Retro Review – Shinobi III Return of the Ninja Master

July 1st, 2007 review

Much like my last Retro Review this game is from the 16-bit era. I remember playing Shinobi on my cousin’s Megadrive(Genesis to you Americans) when I was a little tacker. Thankfully SEGA have included Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master in Sega MegaDrive Collection(which I have been madly playing), so I have been able to get back into this awesome ninja game.


Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master is the 3rd game in the Shinobi timeline and sees the return of evil Neo Zeed. Shinobi 3 is regarded as the best game in the Shinobi series which couldn’t be any truer. When you play Shinobi you can’t help but feel like a ninja, despite the somewhat ‘Americanized’ feel to the game. Stick that ninja feel with some crazy ninja scenarios and you have yourself one of the best damn ninja games of the generation.


NB: The word Shinobi means ‘ninja’ in Japanese, in the Shinobi games, the Shinobi is the hero of the story. Hence the Shinobi character can change per game. In this first three games (Shinobi I-III) the Shinobi is the same; Joe Musashi .

Joe Musashi surf horse


Despite playing like ninja fan’s wet dream the story wasn’t actually that great. Not that it needed to be, of course. Basically the evil crime syndicate; Neo Zeed has reserected itself, Joe Musashi senses this(naturally) and embarks on a mission to wipe them out.


This game plays excellently, I always enjoy playing Shinobi because as I mentioned before, you feel like you are a ninja when you play it. Your main weapon in this game are your shurikens which are those little pointy projectiles that all ninja store in threes. Joe isn’t just confined to the shurikens though, when sprinting Joe can do a sword slash, he can also spear kick towards the ground while in mid air and do a quick sword slash at close range. These added moves make the game feel much more than a platformer with projectiles which is what it needs to be as there are piles of games like that already.

Joe also has an assortment of Ninja climbing techniques, he can double jump, wall jump and climb poles etc. This and the combat make him feel extremely versatile. Unlike the previous Shinobi games Joe can actually run this time round, I couldn’t imagine how bland this game would have been if Joe was restricted to walking.Along with these attacks Joe also has a couple of Ninjitsu attacks at well. These are like “ninja spells”. There are four in total, heres a run down of what they all do(taken from Wikipedia):

Ninjitsu of Ikazuchi: The art of thunder. This ninjitsu envelopes Shinobi with a shield of lighnting energy that sustains damage for four consecutive hits.

Ninjitsu of Kariu: The art of fire. Kariu summons four dragonshaped columns of flame that move across the screen and damage all enemies in their path.

Ninjitsu of Fushin: The art of floating. Fushin improves Shinobi’s agility by heightening his jumping capability.

Ninjitsu of Mijin: The art of pulverizing. The decision to use Mijin is most often tactical. It damages all enemies on screen at the cost of one life.

The game is split into numerous chapters each which have a few levels in them. Generally you have a main level, a smaller level and then a boss battle. Some of these smaller levels take the form of mini game-esque levels, for example you could be horse riding, surfing, climbing up a bunch of falling rocks to reach the top of the cliff etc.


The best part about this game is how AM7 have included so many cool ninja scanarios Here’s a few examples: You get to ride a motor powered skateboard across an ocean while duking it out with a giant, flying mecha robot with a machine gun arm.Facing off against a bad ass mecha Godzilla.Jumping from rock to rock of a collpased cliff while trying to wipe out ninjas and dudes with angel wings.Sneaking thru a secret base full of moving platforms and electric ceilings.

Joe Musashi vs mecha godzilla
Bad ass

Another highlight is that you know that your playing the best Shinobi game in the series. Every other Shinobi game has not ben quite as good as this one. The 3D versions were too hard, the previous 2D games weren’t as refined as Shinobi 3. Your are playing the best so be proud of it.


There’s something really fishy about Shinobi that kinda puts me off a little. Its sort of like trying to figure out if the foreign movie your watching has english voice dubs over the foreign language speech. Take for example the fact that the Shinobi’s(that’s Ninja’s) name is Joe, its not a very Ninja like name now is it? The game’s direction feels like an American take on Hong Kong action cinema. The scenarios in the game are cool but they just don’t feel authentic. Joe also doesn’t look like a ninja, his white and red outfit aren’t even in true ninja colours. Ninjas are meant to be stealthy and yet how can this be so when he is wearing bright colours? At least cover yourself is a pale blue Joe.

Beta versions

Shinobi 3 was originally planned to be release a year before it did, which would have been in 1992. The game was strangly withdrawn and modified to be what we know to be Shinobi 3. Two beta versions of Shinobi 3 have been brought to light via online ROMs. A whole run through of these beta files can be found here.

Virtual Console

After writing out this piece I had heard news that this game is coming out for the Wii Virtual Console in Japan. It seems pretty likely that this game will be released globally so when it does check it out.


Shinobi 3 is an action/platformer fans treat, this game plays smoother than fine quality silk. The game throws you into a mass of cool and innovative action sequences which make the game stand out from the crowd. This game has almost everything that a ninja game needs to be good fun. Strongly Recomended

Extended Readings/Sources

PHM’s Shinobi Website
Super Shinobi 2 Beta Central

  • I take it you mean this?

    Is there an American version? European games don’t work on PS2s bought in Canada… and I can’t find my PSP.

  • Yes there is an American version called Sega Genesis Collection. Its been out since the end of last year over in the states.

  • Ah. I’ll have to look into that the next time I go to eb…

  • I played this game after your recommendation. It’s really fun just to be a ninja and run through these levels as such. In my mind, there have always been two kinds of ninjas: The ones you never see coming and the ones that you see coming and still can’t do anything about it. Shenmue is the latter.

    Getting the timing right for his jump-sword-slash-thing is pretty difficult at first, and jumping is just frustrating even after I’ve gotten used to it. The elevator level pissed me off a lot; I must say.

    Overall, great game, great review. 🙂

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  • My question is if this game has some action of the ninja using horse ride? Actually I played very popular and fantastic horse race game This game is purely horse race game. Now I want to play game that should include some action and war by riding horses so that I can get some new feature of game which include horses.

  • Steve Johnathan

    it’s on virtual console now? I better check it out.

  • Yeah, it is. Shinobi III is one of my favourite action platformers. My old posts are horrible…but thanks for reading them anyways. I think I get a bit better at writing from 2009 onwards.