The last Shinobi games Sega published were Shinobi and Nightshade, both for the PlayStation 2. Both those games featured a different take on the series from their side-scrolling predecessors. When we spoke to him about Shinobi on the Nintendo 3DS, we asked producer, Stephen Frost, what aspects the development team picked up from both styles of Shinobi games for the 3DS title.
“We liked things like the [PS2 version’s] scarf…Hotsuma’s scarf,” Frost told us. “The way it moves, it’s very memorable. It’s very artistic. And we knew from the get-go that we wanted to have a very unique style for this game, and so we brought the scarf from the PS2. But fundamentally, most of the moves, enemies and bosses…ideas for certain things…a lot more of that came from Shinobis 1, 2 and 3, and we went from there.”
Frost elaborated on this by discussing the game’s combat. Shinobi’s combat is based on the combat of the side-scrolling games, but is designed to be more complex. The core of this is the game’s new parry button.
“You know, in the old Shinobi days — [we had] one-hit kills for the most part. We needed to have something a lot more complex than that,” Frost said. “So we added in the juggles, the combos people expect in a more traditional action game. We added in a dedicated parry button. In the past, we’ve had sort of parry systems in Shinobi but not really a dedicated button for it, so we put it in a button.”
Shinobi’s parry button is just that — a parry button. When I went hands-on with the game at E3, I initially made the mistake of trying to use it like a block button. This doesn’t work. You can’t hold the button down; parries need to be timed, and if you don’t time them properly, you get hit. Getting hit means losing your multiplier. In Shinobi, the higher your multiplier is, the stronger your attacks are, and the higher you can jump. The game encourages you to avoid getting hurt.
“The whole thing about this game is your rhythm, your flow from enemy to enemy,” Frost said, elaborating on the parry system. “Later on in the game, you get in a lot of situations where you’re jumping toward enemies and they’re throwing stuff at you. Normally, you would get hit, but the parry system in this game is that in almost all circumstances, you can perform it. Even in mid-jump, you can perform the parry.”
“Doing the parry resets your moves,” Frost revealed, “so you can do the parry, then jump out of the parry in mid-air. That lends itself to some very interesting platforming appliance later on.”