Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi

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For the original arcade game and other home versions, see Shadow Dancer.
Shadow Dancer:
The Secret of Shinobi
Shadow Dancer MD cover.png
Japanese cover art
Developer(s) Sega
Publisher(s) Sega
Designer(s) Tomohiro Kondo
Artist(s) Hiroyuki Kawaguchi
Rieko Kodama
Composer(s) Keisuke Tsukahara
Series Shinobi
Platform(s) Sega Genesis (Mega Drive), Virtual Console, Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) 1 December 1990 (JP)
1990 (US)
1991 (EU)
Genre(s) Platform game, hack and slash
Mode(s) Single player

Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (シャドー・ダンサー ザ・シークレット・オブ・シノビ?), also known as just Shadow Dancer, is a side-scrolling action game produced by Sega that was originally released for the Mega Drive/Genesis in 1990. It has been re-released via downloading services such as the Wii's Virtual Console and Steam in 2010. It was also included in the Sega Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable but it was omitted in PAL version (Sega Mega Drive Collection).

It is the second game in the Shinobi series released for the Mega Drive, following The Revenge of Shinobi. However, it is not a continuation of the previous game, but rather a loose adaptation to the 1989 arcade game Shadow Dancer.[1] Like in the original arcade game, the player controls a ninja followed by a canine companion. The Secret of Shinobi was well received by critics.


Gameplay screenshot

The game mechanics are roughly identical to the arcade Shadow Dancer, with the main difference is the addition of a meter for the dog that accompanies the player's ninja character. In order for the dog to attack an enemy, the player must hold down the attack button until the meter is filled. The dog will only attack when he is barking towards a nearby enemy. This allows the player to sic the dog on an enemy while standing and jumping, allowing for more versatility than in the arcade Shadow Dancer (where the dog only attacked while the player was crouching). The objective of each stage is also slightly changed from retrieving time bombs to rescuing hostages, much like in the original Shinobi arcade game. The male hostages give out bonus points and the occasional extra life, while the female hostages will strengthen the player's basic attacks until he reaches the next stage or loses a life.

While the one-hit-point-per-life system from the arcade Shadow Dancer has been retained, there are numerous bonus lives hidden throughout the game. Between rounds the player will participate in a bonus stage where he will jump down from a building and shoot down an army of 50 enemy ninjas jumping across his direction. After the bonus stage ends, the player will gain a certain amount of points or extra lives.

There are three difficulty settings in the game, each affecting the enemy placement and the number of continues the player gets. The player can also choose to disable shurikens, using them only for boss battles and bonus stages. Bonus points are awarded at the end of each stage and boss battle (except for the final stage), based on how long it took the player to complete the stage and whether a ninjutsu attack was used or not. There are also hidden bonuses that the player can achieve by completing a stage or boss battle under a certain condition.

There are five rounds in all. The first four rounds consists of three stages each, with the third one being a confrontation with the round's boss, while the fifth round consists of only one stage comprises five rooms that leads to the final boss' lair. The names of the enemy bosses are also different between versions (the names of the bosses are listed with their English version names first, followed by their names in the Japanese version in parentheses). The rounds are as followed:

  • Round 1: "Burning Downtown" - Set in the ruins of a city filled with burning buildings. The boss is called the Stomper ( Yoroi?, "The Armor"), a giant armored warrior who can cause earthquakes by stomping the ground, as well as shoot fireballs.
  • Round 2: "Battle in the Railway" - Loosely based on Round 2 from the arcade Shadow Dancer, set on a bridge which leads to a railway. The boss is called the Mirage ( Kabe?, "The Wall"), a brick wall possessed by a demon that can materialize into a face with a pair of arms.
  • Round 3: "The Statue of Liberty" - Set on a construction site which leads to an elevator ride to the top of the Statue of Liberty. The boss is called Blade ( Yaiba?), a giant female ninja armed with rolling buzzsaws. Video Games & Computer Entertainment singled out this "incredible fight" as the graphically "breathtaking" high point of the game: "The boss attacks with whirling buzzsaws, clouds roll by in shifting parallax, all with the New York City skyline visible in the distance beyond Liberty Island. It's all a wild feast of action, magic, sound and spectacle."[2]
  • Round 4: "In the Darkness" - Loosely based on Stage 4-1 from the arcade version, set inside a dark cave. The boss is the Wheel of Fire (車火 Kurumabi?), a flying spinning wheel with three fire-breathing faces.
  • Round 5: "Union Lizard" - Set in the hideout of the enemy, where the player proceeds through a series of six rooms, each populated by a specific enemy type. The sixth room is the throne lair of the final boss Sauros (unnamed in the Japanese version), who will summon black ninja minions to attack the player.


