Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi — Issue 48

A secret leg­end in the making
Shi­no­bi sequel barks up the right tree with new canine companion

Before Son­ic the Hedge­hog and Yakuza, Sega had estab­lished game fran­chis­es and mas­cots for the arcade and home con­sole mar­ket. One of those mas­cots was very pop­u­lar and came out on the scene at a time when Teenage Mutant Nin­ja Tur­tles were blow­ing up across the coun­try. His name was Joe Musashi, and his adven­tures were detailed in the game series “Shi­no­bi.” Ever since its 1987 release, Joe fought a one-nin­ja war on crime against the evil Zeed orga­ni­za­tion, which plot­ted glob­al dom­i­nance with their style of nin­ja arts. Time after time, through var­i­ous Sega games, Joe defeat­ed Zeed and kept the world at peace. How­ev­er, in Shad­ow Dancer: The Secret of Shi­no­bi, Joe would once again take up his sword against evil.

Shad­ow Dancer takes place one year after Joe’s most recent bat­tle with Zeed. In 1997, New York City comes under attack by a cult orga­ni­za­tion called Union Lizard. NYC is laid to waste with sur­vivors cap­tured as UL hostages. One of Joe’s stu­dents, Kaito, hears about UL’s assaults on a neigh­bor­hood and sets out to free its res­i­dents. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Kaito falls in bat­tle. Enraged, Joe heads to NYC to bat­tle, accom­pa­nied by Yam­a­to, Kaito’s canine com­pan­ion. With a new ally, Joe enters this lat­est con­flict deter­mined to free NYC from UL clutch­es and avenge his stu­den­t’s death. 


Shad­ow Dancer’s con­trols are sim­ple. While I was impressed with the game-ready default set­up, I also appre­ci­at­ed that there are oth­er con­fig­u­ra­tions. You also have the option of using nor­mal or non-shuriken mode, which takes away the abil­i­ty to throw shuriken from a dis­tance. I also appre­ci­at­ed that Joe can also call upon three types of nin­jut­su in the forms of fire, tor­na­do, and mete­orites. The most vital weapon that Joe has in his lat­est bat­tle is Yam­a­to, who can be used to attack on-screen ene­mies with­out hes­i­ta­tion, tru­ly giv­ing cred­it to the phrase “take a bite out of crime.” Every time I unleashed Yam­a­to aka Kuma-pup­py TM, I loved see­ing the bad guys cry in pain as they thought that noth­ing could stop them. Jokes on them that a nin­ja dog brings them instant terror. 

The graph­ics were pret­ty decent as if Sega pulled the game from the actu­al arcade cab­i­net. The music is ’90s genre fit­ting for Sega games and will make you feel a spe­cial fond­ness for the nos­tal­gic days of arcades. I also like that with each stage the music blend­ed with the scenery, espe­cial­ly at the Stat­ue of Liberty. 

While I do love Shad­ow Dancer, I have a few gripes. The abil­i­ty to con­trol Yam­a­to is deter­mined by hav­ing no ene­mies on screen; if Yam­a­to or oth­er ene­mies are on dif­fer­ent lev­els of stages or when an ene­my can avoid him by jump­ing up or down out of his reach, it can get frus­trat­ing. I also don’t care for the imposed time lim­it that makes you rush to the end of the stage. My final griev­ance with Shad­ow Dancer is that at the end of each stage, there is a bonus stage where you must hit as many ene­my nin­jas as you can with shuriken. I threw a ton of shuriken at nin­ja but got low scores for my efforts. It’s a lot of work for lit­tle reward and seems like a waste of time, honestly.

Shad­ow Dancer: The Secret of Shi­no­bi is a game that helped cement Sega’s lega­cy in the video game indus­try. Sega is rein­tro­duc­ing clas­sic games in var­i­ous forms for a new gen­er­a­tion of gamers. Sega would be wise to rein­tro­duce Joe Musashi as the undis­put­ed mem­ber of video game roy­al­ty and leg­end in video game hero his­to­ry that he is.

