still offer just as much of a challenge as you are willing to let it. For diehard Sega fans, this is a must play for nostalgia and bragging rights. If you are a casual fan, the Ages mode is a perfect way to experience the beginning of one of Sega’s longest running franchises. For the price, its hard not to recommend this title to action or retro fans.


  • AGES Mode
  • Great Music
  • Mini Game


  • Frustrating Boss Fights
  • Short Length


SEGA AGES Shinobi is a solid addition to the Ages line that has me itching for more ninja action.


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