Shinobi (2002 video game)

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Shinobi (PS2) Coverart.png
Developer(s) Overworks
Publisher(s) Sega
Director(s) Masahiro Kumono
Toru Shimizu
Producer(s) Takashi Uriu
Composer(s) Yasuhiro Kawakami
Teruhiko Nakagawa
Tatsuyuki Maeda
Fumie Kumatani
Yutaka Minobe
Masaru Setsumaru
Series Shinobi
Platform(s) PlayStation 2, PlayStation Network
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action-adventure, hack and slash
Mode(s) Single-player

Shinobi is a 3D action-adventure video game developed by Overworks and published by Sega as part of the Shinobi series. It was released for the PlayStation 2 console on November 10, 2002 in North America; December 5 in Japan; and May 15, 2003 in Europe. The game stars the ninja Hotsuma, who wields Akujiki, a sword that feeds on souls. He can also use ninja magic, shurikens, and special moves. Upon finding a golden castle after an earthquake, Hotsuma makes it his goal to defeat the sorcerer Hiruko.

Shinobi was originally planned for the Dreamcast, but due to the discontinuation of the console, the game was moved to the PS2. The game was designed to place emphasis on the action elements of action-adventure gameplay and appeal to the action market. Other gameplay elements resulted from a desire to mix old and new elements. Upon release, Shinobi was generally well received by critics. A comic book adaptation, soundtrack album, and sequel entitled Nightshade were also released.



Raised together within the Oboro Clan, Hotsuma and Moritsune were seldom apart during their youth. Being the younger of the two, Hotsuma looked up to Moritsune, and considered his older brother to be a superior warrior. Eventually, the Oboro Clan commandment was revealed to the two boys after they discovered Akujiki, the evil soul-stealing sword that would be used in the ritual to decide the clan's leader. The commandment deems that the next clan leader must be determined by a duel to the death between the eldest clan heirs—in this case, Moritsune and Hotsuma. Aware of their destiny, the brothers trained incessantly, instructed by their foster parent, Kobushi. 10 years passed as the brothers refined their techniques and honed their senses, preparing for the longtime duel and training their skills. The duel occurred beneath a full moon, with only Hotsuma's childhood friend, Ageha, and Kobushi as the witnesses and after a long exhausting fight, Hotsuma finally slew his brother, though he felt a great deal of guilt from it.

Four years after, a massive earthquake struck Tokyo, and a mysterious Golden Palace appeared in the center of the destroyed city. With the appearance of the palace came the return of the powerful sorcerer Hiruko, who was thought to have been defeated and sealed by the Oboro Clan long ago. He summoned hellspawn to wreak havoc upon the city, and all but destroyed the Oboro Clan. The city's residents became paralyzed with fear. With the Oboro Clan ravaged and Tokyo on the verge of collapse, Hotsuma placed himself at the heart of the chaos, determined to reach the mysterious Golden Palace and avenge the death of his clan. Along the way, Hotsuma is also forced to battle the slain Oboro ninja who had been reanimated to serve Hiruko.


The game starts when Hotsuma arrives in Tokyo in a helicopter, and while in position to the Golden Palace, suddenly two hellspawns arrive and crash into the helicopter, and Hotsuma jumps from it. After running through the city allyways and streets, defeating several tanks and ninjas, he encounters the helicopter, now possessed. Ageha arrives manages to distract it back into the air. Ageha is mad with Hotsuma exacting his revenge, but he tells her that he does not need her help, and then leaves her and goes through the city roofs, where he encounters mysterious ninja named Aomizuchi, whom he fights, and Akujiki awakens by tasting his blood. Aomizuchi escapes when the helicopter arrives again, and Hotsuma escapes the fire.

Hotsuma reaches the temples of the Oboro Clan, where Akujiki starts to eat his soul while trying to get rid of the sword. Ageha encounters him and tells him the story about the Akujiki; Akujiki is an evil sword which was longtime hidden during the Oboro Clan rule, and killed many fighters by consuming its souls. Akujiki needs to be fed, or it will eventually consume Hotsuma as well. She explains him that he will need to feed him by killing the possessed fighters, which souls have been darken, so the Akujiki could stay still and prevent him from consuming Hotsuma.

