They hide in the shadows, they are a gang. Only Dan the Ninja can stop them with his trusty Uzi…..the 80s are back, its Shadow Gangs but is it any good? Read on.
The retro revival movement lately has never been stronger, retro games from the 80s and 90s had a strong fixation with Ninjas and it seems we are back into that phase this time around. Whereas most games lately are either beat em ups, metroidvania or classic Ninja Gaiden style, Shadow Gangs is tackling the once popular Shinobi style of masked antics!.
The story sees the main character Dan who is the current leader of his Ninja order tasked with the job of taking down the Shadow Gang and saving his kidnapped ninja clan, quick, cheap and effective.
Graphically Shadow Gangs is a very smooth HD looking 2D title, while I’m not usually a big fan of the smoother looks in 2D games, Shadow Gangs looks and animates fantastically and almost gives off a “saturday morning cartoon” vibe which also permeates through the title with the voice acting and presentation.
The voice acting is quite funny in Shadow Gangs and as mentioned gives it the classic 90s cartoon vibe. The music is fantastic and keeps you engaged in all your ninja activities and the sound effects just act like icing on the cake to make it feel like a Mega Drive game with a rocket strapped to its back, great stuff all round on the visual and audio sections.
So how does Shadow Gangs play? Well have you ever played a niche 80s title called Shinobi? Meet its modern day brother!.
Now when I say Shadow Gangs is like the previously mentioned title, I mean I could have easily been one of the series had it gotten the licence. The objective is similar in that you explore a 2D stage looking for captive Ninja and saving them, 2 stages then a boss fight.
Shadow Gangs also has the scrolling of the Shinobi series when you have to jump up and down a building as well as shrunken throwing and area clearing magic. Because this style of gameplay is rarely copied it makes it honestly quite refreshing that someone chose this type of Ninja style gameplay than that of a Ninja Gaiden clone.
Throughout the levels you find power ups, these can send you to the bonus levels, give you mines or transform you into the Crimson Ninja, foregoing the Ninja stars for the more effective Uzi 9mm. It’s bonkers and honestly I loved it, the Uzi also makes an appearance in the first person shooting gallery end of level bonus stage (once again ala Shinobi).
Boss fights are your standard affair of smashing your face against them until you learn the pattern. The Grey Fox cosplayer for boss 1 was a real wake up call and felt fantastic when I finally took him down without pouring through continues.
There are several difficulties to tackle but the very arcade nature of Shadow Gangs means you’ll be having a fun time and not a long time. This isn’t a knock on the game as I’m a huge fan of arcade titles and for me it is always a fun ride everytime I foolishly convince myself I can 1cc it!.
Shadow Gangs isn’t the most original of titles since it almost copies Shinobi and Shadow Dancer to a T but the fact this style of game is rarely done as most tackle the style of games like The Messenger or Cyber Shadow means that Shadow Gangs actually offers a fairly tasty arcade alternative. My only issues with the game were there isn’t a crunchy enough impact/feedback on the projectiles and the menus feel very placeholder, minor stuff really.
If you liked Shinobi and Shadow Dancer I would highly suggest adding Shadow Gangs into your collection to truly hone your Ninja skills, also the bad guy on the title screen looks like “shadow” Freddy Mercury which I’m sure is a bonus to someone, somewhere.
A homage to Shinobi and classic arcade games done with love and respect.
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