The original Shinobi games are side-scrolling, ninja-star-throwing classics. You're a ninja, right, and you've got to - well, waste some dudes. For some reason. It's not important.
Developed by handheld-specialists Griptonite, the simply titled Shinobi attempts to update the classic formula rather than reinvent it. The basic premise, along with the side-scrolling presentation of the carnage, has been carried over from the 1987 original to this brand new 3D sequel.
The updates they've elected to bring to the side-scrolling action effectively turn it into a side-scrolling Dark Souls; actually increasing the difficulty of the (already tough) original in the process.
The way the game works is that you have a rather dazzling array of controls and options at your disposal. You can jump, double jump, and wall jump. You've got a melee attack, a ranged attack, and each of these things is modified by the jump button.
Add into the mix a block button that you must time to counteract specific incoming attacks (i.e. you can't just hold it down) and you've got a very rich bag of actions to reach into in the thick of battle.
It all combines to create a rich control set that, quite frankly, takes a while to get your head around. But get your head around it you must; there's a host of different kinds of bad guys in the game and you need to know precisely what kind of attack combination to use against them, or they're gonna waste you.
Once you do get your head around it, and start to deal six shades of pointy doom to your dastardly foes, you start to feel rather like a videogame god. Executing a block on a ranged guy before dealing to the melee guy, jumping the next set of projectiles to air-attack the ranged guy - all while ensuring you land on the crumbling platforms... if you can get past the steep learning curve to the point that this stuff becomes second nature, you'll love the feeling you get from successfully executing it.
There are multiple difficulty settings, which seem to differ only by whether you can continue and how many lives you have. Even beginner (the lowest) difficulty will repeatedly smash you in the face, but at least you have unlimited lives; attempting a level (and they take something like 20 minutes!) with limited lives is an exercise in extreme frustration.
There's also a bunch of levels that are unlocked by Street Pass, or by Play Coins if you prefer. These challenge levels make the incredibly hard gameplay even harder, by failing you if you even get hit (you normally have a fairly generous health bar to fall back on).
As for the presentation? It's not the most attractive game ever, with pretty rudimentary graphics and sound that can only really be described as functional. That's all it needs, of course, and what's here suits the game well enough. It's just a bit of a shame when you're playing a game on your new console that really wouldn't look out of place on your old console.
So what you have here then is an old-school side-scroller, with the occasional throw-away 3D sequence included, that makes no concessions to the trend of making games so simple you can complete them by just pressing a button occasionally.
Is that a good thing? That's really up to you; what's here is extremely good, just be very aware that you're going to get your ass handed to you over and over as you figure each level out.