Hotsuma continues through the Oboro Clan's temple, where he encounters several dogs and encountering a twin siblings and his young students, Shirogane and Akagane, who are slowly being possessed and beg Hotsuma to kill them. He destroys them in a battle, and takes their souls. After a struggle with another wave of ninjas, he eventually reaches the main shrine of Oboro Clan. There, Ageha is trying to help Kobushi, who is injured from fighting. Helicopter arrives again, and Hotsuma slices the rocket that was fired on them. He eventually manages to destroy it, but Kobushi dies in Ageha's hands. Hotsuma continues, leaving the temple.

Midway into his journey, Hotsuma encounters a young shrine maiden named Kagari who believes that she is intended to be sacrificed by Hiruko to release a statue called Yatsurao. She asks Hotsuma to kill her, but feeling guilty over killing his brother and the similarity of the situation where the girl wants him to kill her, he is unable to do it. This leads to her capture by Hiruko's minions. Hotsuma confronts and destroys Yatsurao, but in doing so, allows Hiruko to absorb its power and restore his youth, which had apparently been his plan with Yatsurao the whole time. Hiruko returns to his palace with Hotsuma continuing his pursuit.

Eventually, Ageha meets him and reveals that she released Hiruko. She also reveals that the death match between him and Moritsune was not really to decide the Oboro's leader, but to provide a soul to keep Akujiki sated. Ageha secretly worked with Hiruko to get him to resurrect Moritsune, not knowing that the revived Moritsune would become one of Hiruko's henchmen with no memory of his past. Moritsune is actually Aomizuchi, the fourth hellspawn lord. Moritsune kills Ageha, then fights Hotsuma. Hotsuma defeats him again.

After the battle, Hotsuma breaks to Hiruko's Golden Palace, where Hiruko reveals that he had all along intended for Hotsuma to kill all of the hellspawn and the undead Oboro so that their souls would fuse inside Akujiki. He could then take the sword and use it to rule the world. Hotsuma vows to kill Hiruko and destroy Akujiki, as he blames the evil sword for everything that happened. Hotsuma fights and kills Hiruko after an intense battle, absorbing the sorcerer's soul into Akujiki. He thinks of his brother as the palace crumbles around him. As the military celebrates the collapse of the Golden Palace, Kagari looks on with sadness in her eyes.


Hotsuma kills an enemy in the game's urban Japanese setting. The necessity of his sword to absorb the souls of his victims creates urgency in the gameplay

Shinobi is a 3D action-adventure game[1] viewed from a third-person perspective.[2] The player guides protagonist Hotsuma through eight levels that each consist of two sections and a boss battle. Gameplay consists of quickly moving through levels and killing enemies. The game does not feature checkpoints, but allows the player to continue from the start of a boss battle should they die.[3]

Combat is hack and slash-based,[4] involving large numbers of recurring enemies.[2] Hotsuma's sword, Akujiki, is his primary weapon. Akujiki feeds on souls, initially devouring those of the enemies he kills, then that of Hotsuma himself if he does not kill any enemies for too long. This leads to an emphasis on killing all enemies in a battle as quickly as possible. To ensure that Akujiki's hunger remains sated, Hotsuma can kill four or more enemies with no more than a few seconds between each kill to perform an exaggeratedly violent "TATE" attack that will release more souls for Akujiki. The mechanic of jumping from enemies after dispatching them adds an element of platform gameplay.[5]

Hotsuma can also use shurikens to briefly paralyze his enemies. Three types of ninja magic are available to him: "Ka'en", an area-based fire attack; "Kamaitachi", a ranged shock wave attack; and "Raijin", which grants him invincibility for a short period of time.[6]


Main characters[edit]