Columns — Issue 45

Columns stacks up against Tetris juggernaut

As the faith­ful read­ers of GI know, I’m a child of the ’80s and ’90s. I owned an NES, Gen­e­sis and a Game Gear, but not a Game Boy. To sat­is­fy my portable gam­ing needs, I got a few Game Gear games that would hold my atten­tion. I’m not much of a puz­zle man, but one stood out as an alter­na­tive to the high­ly pop­u­lar Tetris at the time: Columns.
Columns’ game­play is sim­i­lar to Tetris, except that you’re match­ing var­i­ous gems with each oth­er before their row known as — you guessed it — columns stack up, ulti­mate­ly end­ing your game. The game back­sto­ry claims that its ori­gins hails from Mid­dle East­ern mer­chants with also a lit­tle bit of Greece mixed in. 
Con­trol of the columns is sim­ple: Guide the columns’ rows and arrange pieces to fit. It’s a sim­ple con­cept that is quick­ly under­stood. You can be a new­bie or a puz­zle expert and still jump into play­ing. There’s also an option to change the items from jew­els, to fruit, dice, or tra­di­tion­al play­ing card suits, which livens up the game­play slightly. 
The graph­ics are top-notch in both ver­sions. The graph­ics are col­or­ful and more than just bricks being moved around. They look good even in a small set­ting like the Game Gear. 
The music in Columns varies from ancient Roman tunes to a futur­is­tic beat that is calm­ing dur­ing game­play. The sound­track is a nice men­tal break for the mind, which helps when you’re pos­si­bly fran­ti­cal­ly mak­ing matches. 
Columns is an under­es­ti­mat­ed crown jew­el that shines on all Sega sys­tems. It’s a fun alter­na­tive to Tetris with a nice calm­ing effect to boot. Hunt down this dif­fer­ent but bril­liant puz­zle choice. 

 

Build­ing blocks of Columns

In 1989, Jay Geert­sen, a devel­op­er for Hewlett-Packard, was look­ing to port a soft­ware tool to HP’s in-house oper­at­ing sys­tem for its work com­put­ers. Geert­sen believed there was a bet­ter way to learn skills and have fun at the same time. He came up with mod­i­fy­ing Tic Tac-Toe and applied it as a way to help soft­ware engi­neers prac­tice their pro­gram­ing. The result: Once they heard about Geert­sen’s work through third par­ties, Sega called him and inquired about devel­op­ment. Check out his sto­ry through this link: https://www.pressreader.com/uk/retro-gamer/20190711/281599537055264.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — Issue 45

Son­ic reigns supreme in sec­ond outing

Ah, Son­ic the Hedge­hog. Sega’s top mas­cot has had a bit of a revival late­ly. From tril­o­gy games on the Gen­e­sis and oth­er sys­tems devel­oped by Sega and its com­peti­tors to com­ic books and var­i­ous mer­chan­dise, car­toon series and two block­buster movies, Son­ic and Co. are liv­ing large. He reached a sim­i­lar zenith in his sec­ond game — Son­ic the Hedge­hog 2 — which also intro­duced fans to his equal-yet-unique part­ner, Miles Prow­er aka “Tails” (because he’s a two-tailed fox) who joins our favorite blue speedy demon in a new bat­tle to stop Dr. Robotnik. 
In Son­ic 2, Son­ic and Tails and their friends are enjoy­ing peace­ful days on West Island until Dr. Robot­nik and his cronies arrive, kid­nap­ping the inhab­i­tants, and trans­form­ing them into robot­ic slaves. The slaves would help Robot­nik search for the leg­endary Chaos Emer­alds, which he plans to use to pow­er his space sta­tion. With Robot­nik’s lat­est threat, It’s up to Son­ic and Tails to find the Emer­alds to foil Robot­nik and his dreams for world domination. 
Game­play in Son­ic 2 is much like the first Son­ic game, but with some new addi­tions. Each lev­el or “act” (there are 20 in total) will have you bash­ing ene­mies and avoid­ing var­i­ous haz­ards such as spikes and bot­tom­less pits. While dash­ing through you must uti­lize some patience and tim­ing to avoid these var­i­ous obsta­cles. Son­ic is still easy to con­trol but he now also has a cool new trick called the Spin Dash. This lets him go even faster and take down more ene­mies. Tails has the same skills, but his two tails give him a lit­tle more flair. 
Son­ic 2 has the option of Son­ic or Tails going after Robot­nik alone or join­ing forces in either sin­gle- or two-play­er modes. Robot­nik has some new allies in the form of a robot­ic mon­key named Coconuts and a robot­ic crab named Thrash­er whose shell is com­prised of a pin­ball bumper. With Robot­nik hav­ing new meth­ods to attack and hench bots to car­ry them out, the usu­al powerups (Rings, Speed Sneak­ers, and invin­ci­bil­i­ty) are vast and abun­dant, but Son­ic and Tails can take advan­tage of a new pow­er shield that gives tem­po­rary pro­tec­tion against hits. 
The graph­ics are of 16-bit qual­i­ty, but they do an excel­lent job of shin­ing, whether it’s char­ac­ters or back­grounds. Each stage is burst­ing with high ener­gy col­or; the Chem­i­cal Plant Zone, Metrop­o­lis Zone and the bonus stages are my some of my per­son­al favorites. 
I was pleased with Son­ic 2’s music from begin­ning to end as it paired per­fect­ly with the stages, beat by beat. The Green Hill, Chem­i­cal Plant, Casi­no Night and Mys­tic Cave zones hit the spot with spe­cial recog­ni­tion for the Sky Chase Zone for its relax­ing beats. 
Son­ic 2 is wor­thy of revis­it­ing often, espe­cial­ly if you want to expe­ri­ence 16-bit gam­ing at its finest. There is no doubt that Son­ic 2 would be a sure-fire hit game to intro­duce to a new gen­er­a­tion of gamers look­ing to expe­ri­ence good old-school gaming.
Son­ic the Hedge­hog 2 is a cer­ti­fi­able banger in the annals of video game his­to­ry. One of the best sequels ever released kept Sega in the 16-bit wars and gave us leg­endary Son­ic game­play that still holds up. Spin Dash on blue blur.

