Retro Coin Op Synopsis

Contrary to popular belief, ninjas don’t just fight for honor, revenge, or in the case of evil ninjas, money and power. Take for example Joe Musashi, star of Sega’s 1987 hit game Shinobi. He did it for the children.

In a bid for evil power, a syndicate of ninjas, thugs and other bad guys had kidnapped the pink-robed, identical-looking children of several world leaders, holding them hostage in different spots of the Shinobi world. Joe’s job was to get them back, then beat the crud out of the guys who took them in the first place (okay, there’s your revenge motive). Your job was to control Joe through five missions of side-scrolling action, each with multiple stages, saving the kids along the way.

The syndicate wasn’t about to give the kids up without a fight. An entire army of bad guys was out to destroy you—ninjas, regular thugs, gun-toting military men, wall-crawling Spider-Man wannabes, barbarians with scimitars, and end-of-mission bosses like fireball-throwing giant Ken Oh and the Black Turtle helicopter. Your only defense was a good offense, and Joe had one of the best.

For long-range combat, ninja throwing stars dispatched your foes. Up close, Joe attacked with punches and kicks. Once certain ninja kids were rescued, Joe’s arsenal was powered up, allowing him to fire blasts over long distances and slash nearby foes with his ninja blade.

When all else failed, Joe fell back on an ancient Japanese secret—“Ninja Magic.” With a third button (the other two were for jumping and regular attacks), Joe unleashed one of three powerful animated assaults—wind, lightning or a unique attack that sent dozens of Joe doppelgangers flying around the screen, hacking everything in sight. The only downside was that ninja magic could only be used once per stage, so timing was everything.

After each boss was defeated, players got a chance to test their skills on a special bonus stage. Two long platforms spanned the background, and masked ninjas ran across each, jumping from the farthest to the closest. In the foreground, you controlled a hand that flicked throwing stars out toward the ninjas. If you wiped them all out, an extra life was awarded. But if even one ninja made that final leap straight towards you, the bonus round was over.

Shinobi combined side-scrolling platform adventure with the fast-firing action of an arcade shooter, a mix that won it a legion of loyal fans. Ninja wannabes tied up the machines for hours on end, trying to reach and beat the fifth and final boss. Some succeeded, but most died honorably along the way.

Sega released an arcade sequel, Shadow Dancer, in 1989. The new game added a wolf pal for its ninja hero, along with new stages, new bosses and new ninja magic, but the extras weren’t enough to give Shadow Dancer the same level of success as its predecessor. But not to worry, ninja fans. Sega continued to release Shinobi sequels as home games, keeping the spirit of the ninja alive to fight and protect again.

Arcade Machine Release History

1987 - Shinobi
1989 - Shadow Dancer

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