Hotsuma (秀真?)
The game’s protagonist. Hotsuma is the leader and last remaining ninja of the Oboro Clan. Wielding Akujiki, a sword cursed to take the souls of those it slays, Hotsuma ventures into the demon-infested ruins of Tokyo and makes his way to the Golden Palace.
Moritsune (守恒?)
Hotsuma’s deceased older brother. He and Hotsuma were made to fight to the death to see who would be the clan leader. In the end, Hotsuma won, but in doing so and with a heavy heart, he killed his own brother. Moritsune is later revived by Hiruko, only to reveal himself to be nothing more than a puppet, a demon using Moritsune’s body. After being defeated, he is stabbed by Akujiki and his soul that was residing within the cursed blade exorcises the demon in his body. He then takes Ageha’s soul with him into Akujiki, but not before telling Hotsuma to avenge the Oboro Clan.
Ageha (朱刃?)
A childhood friend of Hotsuma and Moritsune. When they were children, Moritsune saved Ageha from Akujiki's soul-absorbing blade, after which Ageha developed romantic feelings for him when she grew up. After the death of Moritsune, she left the clan and broke the seal to release Hiruko, hoping that he would resurrect Moritsune. She gets in Hotsuma's way when he tries to kill Hiruko, resulting in a battle between them. She flees after being defeated, running to Hiruko to see if Moritsune has been revived. However, upon seeing Moritsune alive, she embraces him, only to be stabbed and killed by him seconds later.
Kobushi (?)
An elder ninja who leads the Jonin of the Oboro Clan. He raised and trained Hotsuma, Moritsune, and Ageha when they were children.
Kagari Ubusuna (産土 篝 Ubusuna Kagari?)
A shrine maiden kidnapped by Hiruko. Kagari has also revealed that she and her family turned out to be his direct descendants which explains her duty to guard Hiruko's tomb. Hiruko needed to sacrifice her in order to resurrect his ultimate weapon, the long-forgotten evil known as Yatsurao. But Kagari was rescued by Hotsuma twice, including the 2nd time in which Hiruko's plan of reawaking and manipulating Yatsurao to conquer the Earth failed, and she was very grateful to him ever since.
Hiruko Ubusuna (産土 ヒルコ Ubusuna Hiruko?)
The game's antagonist. Hiruko is an evil sorcerer who was stopped and killed by the Oboro Clan, and sealed away 72 years ago before the present events of the story. Ageha freed him so that he can bring Moritsune back from the dead. He also brought several Oboro Clan members back to life as his henchmen along with legions of hellspawn. His goal is to let Hotsuma kill all of his minions so that their souls will fuse in Akujiki and make the sword stronger, after which he can kill Hotsuma and use the power of Akujiki to help him take over the world. Hiruko's other yet, similar goal however, was aimed at sacrificing the life of his direct descendant Kagari that he kidnapped and tried to kill in order to revive the living, demonic statue called Yatsurao and use him to help enslave humanity. But Yatsurao was destroyed by Hotsuma in battle and Kagari was saved, yet however, her evil ancestor in his delight absorbed from the defeated Yatsurao all the yin of countless souls killed in the earthquake, thus transforming himself into an all-powerful teenage sorcerer with his youth rejuvenated and his dark magic increased. After a long battle, Hiruko is killed by Hotsuma and his soul is devoured by Akujiki.

The Oboro Clan[edit]