 

QuackShot Starring Donald Duck — Issue 42

Don­ald the Explorer

As a child of the ’90s, I grew up on the “Dis­ney After­noon” car­toon line­up. All the shows received the video game treat­ment for either 8‑bit, 16-bit sys­tems or for both con­soles at the time. I had a Sega Gen­e­sis and won­dered when Dis­ney would license a game based on a DA show for Gen­e­sis. Lit­tle did I know, Sega had license deals with Dis­ney direct­ly, and like Dis­ney games made by Cap­com, Sega made a game that was­n’t anoth­er “Duck­Tales,” but was set in the series’ uni­verse and had its reg­u­lar char­ac­ters. His name is Don­ald Duck, and he made his debut in plat­form gam­ing in “Quack­Shot Star­ring Don­ald Duck.”
In Quack­Shot, Don­ald sets out on a trea­sure hunt stretch­ing across nine stages. One day in Duck­burg, Don­ald vis­its his Uncle Scrooge and while check­ing out his library, Don­ald stum­bles upon a mes­sage from King Grazuia, an old ruler of the Great Duck King­dom who has hid­den his leg­endary trea­sure across the world. Enclosed with the mes­sage is a map that Don­ald believes leads to trea­sure that would make him rich­er than Uncle Scrooge. How­ev­er, Big Bad Pete and his gang also find out about the trea­sure and set off after Don­ald, turn­ing the trea­sure hunt into a race to see who gets it first. 
Con­trol of our dar­ing adven­tur­er is sim­ple with the d‑pad and, com­bined with abun­dant options, ensures that you can set up move­ment, weapon use and dash­ing to spe­cif­ic buy­outs. Don­ald may have odds against him, but he has some advan­tages with his plunger gun uti­liz­ing yel­low plungers to stop Pete’s hench­men and oth­er foes tem­porar­i­ly with an unlim­it­ed sup­ply, and a reload­able pop­corn gun that shoots five ker­nels at once. Don­ald also has some of the “Duck­Tales” crew help­ing him: Nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie pro­vide trans­porta­tion to each des­ti­na­tion, and Gyro Gear­loose pro­vides Don­ald with bub­blegum ammo that can break down obsta­cles. The MVP weapon in the game is the “quack attack,” which Don­ald can use to knock down any ene­mies instant­ly. I give cred­it to Sega for using Dis­ney’s knowl­edge of Don­ald’s tem­per. The graph­ics and music were excel­lent, live­ly, and bright for an appro­pri­ate­ly spry game.
The down­sides to “Quack­Shot” are few but are sim­i­lar­ly found in most plat­form games. You must ensure per­fect tim­ing for Don­ald when he either cross­es dan­ger­ous obsta­cles or per­forms his dash move. Also, mild­ly infu­ri­at­ing is small voice sam­ple usage for the char­ac­ters as this was not only a debut game for Don­ald, but also it is set in the Duck­Tales uni­verse. There was so much untapped poten­tial for rich, estab­lished his­to­ry. Final­ly, you can only start the game in Duck­burg, Mex­i­co, or Tran­syl­va­nia. To pass lat­er stages, you need a par­tic­u­lar item, so there is a lot of back­track­ing unnecessarily.
“Quack­Shot Star­ring Don­ald Duck” was one of the games that I start­ed off with as a Gen­e­sis own­er. A sol­id plat­former, it showed that Sega had tal­ent of devel­op­ing con­soles and leg­endary games using orig­i­nal and licensed char­ac­ters. Most impor­tant­ly, I got to see anoth­er Dis­ney clas­sic char­ac­ter get his lime­light in his first video game with a star­ring role. Car­ry on Don­ald, car­ry on.