The Revenge of Shinobi is the second game in the Shinobi series created by SEGA. Revenge was released in 1989, specifically for the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis, with the PAL (Europe) version coming out in 1990. While the original Shinobi from 1987 was initially an arcade game and later converted for various platforms, from the Master System to the Amiga, this sequel was developed exclusively for the Genesis. Only later was it decided to create an arcade version. The coin-op version's graphics are identical to the original home console version, excluding the lower screen portion used for storytelling. There were no releases for computers or other platforms, as SEGA aimed to promote the MegaDrive with this game.
In Revenge of Shinobi, the hero Joe Musashi returns. This time, he has to face the revived criminal organization Zeed, which he had defeated in the first game. They now go by the (imaginatively named) Neo Zeed. It reminds me of General Zod from Superman, but let's move on.
Our hero must traverse eight districts, each consisting of horizontally scrolling areas and a showdown with an end-level boss. Joe can move, jump (essential for a platformer), and attack. To jump higher, he can perform a somersault. He can also crouch and, while doing so, deliver a low kick. The main weapon is a short sword used for close combat, but you'll find yourself using throwing knives more often. They are theoretically limited, but breaking crates scattered around replenishes them. Sometimes, it feels more like playing a platform shooter than a hack 'n slash. The enemy ninjas will also try to hit you with shurikens, so jumping or crouching is crucial to avoid getting hit. Another helpful move is the ability to jump and simultaneously throw eight shurikens in a spread, which is particularly handy when the screen is full of enemies. Lastly, you have the powerful ninjutsu techniques, limited to one per level.
The graphics are well-crafted and have an "arcade" style, even though it's a game developed for a home console. The sprites are quite large; Joe almost occupies a third of the playable screen area, allowing for many details. The backgrounds are well-done, although they lack the depth or parallax scrolling seen in some Amiga games. However, plenty of animations exist, such as in the bridge level where cars pass in the background.
A notable feature, which varies depending on the version you play, is the enemies inspired by movie characters like Rambo, Batman, Terminator, Spiderman, and Godzilla. Due to copyright issues, they were gradually changed, with only Spiderman's license acquired from MARVEL. He couldn't transform into Batman at that point since the latter is a DC character. In short, it was a licensing disaster.
With excellent music that changes from level to level, it's clear that this is one of the best titles developed for SEGA's console. If you enjoy the genre, it's a must-play.
Revenge would be followed by Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, released 4 years later, the last Shinobi game to be created for the Genesis/Mega Drive.