Terrorists aren't very nice people, are they viewers? But there are a few square-jawed heroic types who'll stand up to them and give them a taste of their own medicine. Joe Musashi is one of them. The hero of Shinobi has returned after a long rest to find a terrorist gang have been busy planting bombs in civilian establishments across America. So Joe dons his espadrilles and snazzy white togs, buckles on his razor-sharp katana sword and calls to heel his faithful mutt (let's call him Fido) and heads into action.
Level one takes you, playing both Joe and Fido to Miami airport where the terrorists have been busy wiring up explosives. With a copy of The Sledge Hammer Guide To DIY Bomb Disposal and a pair of ear plugs, Joe strides through the three sections that make up the level, dismantling bombs as he goes.
But it's not that easy. Evil terrorists are waiting to ambush our pal, but using throwing stars, limited ninja magic, sword or Fido's sharp choppers, they can be dealt with. Fido's quite a handy pal to have. With a press of the space bar he'll run ahead and hold a terrorist while you dispose of him.
After battling through the concourse and cargo loading bay, Joe enters a plane and faces a huge, fireball-throwing samurai robot. Beat that and you're into the bonus level, which goes like this: your standing at the bottom of a tower, looking up at its lofty heights. You have an unlimited supply of shuriken stars to lob at the nasty ninjas who leap down and try to plant their size ten espadrilles on your nut.
Later levels take place on a speeding train, in a factory, down the sewers and at a shuttle base, a nasty guardian awaiting man and dog at the end of each.
Are we bored with ninjas yet? Well, just a bit. I've played so many I'm turning Japanese - - if not going slightly orientally mad (yes viewers, he thinks he's a Bonsai tree -Ed). But let's look at the game on its own merits.
Shadow Dancer is a good scrolly beat-'em-up with arcade adventure overtones. It's fast, tough and, above all, playable. The character sprites are all speedy little chaps, especially Joe, who leaps around like a turbocharged Bruce Lee, while the backgrounds are pleasantly colourful and varied. Yup, I liked this a lot; it's well worth having a go at.
MARK ... 80%
'Shadow Dancer follows in the footsteps of countless other ninja beat-'em-up games. But Shadow Dancer's novelty is that our hero's brought his dog along. The graphics are mainly monochrome, the odd bit of colour cropping up when you come to large obstacles like walls and oil tankers. The sprites are really well drawn and shaded and the animation's neat. I found the gameplay fun for a while but the novelty of having a dog to help me out soon wore off.'
NICK ... 74%
Who knows what a bull terrier looks like? That's right, they're those really ugly white dogs, built like bricks, with the piggy little eyes! And doncha just love 'em?! They're so cute!
In fact, if there's one thing that'd improve my life then i think that'd be it - a little 'bully' pup to came into the shed with me everyday, go shopping at Tesco's, hit a nightclub now and again, watch the footie. A mans best friend indeed! But seeing as how my landlord doesn't allow animals in the flat (even though James has managed creep in a couple of times) I'm simply going to have settle for second best - which means loading up Shadow Dancer and having some kind of white dog wolf thing trotting along behind my heels instead. Ho hum!
Not that that's too much of a rough option actually, because USGold's jolly-long-awaited Sega beat-'em-up is a tad far-fetched. Just like in Shinobi, its predecessor, you don't so much punch and kick your way through the levels as litter the place up with a million deadly shurikens.) Anyway, back to this dog.
He (or she) doesn't have a name, so for the sake of argument let's call him Doris. The game works like some sort of weirdo 1-player/2-player thing. As I said, Doris trots gaily behind as you spin out your pointy-edged disks to wreak havoc in all directions. The only trouble with all this is that sometimes (well, quite often, the truth be told) the baddies (or terrorists) can all get a bit much for you. They're positioned in such away that it's often incredibly hard to kill one guy and not get swiped by the yobbo behind him. But don't despair 'cos this is where Doris comes in. (Hurrah! Simply command her to jump in front of you and sacrifice herself on the sword (or bullet, or whatever it is that the first bloke's firing at you) while you quickly nab the bloke behind with one of your shurries. Peasy.
AND IT WORKS REALLY WELL!
Yes indeed. Its a gimmick to be sure, but a solid one. Of course, every gimmick needs same strong backing in the graphics and gameplay departments if it's to work, in Shadow they've come up trumps. It looks nice and crisp for a start. You've got no trouble making out your little man and his dog, who both trot along with great assurance. (As does the scrolling.)
