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NES Obscurity Quicky!

A little while ago I featured another Tengen unlicensed game's cover art, and now it's time to look at the game itself:
Shinobi, the game whose title screen looks back at you!
As per usual, I'm going to talk in-depth about some goofy little details of the game, and leave the over-all game review to the professionals. Although I will summarize my views on it with, "it's a middling dual-platform run-and-gun kind of thing, with some pretty cruel boss fights."
So, my general focus is on the bonuses and power-ups!
...and there's plenty of weirdness to be had. First off, every power-up and bonus comes from rescuing the game's prisoners/hostages/whatever:
These guys/gals/children and whatnot; they're tied up, wearing all-white clothes and sporting a shock of white hair.
And in true video game tradition, you rescue them by touching them, at which point they're instantly safe. But unlike some games, they don't just instantly disappear in a blinking puff of points, or run off the screen holding up a banner describing your reward,
Nope, the game indicates that these hostages have been "rescued" by having your ninja appear to punt them off the top right corner of the screen like he's trying to kick them through the uprights:
Not only that, but the hostages's "flying off-screen" sprite only consists of their upper body and head; perhaps his ninja-kick was strong enough to separate their torso from their legs?
Well, anyway; Rod Roddy, tell them what they've won!
Your dark-blue Shinobi receives one of several different prizes from his drop-kick rescues. 10,000 points, +2 maximum hitpoints, full health refill, the enigmatic "POWER UP" (more on this later!), or the thing I remember most from the arcade version of this game...
It begins cryptically enough, with some lovely 3-D lookin' pillars and platforms in the background, and what appears to be some guy making one-hand shadow puppets in the foreground:
But before too long, the place is crawling with green ninjas, and you must dish out shurikens at them like a professional black-jack dealer:
They run in from either side of the far plane, then if un-killed, they'll leap to the middle plane. They then run back and forth,
and if you miss them for too long,
they come to see you personally. BONUS ROUND OVER!
But if you fend them off for long enough, you're rewarded with 5000PTS, plus one of several different Ninja Magic(s);
You can trigger these by some combination of pressing the B and A button at the same time, and they either wipe out all enemies on the screen, help you become invulnerable for the rest of a stage, etc. Unlike other power-ups, you keep your unused Ninja Magics when you lose a life, and you can even stockpile up to 5 unspent ones!
This may sound pretty cool, but for some reason you can't use Ninja Magics until they start blinking...which doesn't happen until you're about 2/3rds of the way through any given stage, and never happens during boss fights.
(sad trombones)
And that leaves...POWER UPs!
Before we can talk about Powering Up your basic weapons, let's look at your initial offense. At the beginning of the game, you are equipped with the deadly Throwing Star:
Most enemies fall to one or two of these spinning shurikens of death. Like most run-and-gun games, you'll spend a lot of your time firing these ranged weapons, running and jumping, and occasionally ducking your enemies return-fire.
Though as an added bonus, your ninja training allows you to crawl along at full speed while crouching. And for extra confusion, if you are in melee* range of an enemy while ducking, you perform a ninja kick that pretty much instantly kills any normal enemy:
*: I believe "melee" is French for "really really close"
Now, back to the hostage bonus that says "POWER UP." I believe each POWER UP you get half-upgrades your projectile weapon. Once you've gotten two, you no longer have to rely on your piddly shuriken, one of the ninja's most famous armaments; no sir, your Level 2 projectile is instead...
Throwing KNIVES! Look out, it's a ninja -- and he's got cutlery!
Unfortunately these Power Ups are few and far between, and if you die, they're all lost. But if all goes well, after four or five stages, you may get upgraded to the pinnacle of ninja attack gear: it can drop every enemy in one hit, and tear through boss's health faster than even the dreaded throwing knives! Let me introduce you to Shinobi's ultimate ninja weapon...
Oh dear.
Shinobi, when it comes to picking your ninja can I put this delicately? Oh, I know. Here's the message that pops up after you lose a bonus stage; it seems particularly relevant here:
Want more Shinobi-anigans? see my guide to the first two bosses!
— carlmarksguy, 2015-07-03
It's awfully pink for a ninja game. Then again he's not much of a ninja if he uses a gun.
Yeah, I was pretty amazed by "Gun" being the highest upgrade, but even that "Knife" is better than throwing star. I think it's just an issue of "we gotta have throwing stars!" and then "but there should be power ups!", and they were too lazy to make them something like "BIG throwing star" or "magic fireball"
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