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, and later moved to the PlayStation 2. 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, video game soundtrack album, and sequel entitled Nightshade have also been released.
Shinobi is a 3D action-adventure game[ with gameplay viewed from a third-person perspective. The player guides protagonist Hotsuma through eight levels that each consist of two sections. Gameplay consists of quickly moving through levels and killing enemies who are mainly demons.
Combat is hack and slash-based, involving large numbers of recurring enemies. Hotsuma's sword, Akujiki, is his primary weapon. Akujiki feeds on souls, initially devouring those of enemies, then that of Hotsuma himself. This leads to an emphasis on killing as many enemies as quickly as possible. Successfully doing so allows Hotsuma to perform a powerful and exaggeratedly violent "TATE" attack. Hotsuma can also use shurikens. 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. A new feature added to the game is the inclusion of an evasive maneuver called Stealth Dash in where Hotsuma can dash over a short distance quickly and leave a phantom image of himself in wake. The phantom lingers on for a few seconds and fools most enemies into attacking it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- A shrine maiden kidnapped by Hiruko.
- Hiruko Ubusuna
- The game's antagonist. Hiruko is an evil sorcerer sealed away 72 years 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 Akujiki to help him take over the world. After a long battle, Hiruko is killed by Hotsuma and his soul is devoured by Akujiki.
The Oboro Clan
- The Aragane Twins
- 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" (sempei). In the end, they are both defeated by Hotsuma and are given the death they asked for.
- 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 as 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, 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.
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. The duel occurred beneath a full moon, 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.
Midway into his journey, Hotsuma encounters a young shrine maiden who believes that she is intended to be sacrificed by Hiruko to release a statue called Yatsurao. She asks Hostuma 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, Hotsuma's childhood friend 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 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, and leaves the palace.