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[03/28/2009] Nightshade / Kunoichi

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Title: Nightshade / Kunoichi (PAL)

Developer: Wow Entertainment

Publisher: Sega

Release Date: 5 March, 2004

60Hz Mode: Yes




Many old school gamers think fondly of Sega's Shinobi series that appeared on the Megadrive/Genesis console in the early 1990's. Sega revived the series with over ten years later on the PS2 with Shinobi, where the legendary ninja acquires the cursed, demonic blade Akujiki - one that constantly needs fresh souls or it'll start consuming the soul of its wielder. Many battles were fought over the blade for centuries, as whoever wields the sword, wields ultimate power. Shinobi eventually managed to shatter the Akujiki to many pieces, and bring peace to the world.


Kunoichi (dubbed Nightshade in the western markets) is a direct sequel to Shinobi, and starts some time after the events in Shinobi.



Even though the cursed sword was broken in the original game, its cursed shards still linger in the world, prompting the government and their prime asset, the kunoichi Hibana to spring in to action and prevent cursed shards of the sword from sending the world into ruin once more. The Nakatomi Conglomerate also has its hands in the ordeal, while officially maintaining that they are co-operating by helping the government solve the issue. Of course, things are not what they seem and Hibana finds herself fighting against the Nakatomi Conglomerate and its lust for the cursed sword's power. Of course, the many rogue ninjas and clans the Nakatomi employs aren't making things any easier.



The graphics have been somewhat improved from Shinobi, most notable being that the game isn't so dark as the original game was. Hibana and the other characters are well animated and look great. Effects are neat (stealth dash always manages to impress me) with metal sheens here and there.



Things haven't changed much from Shinobi. Hibana largely uses the same techniques as the original Shinobi did, with the addition of using two additional short blades to makes bigger combos. Hibana can also kick to break enemy guard and possible armor, deflect missiles or perform a launcher kick which sets up an enemy for aerial combos. The game is also very fast, and will put your reflexes to the test.


Stealth dash is the most used ninja skill, since there is no way to block. It creates multiple after images of Hibana, true ninja-style. This can be used to fool enemies (striking an after image before them when Hibana is already behind them), and to quickly get away or close up and personal. Stealth dashing can also be used in mid air. To complement this, Hibana can also perform a Stealth attack where her after images rush to the enemy dealing massive damage, but this drains the Chakra gauge.


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Wall running is back too, and Hibana automatically attaches herself to any wall provide that she jumps close enough to one. Wall running/sticking is rather problematic in one aspect: while you can freely run, stealth dash and attack when attached to wall, adjusting your height can be a problem because it requires you to jump off a wall (always directly away from the wall), jump higher in midair and latch yourself on the wall again. Also, since Hibana automatically latches onto a wall whenever she's close enough, situations where you trigger this unintentionally can be quite frequent.


Ninjutsu can be used via Ninjutsu scrolls. You can freely choose from 3 magic types, Fire (Fu'en) sets off a huge explosion that disintegrates most enemies around Hibana, Electricity (Raijin) grants brief invulnerability period via a sphere of electricity + faster Stealth dash, and Wind (Fuuga) grants long range attacks with your sword with blades of wind.


The best thing about the gameplay is the Tate System, which is essentially a flashy and cinematic way to kills lots of enemies. As soon as you kill an enemy, the Tate counter starts to count down. Kill another enemy during this time and the enemy will freeze in place, turn gray and reset the Tate counter. Take out four or more enemies this way, and you'll get a Tate Kill, signified by a cinematic shot where Hibana sheaths her swords and all enemies fall simultaneously. Not only are Tate Kills extremely satisfying to pull off, but the strength of your sword increases after each kill during a Tate combo, making killing strong enemies a breeze. Tate kills also rack up some serious points after clearing a stage (not to mention killing a boss with a Tate). The game also purposely sets up specific points in some stages, where it tests your skills in just how long can you keep a Tate combo going. The same kind of game design can be seen in boss fights, where the game throws in regular enemies in the mix just to give you a chance to kill the boss with a Tate. The flashiness of the ending Tate cinematic also changes according to the number of kills in your Tate combo.