The Aragane Twins (鋼兄弟?)
Oboro Clan siblings Akagane (?) (the female) and Shirogane (?) (the male) form a fearsome duo. Both wield kusarigama, but each uses completely different attack methods. They both ask Hotsuma to kill them, knowing that if they are left alone, they will end up hurting innocent people. Despite Hiruko's control over them, they show respect to Hotsuma by calling him "Master" (senpei). In the end, they are both defeated by Hotsuma and are given the death they asked for.
Hakuraku (狛楽?)
An old man who can summon ninja dogs to fight for him. Hakuraku is not a fighter, summoning his dogs to do battle on his behalf, and if Hotsuma gets too close or if he has been hit, he will hide in the large box he carries and teleport from one part of the arena to another. He was shown to be very reluctant (or possibly fearful) when battling Hotsuma, constantly shouting, “Stay away from me!”, but in the end he thanks Hotsuma for killing him and allowing him to rest in peace.
Homura (?)
Another member of the Oboro clan. Homura has a cocky attitude and specializes in fire attacks, as well as being able to teleport in a fiery explosion. He wields a telescope-like kiseru (Japanese smoking pipe). At the end of the fight, instead of letting Hotsuma kill him, he commits suicide by blowing himself up.
Kongou (金剛?)
A large and powerful member of the Oboro Clan. Kongou is a man with a love for a good fight, going as far as to consider thanking Hiruko for allowing him to have the chance to fight Hotsuma (a fight he has wanted for some time). He wields a shield that is as large as he is, which doubles as a shuriken with retractable blades. When defeated, he compliments Hotsuma on his strength, even jokingly saying that “it must run in the family” before succumbing to death.
Kizami (?)
A mysterious swordsman of great caliber. Despite being blind, he has superb hearing which he uses to its fullest in the flooded corridor where he fights Hotsuma. He fights using the Iaido style, creating shockwaves in the water with each slash. After Hotsuma defeats him, he comments on Akujiki’s blade and that Hotsuma might just have what is needed to kill Hiruko.

The Hellspawns[edit]

Shirakumo (白雲?)
One of the Four Hellspawn Lords. He appears to be a giant tarantula with a tiger's head. He was the first of the Hellspawn Lords to be killed.
Benisuzume (紅天蛾?)
One of the Four Hellspawns Lords. She appears to be a giant moth with the face of a woman. She was the second to be defeated, but instead of letting Hotsuma finish her off, she decided to blow herself up in a final attempt to kill him.
Kurakuda (玄九蛇?)
One of the Four Hellspawn Lords. He appears to be loosely based on the Nine-Tailed Fox from Japanese mythology, except that he has the upper body of a human, the lower body of a snake with a snake's head at the end, and carries a golden structure on his back with eight fan-like tails and a giant fox head at the top. He was the third to be killed.
Aomizuchi (蒼蛟龍?)
A ninja who attacks Hotsuma early in the game. He has a wound on his neck that glows and causes pain when he gets near Akujiki. He flees upon defeat in his first encounter with Hotsuma. His true identity is eventually revealed to be Moritsune, Hotsuma’s dead brother. Aomizuchi is actually the fourth and final Hellspawn Lord, a dragon-like demon with the power over lightning, using Moritsune's body as a puppet.
Yatsurao (八面王?, The King of Eight Faces)
A giant four armed living statue that was disabled and sealed by the Oboro 72 years before the present events of the story. Hiruko attempts sacrifices Kagari to reawaken him. Hotsuma eventually defeats Yatsurao but its soul is absorbed by Hiruko, giving him youth and even more power, which Hiruko reveals to have been his plan with it all along.


Overworks, a division of Sega, had been the developer of the Shinobi series throughout its early years. Other projects had prohibited Overworks from developing Shinobi titles for the Sega Saturn or Dreamcast. However, in 2001 Overworks member Noriyoshi Ohba realized that he had time to develop a new Shinobi game, and Sega returned to publish it.[7] Development of Shinobi began around May 2001, with a team of roughly 50 people. Takashi Uriu filled in as producer. The game was originally planned for the Dreamcast until the console was discontinued and Sega began creating games for other companies' consoles.[8] The PlayStation 2 console was chosen over the competing Nintendo GameCube and Xbox because of its familiarity to the team;[9] Uriu had become experienced with the console's software during his past work on the Sakura Wars series. The console's relative popularity was also a decisive factor.[7]

Shinobi marked the jump of the series to 3D, attributed to the changing video game market. The 2D gameplay of past Shinobi games had made consistent use of shuriken-based combat. However, such combat would have been difficult to master in a 3D game. Thus, an auto-targeting system was born, and the gameplay emphasis shifted to swordplay rather than shurikens.[7] Due to the 3D rendering of Shinobi, Overworks decided to grant Hotsuma the ability to run on walls. His usage of ninja magic was a recurring feature in the series, implemented as part of a desire to mix older and newer gameplay elements. However, his "stealth dash" move was a new addition consistent with the overall fast-paced nature of the game.[9]

