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!
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