The G.G. Shinobi II (Sniper)
Genre: Action platformer
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

Let us forget for a moment that this is a handheld title, and simply compare it to comparable 8-bit titles. The stage backgrounds are nearly as detailed as those in 16-bit games, with very little use of the "filler black" so commonly seen in titles on comparable hardware. Animation is superb, and many of the boss designs, which blend the organic and the robotic in an almost Phantasy Star manner, are highly disturbing.

Game Gear music simply does not get better than this. Yuzo Koshiro pulls out all of the stops, producing compositions that are not only sophisticated and nuanced, but that sound fantastic on the unit's somewhat plinky sound chip, capturing the mysterious and heroic in equal measure. Sound effects are minimal, as is typical of the Game Gear, but what is present is effective.

The two Genesis titles were linear, superbly paced action platformers, in the vein of the Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania games. For the company's portable, Sega's game designers angled for different inspiration: Mega Man. Play the stages in any order, and use newly-unlocked abilities to more effortlessly beat the game. The stages are great-- especially the incredible, 26-part final level.

This second Shinobi Game Gear title doesn't have programming that matches the ambition of the first title-- especially when compared to the latter's "highway" stage-- but its improved focus on getting the basic pacing and level design correct, combined with one of the best soundtracks and overall aesthetics on the platform, make for a truly outstanding game, handheld or otherwise.

Sniper's verdict: