Things that go 'stab' in the Night
From the dawn of the internet when user forums and article comment sections started to appear allowing gamers to both have an opinion on what they were seeing and playing and also to allow them to offer suggestions one underlying thing has endured. Apparently those who love videogames love new things, they want and even sometimes demand on mass, evolution and change.
Another thing about gamers is that they have real capacity for then taking said vocalised demands and proceeding to be scared to death when a favourite genre, game series or character changes. We want new things... But we want it all exactly the same.
Megatron's_Fury remembers when Sega tried something really new with an existing franchise series and character and the public then proceeded to completely ignore it for no real valid reason. Sigh...
Sega give Sony a Shinobi...
Ninja's... Are always cool! much like Zombies and cake they are the eternal bastions of all that is great and awesome in the world. In fact I would go so far as to say that playing a game with Zombies and Ninja's in it while eating cake may just make me smile so hard my face could break! That would be such a shame, because i'm just so damn pretty!
When one thinks of Ninja's and the games that include them several franchises spring to mind, Ninja Gaiden obviously because not only does it have the word Ninja in it's title but because since the NES day's that series has been around as long as cat pictures on the internet! One franchise however (in my opinion) that includes the masters of the shadows started out as an arcade title in the places I would go to to worship (arcade halls) and would one day be one of the reasons I eventually gravitated towards home consoles from Sega.
Shinobi is a franchise that oozes quality, always has, always will. There's just something utterly glorious about sneaking around with a cool sword (sometimes with a dog) and throwing Shuriken and hitting people in the face with a sword, it never ever gets old. Now the original title and it's many sequels are mostly very well known, the Master System and Megadrive saw to that and if one were to type the word Shinobi into google a whole range of cool games would come up. Now what if I told you the 11th one might not? What if I told you that in order to discover more about that game you would need to search for something very different indeed? Today I want to talk to you about yet another hidden gem that if you like Ninja's you need to experience!
Following on from Sega's own 'SHINOBI' game for the PS2 in 2002 this title 'NIGHTSHADE' was released in 2003 for the same system in Japan and 2004 in North America and Europe. The 11th game in the franchise you played the role of a female Ninja called 'Hibana' who is a government employed agent tasked with taking down the Nakatomi Corporation. Those corporate fools have unleashed hell spawn into the world of mankind and as well as taking down the people responsible she must collect the shards of "Akujiki", the legendary cursed sword that Hotsuma used to seal the hellspawn the last time.
The gameplay consists of standard hack 'n' slash elements however mixed with platforming meaning that in order to reach many areas mastering mid air dashing and double jumps is the order of the day. Players wanting to complete this are gonna have to put some time into learning the many techniques available and patience is absolutely needed as being in 3D sometimes the camera can absolutely get in the way. It's very similar to the previous game for the PS2 (Shinobi) however with a much cooler design brief and refined gameplay elements from the first Sega PS2 effort.
Being Sega and of course being cool if you have a save file from the previous game then you can control the original hero of that game 'Hotsuma' He differs from Hibana in that he does not use daggers like her and is only able to use Akujiki, the sword he used in the previous game. Hotsuma plays exactly as before with the same arsenal of moves and operates under the same mechanics as he did in the previous game. He must always be finding and defeating enemies to feed their souls to Akujiki, or the cursed sword will devour his soul instead and kill him.
One of the great aspects of this particular title is the boss fight sequences which exist at the end of every level, with animated backdrops and some stunning scenery it really adds to the overall gloss of the game, fighting on top of a fighter Jet for example is amazing! Other stand outs elements are the mastering of the devastating combo chain attacks and correct application of the various Ninja Magic (a cool thing that's been with the series forever).
Nightshade on it's own is a great game, the change of dynamic to control female Ninja works perfectly, she glides, jumps, flies through the air with amazing grace and style and the animation of her character really conveys the differences from a male lead to a female one. It's got a great if slightly strange story, the soundtrack is awesome and it's simply exploding with vibrant colour. It is however quite linear with almost no exploration factors and at heart it is merely a Devil May Cry style game but that's no bad thing if it does it well, and it does!
Unfortunately changing the name to Nightshade and not really making it clear it's a Shinobi game didn't help it from a sales point of view, this sold terribly everywhere, it also didn't get the greatest of reviews however overall according to the press of the time it's around the mid 70% range, for me that's more than fine.
Mostly ignored, seldom spoken about but containing a real kick ass adventure and that typical Sega style design swagger this is a title every single PS2 fan should be looking to grab, as the system grows older and older it's games like these that will be the real collectibles based on it's family tree history and just how cool the game itself was. Sega did a ton of these kinds of releases and I have a real soft spot for them. One of the very best things about Sega is how many of the lesser known games are the ones that stand out for a multitude of reasons... like Nightshade!