Shinobi the arcade game was released in 1987. The game is Sega's take on Rolling Thunder with the addition of rescuing hostages before exiting the stage. This PC Engine port was published by Asmik and, according to the Game Developer Research Institute, developed by Dual Corporation. While this visually looks closest to the arcade version compared to the SMS and NES ports, there's a fair amount of cut content as well as some mechanical changes for the worse. While this port is still mostly playable and has its fans, I prefer playing any other version instead. On the other hand making a TAS for this version was pretty fun and why I made it in the first place.
A mostly complete version comparison of the versions of Shinobi, barring the Sega Ages Switch version since it didn't exist when the comparisons were made, can be seen on Game Pilgrimage's Shinobi Comparison page.
- Emulator used: BizHawk 2.8
- TurboNyma core
Mechanics and techniques
No more melee
In all other versions of the game, Joe Musashi can use a melee attack to take down enemies at close range. The main use for that is to get around the shields of the swordsman enemies. I assume due to the big sprites and limited space, this port removes that option. This greatly changes how the game is played and how enemies are approached. Unfortunately the change is having to wait on some enemies to either make themselves vulnerable or to get out of the way before proceeding. For those who care about score, the Secret bonus can now only be achieved by not throwing any shurikens in a stage.
No more upgrades
In all other versions, some of the hostages will give an upgrade when rescued. For some reason there are none in this version of the game. The most important upgrade that got cut was the double power upgrade that would've made taking out the ninjas a simpler task by virtue of doing double damage. I assume this cut was also made due to the upgrade giving Joe a gun, which would've been extra graphics.
No Harbor mission
This port omits the entirety of the Harbor stages found in all other versions of the game. This means that there's about 20% less content and also no fighting the Black Turtle helicopter or scuba ninjas. This would've been between the Slums and Weapons Factory.
This version of the game replaced a lot of the later enemies of the game in the arcade version with recolors. Some of these replacements do not follow the original behavior of the original enemy so some approaches have to be adjusted. Man, this port kind of shares a lot of problems with another PC Engine game called China Warrior.
Bumping into enemies
In some situations it's possible to bump into enemies without dying, said situations generally being lot landing on the sharp sword bits. This is used to clear enemies without having to wait on them to drop their guard. Sometimes this is also used to knock enemies away to get past a section a bit quicker since the player will only get knocked back again when they land on the ground.
Jumping between sections
Most stages in the game have a background/foreground or upper/lower areas that can be switched between by jumping and holding up or down. When going to the background/upper areas it's possible to start horizontal movement and attack before landing to get a little farther ahead in the stage. However, when going to the foreground/lower areas these are not available movement options for whatever reason.
Airborne shuriken throwing quirk
For some reason throwing a shuriken in midair sometimes reduces the horizontal distance of a jump very slightly.
Attack crouch cancelling
Normally throwing a shuriken stops ground movement and can be thrown every 6 frames. However, crouching and/or uncrouching can cut that wait down to a single frame and allow for throwing shurikens every 2 frames. The rapid fire is seldomly used to avoid generating more lag than there needs to be.
For most of the game, using magic is slower than other options. For Ken-Oh and Lobster attacking rapidly enough edges out using magic due to magic requiring a startup animation, even if the magic guarantees taking off 7 hits at first frames of vulnerability. Magic does get used for Mandara and Masked Ninja.
Mandara statue phase skip
Similar to the arcade version, the statues can be bypassed with knockback. For the PC Engine version, magic has to be used in a specific spot above the first statue to get the right knockback past all the other statues. This saves time over having to fight each statue since they have a lot of health and have notable invulnerability periods.
Masked Ninja fight
The 1st phase of the fight is made to jump to the right as much as possible while getting hits in quickly. The 2nd phase is taken out with magic since it takes a while to reach that phase due to slow movement speed and the vulnerability periods being hard to take advantage of due to the projectiles thrown. The 3rd phase is taken out in such a spot that the 4th phase comes on screen quicker. The 4th phase is manipulated to get vulnerable as soon as possible. For those who care about score, you can't kill the 4th phase in midair with magic so no extra score bonus for the boss falling for longer.
Stage 2-1 has known improvements with section switching but the levels aren't sync friendly and when I tried to implement that save for stage 2-1, after redoing stage 2-2 I ended up being slower overall. The potential time save is frames but there might be some cycle or frame rule that could be going on that I don't know about.
Special thanks to Speed Bump, hosted by Smight and authorblues, for showcasing the PC Engine version of Shinobi for a Speed Bump month before shifting to the SMS version due to how rough the PC Engine version is to actually play.