In 1997, an evil ninja cult Union Lizard, worshipping a giant reptilian demon, has taken over New York City, turning most of the city in ruins. The few citizens who survived Union Lizard's onslaught of chaos are now kept prisoners by its members. A ninja warrior, accompanied by his faithful dog Yamato (大和?), emerges from hiding to combat Union Lizard's reign and rescue the hostages. The identity of the protagonist, which is kept ambiguous in the in-game opening, varies between supplemental materials. The Japanese manual identifies him as Hayate (疾風?), son of Joe Musashi from the previous games in the Shinobi series,[3][4] while the English language manual identifies him as Joe Musashi himself coming out of retirement.[5]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 80%
(4 reviews)[6]
Review scores
Publication Score
CVG 63%[7]
EGM 32 / 40[8]
GamePro 4 / 5[9]
Nintendo Life 8/10 stars[10]
ACE 778 / 1000[11]
Hobby Consolas 90%[12]
Joystick 90%[13]
Player One 90%[14]
Sega Power 90%[15]
Video Games & Computer Entertainment 33 / 40[2]

Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi was very well received. Video Games & Computer Entertainment awarded this "brilliant and beautiful arcade monster" an overall score of 33 out of 40.[2] ACE gave it a score of 778/1000[11] and Hobby Consolas gave it a 90%.[12] In 1992, Mega placed it at #33 in their ranking of top Mega Drive games of all time.[16]

In 2008, Joystiq called The Secret of Shinobi "the most awesome release" in the entire Shinobi franchise, adding that the game "answers the question of what could possibly be cooler than a ninja stalking around a gritty urban landscape: that ninja's dog."[17] According to a Virtual Console review by Nintendo Life in 2010, "this title comes highly recommended to all ninja fans."[10]

Retro Gamer declared "this magnificent console offering" to be superior to the original Shadow Dancer due to "far better bosses and a greatly improved difficulty level," as well as "far more responsive" control system.[18] In contrast, Computer and Video Games considered it inferior to the original Shadow Dancer arcade game and Revenge of Shinobi.[7]


  1. ^ The next game in the series, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, serves as the sequel to The Revenge of Shinobi. Both games were released under the "Super Shinobi" name.
  2. ^ a b c Video Games & Computer Entertainment 25 (February 1991), page 44.
  3. ^ "Shadow Dancer at Sega of Japan's Virtual Console website" (in Japanese). Sega. 
  4. ^ Sega. Shadow Dancer (in Japanese). Mega Drive. Level/area: Instruction manual, pages 3-7. 
  5. ^ Sega. Shadow Dancer. Genesis. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 2. 
  6. ^ "Shadow Dancer for Genesis". GameRankings. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  7. ^ a b "File:CVG UK 111.pdf" (PDF). Sega Retro. 2015-07-11. Retrieved 2015-09-27. 
  8. ^ Electronic Gaming Monthly, 1993 Video Game Buyer's Guide, page 46
  9. ^ GamePro, issue 20 (March 1991), pages 54-55
  10. ^ a b Calvert, Darren (8 January 2010). "Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Wii Virtual Console/Mega Drive) Review". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 2014-09-01. 
  11. ^ a b ACE 41 (February 1991), page 68.
  12. ^ a b Hobby Consolas 3 (December 1991), page 94.
  13. ^ "File:Joystick FR 012.pdf" (PDF). Sega Retro. 2015-09-22. Retrieved 2015-09-27. 
  14. ^ Player One, issue 10, pages 26-27
  15. ^ Sega Power, issue 18, pages 32-33
  16. ^ Mega 1 (October 1992), page 76.
  17. ^ Virtually Overlooked: Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, Joystiq, Feb 7th 2008.
  18. ^ Retro Gamer 77 (May 2010), page 66.

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