Although Overworks had worked mainly on simulation and role-playing video games, experience with the Streets of Rage series helped with the creation of an action-based game.[1] Ohba decided to tailor the game to the needs of the relatively small action market amidst the emergence of stealth-oriented ninja-focused games.[9] Uriu was discontent with the state of contemporary action-adventure games.[1] Hotsuma's character, as well as the game's setting and plot, resulted from a desire to create a "darker hero" for the game.[9] Hotsuma's "stealth dash" move hatched from Uriu's knowledge of real life ninja's ability to "divide themselves into different bodies."[1]

Shinobi was showcased at Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2002 together with other prominent Sega titles such as Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller, ToeJam & Earl III: Mission to Earth, and Panzer Dragoon Orta.[9] The game was later exhibited at Tokyo Game Show 2002.[8] Upon completion of development, the game received a rating of "M" (Mature) from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which cited "Blood and Gore" and "Violence".[10] It was highly anticipated prior to release, placing eighth on IGN's October 18 "Most Wanted" list compiled by aggregated user votes.[11]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 71.67%[12]
Metacritic 71/100[13]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4/5 stars[10]
EGM 7.33/10[14]
Eurogamer 3/10[15]
Famitsu 32/40[16]
Game Informer 8/10[17]
GamePro 4.5/5 stars[18]
GameSpot 7.6/10[19]
GameSpy 3/5 stars[3]
GameZone 8/10[5]
IGN 7.8/10[2]
OPM (US) 3.5/5 stars[20]
Entertainment Weekly B−[4]

Shinobi's initial release fell on November 10, 2002 in North America; December 5 in Japan; and May 15, 2003 in Europe.[21] It was generally well received by critics, with respective scores of 71 out of 100 and 71.67% from review aggregators Metacritic and GameRankings.[12][13]

Shinobi's basic gameplay was largely praised. GamePro's Mike Weigand highlighted the TATE attack as "cool" and "hyper-violent", and praised the game's overall emphasis on "head-on deception" rather than stealth.[18] GameZone staff writer Steven Hopper stated that "[w]hile some would want a bit more depth from a ninja game, I think the arcade-style gameplay keeps the game close to its roots."[5] IGN's David Smith and GameSpy's Benjamin Turner criticized the poor artificial intelligence and repetitiveness of the basic enemies while praising the bosses.[2][3]

Critics consistently mentioned the game's high difficulty. The game was described as "hellaciously hard" by Electronic Gaming Monthly staff writer Che Chou[14] and as "ninja tough" in a review from[22] Weigand cautioned: "Casual gamers beware", noting that earlier Shinobi titles had not been as demanding.[18] Hopper called it "the toughest game I’ve played in a long time."[5]

Level design was received generally poorly. highlighted repetitive environmental textures as contributing to the difficulty of finding one's way through the levels, comparing them to textures that might be found in PlayStation games.[22] Smith echoed this opinion, additionally noting occasionally problematic default camera angles.[2] Hopper stated that "[m]ost of the environments look very nice and detailed, while some are a little plain."[5] Turner called the environments overall "samey" and "uninspired".[3]

The newly introduced Hotsuma was singled out for strong praise. Smith called Hotsuma "a great design, a sort of post-modern evolution of the ninja in comparison to the thoroughly traditional Joe Musashi [the main protagonist of the series]", additionally commending the coordination of his moves with his appearance.[2] stated that he is "the supermodel of video-game action heroes—lean, stylish and mean—and he fights as good as he looks."[22] Turner and Allgame's Brett Alan Weiss described him as "sleek".[3][10] Weiss offered strong praise for Akujiki,[10] as did Weigand for Hotsuma's scarf.[18]

On September 25, 2003, Shinobi was re-released as part of Japan's The Best budget line with a bonus DVD containing a trailer for Nightshade and gameplay footage played by experienced players.[23]

Related media[edit]

Comic book adaptation[edit]

A single-issue comic book adaptation of Shinobi was created by Scott Allie, published by Dark Horse Comics, and released in 2002. The plot follows Hotsuma and other characters from the game.[24]


