When Good Games Go Bad - Revenge of Shinobi
Childhood memories are often devoid of the negative; those sepia tinted memories tend to play back like the intro sequence to The Wonder Years. However sometimes there are moments that jar so badly that you cant forget them, you cant dress them up and they play back in your mind more like the opening sequence to American Gothic.
Such are my memories of Revenge of Shinobi on the Sega Megadrive, the first console I properly owned as my Atari 2600 was more for my parents truth be told. I also should preface this with the fact that I love Revenge of Shinobi, I regard it as one the best games Ive ever played and I get very nostalgic when talking about it. The graphics were top drawer at the time, the settings were varied and Yuzo Koshiros music was as memorable as it was recognisable. I was around 10 years old when I played it and through this game I got to be a ninja; I got to live out all those movies that I was raised on through my glorious magical box. However for all the greatness I remember, I always get brought back down to earth when I remember that final level.
To understand how infuriating and difficult the last level of Revenge of Shinobi is to know true pain, its like the most horrible of breakups as if your first true love ran away with your brother. And like most relationships, for so long everything was great, difficult at times and as always there was a varying yet continual learning curve but you are no quitter, you are in this for the long haul and waiting for the rewards.
Alas these rewards never came.
The last stage of the last level consists initially of a maze working your way through doors trying to find that special combination to get to the end. The enduring feeling of "I've been here before" is not helped by a staggering array of bad guys trying to hinder your path. You have ninjas, flying demons, riflemen and kung-fu guys fly kicking you into new levels of frustration. It is quite overwhelming and if anyone made it through without taking a hit I would recommend they receive an award as the greatest human being that ever lived. I was definitely not that person and seeing the flashing exit sign at the end filled me with more relief than I have probably ever felt. We do forget that this was a time before save games and memory cards and when your lives were up it was back to the beginning.
If your controller survived you snapping it in two during the maze section you are then presented with possibly the toughest boss fight I have ever encountered. You face off against the leader of Neo-Zeed, a kabuki master with a penchant for being difficult to injure while simultaneously abusing your health bar at an alarming rate. At first this may seem reasonably standard fare, if not a little bit above the difficulty average as you attack closely then avoid his flying boomerang hair. The kicker comes when you realize that your fiancée Naoko who you have been battling to save is in danger from an ever descending ceiling in her cage in the background. So begins an infuriating race against time, trying to beat a difficult boss but in record time. It is one of my finest gaming achievements that I managed to get the good ending but there is a part of me that wishes I never went through that experience. I imagine if gamer points existed at that time you would get an extra thousand for this feat alone, or at least a video clip of the development team giving you a well earned slow clap.
Its staggering that such a fantastic game can have such a bad level/boss design right at the end, I have replayed the game many times but I never play the last level. The last level affected me so much that I almost resented looking off into the sunset with my recently rescued fiancée. She didnt understand what Id went through to rescue her and I wanted to tell her but never could. Revenge of Shinobi I love you and you will always have a place in my heart but for the last level I can never forgive you.