After skipping through a few screens worth of instructions (which in hindsight, may have been a mistake) at the beginning of Sega’s Shinobi demo, Jiro Musashi — ancestor of Joe Musashi, the surfing, child-saving ninja from the original Genesis-era Shinobi games — walked out of a temple into a woodblock print-like field and came face to face with his first enemy.
Thinking I knew what to do, I held the right trigger to block… only to take the shuriken the enemy was tossing at me to the face. After attempting this a few more times (with identical results), I realized that I was mistakenly using a parry button to try and block, which isn’t possible.
Once I understood the purpose of the button, I attempted to parry the offending knives. While I didn’t exactly have the timing right (losing 1000 points with every hit), I noticed the pattern that the enemy falls into (three knives forward, and then one knife tossed from the air), parried the third one, ran forward, and slashed the ninja into oblivion with Y, each strike netting me a few hundred points. When the enemy hit the ground, he exploded into a murder of crows.
Thinking I had the basics down pat, I ran ahead, tossing kunai at my enemies with A and platforming through a small house with a series of side-scrolling wall jumps. While I still didn’t have the best grip on the parry system, I learned to counter both ranged attacks and close-ranged sword strikes. Despite the numerous times I was hit, I felt like I was slowly "getting it". I’d slide into my enemies, launch them into the air, and juggle them for extra points. This eventually built up my multiplier to 2X (out of 4X), making me faster and stronger, as well as doubling my score.
I then ran into a burning building. Unable to continue forward, I had to use my grappling hook with X to latch onto the rafters of the house to continue through the stage. I then flipped down from the rafters, stepped outside, and was immediately hit by a kunai tossed by an enemy standing unnoticed in the background, and lost my hard-earned multiplier. Sadly, I wasn’t talented enough to build up a new multiplier, but I soldiered on, replacing my skill with Jiro’s selection of magic.
While it dropped my score (I had long since given up on a high score and focused on survival), the magic was very powerful. Selected with the touchscreen and activated with L, the fire magic cleared the screen and provided me with burning kunai for a while. Lighting magic (which I used later) gave me a shield that protected me for three hits and Earth magic made me invincible at the expense of some health.
After a brief boss battle, I faced my hardest challenge yet: horse riding. This wasn’t exactly my strong point. The odd camera angle seemed to make things more difficult, especially without the 3D effect turned on. While each tree I ran into and stump I couldn’t jump didn’t kill me, it took a sizeable chunk of my health bar away, forcing me off of the screen for an extended period of time and eventually making me die and restart (repeatedly).
Food for Thought:
For those who like a harder challenge, there is an unlockable "one hit death" mode.