One of the best run-and-jump fighters I've ever played is Sega's 1987 coin-op release, Shinobi. Several of us here at Touch Arcade spent hours in the local arcade together way back when, shoveling quarter after quarter into that Shinobi cabinet. We grabbed various home versions of the game, but none lived up to the excellent arcade experience. Happily, a number of sequels followed that targeted consoles specifically, and they provided some great ninja slashing action. The best of the lot in the eyes of many, myself included, is Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master. It was originally released for the Genesis / Mega Drive back in 1993, and tonight Sega has released the game, wrapped in their iOS Genesis emulator we've seen before, through the App Store [link].

In Shinobi III, you're back in the role of ninja warrior Joe Musashi as he fights to defeat the evil organization Neo Zeed, which is bent on world domination. You move through seven rounds of carnage, laying waste to scads of other ninjas with your shinobigatana, shurikens, and four magical ninjutsu techniques. You must brave a variety of hostile environments, including forests, caves, cities, laboratories, and factories. You even ride a horse. And surf! It's a harrowing affair, but the game is actually a bit more forgiving than the first in the series, employing a life meter that allows for accumulated damage as opposed to one hit kills, as did Revenge of Shinobi which preceded it. It's a great game -- a bit short on play time, but full of action.

...on the Genesis (and Wii Virtual Console), that is. Sadly, as has been the case with numerous straight arcade / console conversion from Sega and others in the past, much of the great experience of the original has been lost in translation to the iPhone. There is nothing to complain about as far as performance from the emulator -- it seems Sega has been steadily improving it, and things run smoothly and at full speed for all intents and purposes on an iPhone 4 test device. The issue is with the controls, their arrangement and inflexibility.

Like other Sega iOS releases running in their emulator, there is both a full screen and a windowed view. The fullscreen mode, with its larger image, is the most desirable play mode, I would say, but it suffers from the fixed arrangement of the onscreen D-pad and three action buttons; very often a thumb on either completely obscures your character, making gameplay highly awkward. This can be avoided by using the windowed view which renders the game at it's native resolution (fullscreen is a scale-up, not the other way around) with D-pad and buttons below, but on a screen with a pixel density as high as any iPhone or iPod touch device, it's a strain to behold. It's possible that an option to reposition the touch points would help matters but, frankly, I can't imagine an arrangement that would be truly acceptable. As is, the gameplay will leave you longing for your old Genesis.

See a gameplay video of the original console version.

And so, again we have a truly excellent console title that falls sadly short of the mark in making its way to the iPhone. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master is likely an App Store purchase that only the true Shinobi devotee could make with satisfaction.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Luigi Jenkens

    Sega should be sent a cease and desist letter ASAP, because all these mediocre ports tell me they could give a rats ass about iOS gaming. Genesis, Sega? Really? What's next? Master System? Game Gear? How about VMU games? Sega sucks.

    • Jeremy

      what the hell?

      with all due respect, are most of you new to gaming or something? you think iOS is the best gaming platform? please people. either you're a blind fanboy or you are new to gaming and possibly life.

      precision controls like this simply have a hard time on virtual control systems.

      you can't blame sega.

      also it's really sad as most of you probably think angry birds and fruit ninja are the best games out there for any console. sad indeed.

  • http://tinyurl.com/26qdufz qbgabe12

    Game like this is hardcore and require hard button for sure...

  • Revolutionary Concepts

    Sega sega sega, feel free to call anytime :p

  • Dysode

    WHY do the controls suck on nearly every remasterd retro game?
    there is NO plausible reason (except for the poorly hidden cash-in attempt)
    I am REALLY loosing interest in this topic.

    • http://tinyurl.com/26qdufz qbgabe12

      I would say this is the limitation of touchscreen input. By design lots of retro game require precise movement that virtual input can't offer...

  • Purplemonkeyspank

    It's not THAT bad a port! Come on! Sure the controls are a bit iffy but I personally could probably master them in time. I'm chuffed to bits sega have finally released a shinobi game for the iPhone. I think most of the nay sayers are expecting miracles when it comes to iOS emulations.

    • Henry

      it is not really a port, rather an emulator on iOS , maybe Sega should really start working "native".

  • Revolutionary Concepts

    Personally not so irked by the controls as the fact we're being served genesis versions of these classic games, when the platform is very capable of playing the arcade versions - and then some. Sega has such an incredible back catalog and it's a travesty to see it getting the short shrift. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I'd gladly pay more for the real thing.

    • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

      Well, for Shinobi III, there is no arcade original. It is Genesis-only. And, as such, it feels much better / arcade quality than any of the home ports of the original Shinobi, which was an arcade release.

      • Revolutionary Concepts

        Ah yes this is true, good point. I'll keep a candle burning for an arcade perfect Shinobi I, oh and Virtua Fighter Daytona!! Hey a guys gotta have dreams right? :)

  • Rzrback

    Please, please give us a controller Apple. It would revolutionize so many games that I have on my iphone. I also have a psp and when I play some of the app store games that have been ported over, it is so smooth and enjoyable. We need a controller. We need it badly, especially in light of the new Playstation NGP. Apple must compete in this market or the big developers are gone.

  • Slynch9265

    I've got it, tested it, and the controls are difficult to get use to but they're not faulty?
    So why are you people saying they are when you haven't bought the game is beyond me.
    But it takes time getting use to the controls but it's not faulty, they're just difficult to get use to.
    All in all it's a really fun game!

  • yousuckmamuthafukinass

    I would have preferred the arcade version of Shadow Dancer...

  • Jeremy

    what the hell?

    with all due respect, are most of you new to gaming or something? you think iOS is the best gaming platform? please people. either you're a blind fanboy or you are new to gaming and possibly life.

    precision controls like this simply have a hard time on virtual control systems.

    you can't blame sega.

    also it's really sad as most of you probably think angry birds and fruit ninja are the best games out there for any console. sad indeed.

    • Vance

      So far I own Gunstar Heroes, Sonic 2 and Golden Axe. All three are action titles, all with incredibly different paces, and I enjoy playing all of them on my iOS device. I also own Phantasy Star II and am waiting for some other Genesis titles as well. I love the support Sega is giving Apple and I hope they continue to give that support.

  • http://twitter.com/squidlaser laosquid

    icontrolpad is a solution to consider.

  • Samgrant64

    This is a great game. No problem with the controls for me. I adapted. One of the best genesis games ever.

    Im just hoping sega dont read the comments here and stop these emulations.

    If your reading sega, please release landstalker

Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master Reviewed by Blake Patterson on . Rating: 2.5