This is helped by loads of detailed, but very clear, backgrounds. Shadow Dancer's only got 4 levels, but each of them is split up into 3 or so sub-levels, and there's often a bonus level tagged onto the end. Pretty gigantic and whopping, I'm sure you'll agree! (This really gets you hooked. Because it doesn't take as long to complete a section as it would a 'normal-length' level, there's a strong temptation to move quickly on and knock the next one on the head too.)
So, finally (and at completely the wrong end of the review), let's see what these levels are made up of...
Well, you kick off in an airport lounge, then a cargo hold, followed by what looks like a subway station - and that's just the first level ignoring the bonus section! Cor blimey! Other 'bits' include the roof of a speeding train, some sewers (with a few extremely unfriendly alligators in them) and the final level in which you've got to protect a US space shuttle. (The end-of-level baddies are equally various too - there's a big monster who throws out bouncing balls at you, a locomotive that shoots out some weird flaming rivets, and, ohh, loads more.)
So what's the verdict? Well, pretty blimming marvellous really. I don't usually go for these beat-'em-up things but this certainly kept me glued for a good couple of hours (and then some). There seems to be a lot to it (which is always nice to know when you've just forked out over £10) and it's pitched at just the right difficulty level. (And the dog stuff works well too.)
So, an impressive arcade conversion, which takes a simple idea, throws it onto a pretty ricketty old formula and comes up with something rather jolly good at the end of the day. It should appeal to a wider audience than these kinds of things usually do.
Hot Dog! Joe Mushashi is back, complete with canine consort, in a helter-skelter, smash'em-skull'em feast of doggie dodgems and martial arts.
Shadow Dancer is a conversion of the arcade follow up to Shinobi and remains faithful to the original. Ninja Joe's mission is especially dangerous this time as the Zeed Empire's evil criminal underworld has hatched a dastardly plot to destroy the city with deadly high explosives and thus make it safe only for thieves, murderers, drug barons and Zeed minions. They were bound to try again, because, like all true villains, they never learned their lesson from the first major kicking they received in Shinobi.
However Zeed have reckoned without the intervention of Joe Mushashi, the Shadow Dancer, who is so civic minded that people have started to call him Joe Public! Sersious though folks, unless Shadow can defuse all the terrorist bombs in the city the whole world could be next of the criminal empire's agenda of destruction!
In order to reach the hidden pyrotechnics, Joe must use his finely honed combat skills of sword and shuriken, to cut through the army of Ninja enemies who are out to foil him. His dog is also a veteran evil fighter, and it's just as well, because our hero needs as much help as possible. During the game you can set this amazing mutt on Joe's enemies which serves quite a useful function in keeping them busy while you are dealing with the bombs.
It's essential that you despatch Zeed's representatives quickly because, by comparison with many other heroes I've come across, Joe is a bit of a softy, and it only takes one or two knife blows or grenades to make him go all weak at the knees and crumble into nothingness. Under these circumstances it's fortunate that there are four life continues. There is no life gauge to show how weak the character is getting, which is a little annoying as he has a tendency to collapse when least expected.
Shadow Dancer is a ninjitsu acrobat, and no mistake!, he can run, jump, crouch, somersault and generally surprise and confuse the hell out of the opposition, and it's this agility that makes all the difference, since the city is riddled with traps as well as enemies. In addition to his dog, his blade and his shurikens, Joe also has four blasts of baddie busting magic available to start the mission with.
The graphics are reasonably detailed and although the main sprites have do have a cut-out look to them, everything is generally large and easy to see. Colour is rather sparse on the playing screens though. Control is quite precise which considerably helps overall enjoyment and gameplay. The introduction music is very ninja sounding but action sounds are less impressive.
Shadow Dancer is quite a standard ninja based platform beat 'em up and isn't a bad follow up to Shinobi as it does have quite a bit of action and excitement. Fido adds a new dimension to the game but considering current anti dog feeling in the country, will Joe Mushashi be forced to put a muzzle on him?.
Label: US Gold
Price: £11.99 Tape, £n/a Disk
Reviewer: Alan Dykes
PHIL FISCH: What a pussy puppy! Give me a saber toothed Pit Bull anytime! This goes to prove that it's not the dog that you have, it's the way that you walk it!
All information in this page is provided by ZXSR instead of ZXDB