Outside of these gameplay mechanics, the progression of the game is rather basic: Simply get to the end of the stage, kill a boss and proceed to the next stage.


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Music sound, and voice acting

The music in Nightshade is somewhat techno-ish and works really well for the game's breakneck speed, a good example being the first stage where Hibana rides on top of a stealth plane speeding through the streets of Tokyo. Sound effects are equally fitting, with no out-of place kind of sounds anywhere.


Voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag, but nothing too terrible. You'll only hear people talking during the cutscenes anyway, so it's definitely not bad.


Difficulty and controls and camera

Let's get this out of the way right now: Nightshade, like it's predecessor, is very difficult when played on anything higher than Easy, and there is quite a jump in difficulty between Easy and Normal. On higher difficulties, Hibana takes more damage and I believe enemies and bosses are more agile and resilient. Even the opening stage can be a biatch to complete on Normal, which stresses the fact that you really need to learn how to play this game effectively. I'm quite happy with my own progress through the game on Normal so far, but that doesn't mean that the stages are a breeze. The game also penalizes you points-wise for retrying from a checkpoint.


Enemies are relentless and ultimately the boss will do you in. Keeping in mind that the game is indeed fast, the player is in for some really white-knuckled gaming. This can be quite frustrating as some stages are rather lengthy (a common occurrence is that you barely make it to the stage's end boss, only to get your Kunoichi ass handed to you moments later. This game is definitely not for those with short nerves.


The game has a Beginner mode (easiest) which is kind of difficult to play on because this mode automates certain actions, like Lock-On, which can really throw a wrench in your style of play when none of the other difficulties have this kind of automation.


As far as the controls go, you can't have a game this fast and difficult without tight controls.

Nightshade doesn't disappoint, and you have only yourself to blame if you mess up... or the camera. Ah, the camera system. Which doesn't work as well as it should, but I don't think there exists a game with free camera movement that doesn't have gripes about the camera. The camera system in the original Shinobi got a lot of critique, and like I pointed out earlier, it's not without faults in Nightshade either. In a game this fast you are bound to run into a situation where the camera jut doesn't perform up to scratch, and you have to manually adjust it. Gladly, using Lock-On automatically trains the camera to a nearby enemy or you can reset the camera with the R3 button.


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Despite its unforgiving difficulty which will very likely turn many gamers away from the game, Nightshade is a great sequel. Why? First, you get to play as a kunoichi in a tight body suit ;). Second, a more pressing reason, is the wealth of replay value. Not only can you replay each stage in each difficulty that you've cleared before for better time and points and every cutscene is also archived for later viewing, but each stage has hidden Clan coins for you to discover, and each difficulty has it's own set of coins. Collect coins, and you'll unlock various extras, from concept art to Challenge levels and additional costumes for Hibana (and a chance to play as Hotsuma, with the kickass red scarf and all). The game also has a very thorough Practice mode.


Gamers wanting a good challenge, and those who enjoyed Shinobi, Nightshade is the game for you. For the rest of you, if you have a chance to rent this (people living over here don't) - do so.




+Feels like what a ninja game should feel like

+Shinobi fans feel right at home

+Tate system is great

+Hibana is hot

+Fitting upbeat soundtrack

+Well-thought method of unlocking extras + lots of extras



-The difficulty can be too much for a lot of people

-The camera system, again, needs work

-Stages are ultimately very linear

-Enemies always materialize out of thin air

-Stealth dash is hard to control at the beginning

-Jumping near walls can be problematic



Story: 7.5

Gameplay 8

Graphics: 8.5

Music/Sound: 9

Controls: 9

Difficulty: 7.5


Total: 8.25

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  • 2 weeks later...

Agreed! :huh:

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