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

Swaying treetop shuriken battles, like a sort of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" but waged in pixels; ninja combat on the high seas in the metallic belly of a vessel; mortal combat against a Phantasy Star-like giant tank one minute, then a massive Revenge of Shinobi-like face the next. Right from the opening "Highway" stage, this Game Gear Shinobi adaptation is universally well drawn, yet colorful and differentiated from its Genesis siblings.

Yuzo Koshiro, so prolific on the Genesis, squeezes just as much life out of the Game Gear's little PSG. How about those rapid-fire chords on the "Valley" stage? Or the ridiculously haunting inflections cast in the "Woodland" level? Sound effects, usually so difficult to pull off well on a PSG, are distinctive and filled with character.

The G.G. Shinobi's stages can be played in any order, and the pause menu can then be used on subsequent levels to utilize the abilities and ninjitsus of previously unlocked characters, from the prior beaten stages. The physics are perfectly weighted, with a nice level of mid-air control granted. The levels are appropriately bite-sized, but rely a bit too much of "ha ha, got you!" crazy enemy placement than a nice, level difficulty.

The Game Gear clearly can't do justice to The Revenge of Shinobi, so why not try something different? As in, Mega Man-meets-Joe Musashi? And boy does it work, especially when matched with the kind of art work on offer, and with Yuzo Koshiro at the audio helm. The level design is the weak link in this package, but is still plenty serviceable, and really flexes during the game's fantastically complicated final stage.

Sniper's verdict: