Shinobi: a ninja star on Master System
When "bad ports" are better
The excellent Sega Ages: Shinobi hit Switch last week (alongside the also-excellent Fantasy Zone), containing the original arcade game along with an "Ages" accessibility mode giving protagonist Joe Musashi such boons as an extra hit point and fully-powered weapons. That's all well and good, because Shinobi is hard. Not insanely hard like most coin-ops - it's eminently fair thanks to careful, clever design - but nonetheless difficult. For me, however, that difficulty was exacerbated because I grew up playing the far friendlier home version released on Sega Master System in 1988.
While the visuals understandably took a hit, the port was near-as-dammit feature complete, with all the levels and bosses of the arcade original. In this version, though, there's no need for the Ages mode because our 8-bit Joe has had his Weetabix. He's got a full complement of hit points, withstanding multiple enemy attacks before going down for the count. He's also not in the least bit arsed with rescuing the hostages, unlike the arcade game in which it's mandatory. While they offer power-ups and bonus points, you can ignore them and make a beeline for the exit. Their fate is left unknown but eh, it's probably fine.
I wish more console ports of arcade-famous titles were packed in with their re-releases. It does happen, but it's surprisingly rare and the home versions are often, if not outright better, interesting to say the least. Of course, it would be uncharitable to criticise Sega - they have form for making their Mega Drive ports available - but, you know what? I just want to see the Master System get its due. I felt the same way about the Sega Ages release of Wonder Boy in Monster Land. Great game, but I grew up with the rebalanced, superior Master System version. Throw it in!