Shinobi Original Sound Track
Soundtrack album by Sega Digital Studio
Released December 21, 2002
Genre Traditional Japanese music, techno, rock
Label Sten och Flod

Shinobi Original Sound Track (Shinobi オリジナルサウンドトラック?) is a video game soundtrack album recorded by Sega's music division Sega Digital Studio.[8] It was released on December 21, 2002 under the Sten och Flod record label.[25] All twenty-one tracks are taken from the game, except for the last which is a bonus track.[26] The soundtrack consists of traditional Japanese music with elements of techno and rock. Hopper noted a "nice old-school flair."[5] Weigand stated that "[a]lthough some of the techno-pop music pieces don't fit the sword-and-sorcery theme, the atmospheric sound effects vibrantly ring true throughout."[18]


Nightshade, a sequel to Shinobi, was later developed by Wow Entertainment and again published by Sega exclusively for the PlayStation 2. The game stars female ninja Hibana, who is stylistically and kinetically analogous to Hotsuma. Nightshade's Japanese title Kunoichi refers to a female ninja, just as Shinobi refers to a male ninja. The gameplay is also structured similarly to Shinobi's. Hotsuma appears as a secret character in the game. The game was released on December 4, 2003.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e IGN Staff (May 23, 2002). "E3 2002: Shinobi Interview". IGN. Retrieved April 27, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Smith, David (November 12, 2002). "Shinobi (PS2)". IGN. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Turner, Benjamin (November 8, 2002). "GameSpy: Shinobi (PS2)". GameSpy. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Walk, Gary Eng (January 10, 2003). "Shinobi Review". Entertainment Weekly (690): 77. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Hopper, Steven (November 21, 2002). "Shinobi - PS2 - Review". GameZone. Archived from the original on December 12, 2007. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ Roper, Chris. "Basics". Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c Fox, Fennec (May 24, 2002). "Interview With Shinobi Developers". GamePro. Archived from the original on 2009-06-12. Retrieved April 24, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c Staff. "Shinobi Q&A". GameSpot. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Torres, Ricardo. "E2 2002: New Shinobi details". GameSpot. Retrieved April 15, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b c d Weiss, Brett Alan. "Shinobi (PS2) - Review". Allgame. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  11. ^ IGN Staff (October 18, 2002). "Top 10 PS2 Most Wanted". IGN. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b "Shinobi for PlayStation 2". GameRankings. Retrieved April 25, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "Shinobi Critic Reviews for PlayStation 2". Metacritic. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b EGM Staff (December 2002). "Shinobi (PS2)". Electronic Gaming Monthly (162): 220. Archived from the original on January 23, 2004. Retrieved April 29, 2010. 
  15. ^ Fahey, Rob (May 13, 2003). "Shinobi Review (PS2)". Eurogamer. Retrieved April 29, 2010. 
  16. ^ "プレイステーション2 - Shinobi (シノビ)". Famitsu 915: 83. June 30, 2006. 
  17. ^ Leeper, Justin (December 2002). "Shinobi (PS2)". Game Informer (116): 117. Archived from the original on November 14, 2004. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b c d e Weigand, Mike (November 12, 2002). "Shinobi Review for PS2 on". GamePro. Archived from the original on February 6, 2005. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  19. ^ Kasavin, Greg (November 7, 2002). "Shinobi Review (PS2)". GameSpot. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  20. ^ Kennedy, Sam (December 2002). "Shinobi". Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine: 152. Archived from the original on January 22, 2004. Retrieved April 29, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Related Games". GameSpot. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  22. ^ a b c 1UP Staff. "Shinobi (PS2)". Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  23. ^ Niizumi, Hirohiko (June 23, 2003). "Kunoichi trailer to be included in Shinobi rerelease". GameSpot. Retrieved April 25, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Shinobi #1". Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Shinobi オリジナルサウンドトラック" (in Japanese). Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  26. ^ IGN Staff (November 12, 2002). "Shinobi OST Announced". IGN. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  27. ^ Kasavin, Greg (February 10, 2004). "Nightshade Review". GameSpot. Retrieved April 16, 2010. 

External links[edit]