Sega's Master System, Genesis, and Game Gear platforms played host to five different games in the Shinobi series. Besides the abundant presence of ninjas in these games, which is never a bad thing, they were all pretty much similar to any of the other beat-'em-ups available at the time, albeit with plenty of platform-jumping tasks thrown in. What made them enjoyable, however, were the areas full of platforms and hazards that really put your reflexes to the test, as well as bosses that were ugly, intimidating, and full of different attack patterns. Imagine if all those challenging gameplay situations and clever bosses were missing, though. That's what you get with Revenge of Shinobi for the Game Boy Advance, a brand-new game that shares its title with the second installment in the series, but doesn't possess anywhere near the level of polish or charm of its Genesis namesake.
Slash the enemy, the beehive, and the pot and move to the right. Repeat.
You assume the role of Shinobi. Your task is to free the world from the effects of an evil curse by collecting five elemental swords. Standing in your way are hundreds of samurai and ninja warriors under the command of five evil shoguns. After a brief cinematic that establishes this plotline, you're sent into a basic area where you'll be able to figure out the controls by walking from left to right, climbing steps, and slashing at things with your sword. Unfortunately for you, the game never becomes any more clever or complex than it is at this point. Throughout roughly 25 different stages, you'll perform the same tasks over and over again: walking from left to right, slashing at enemies, and sometimes entering a house in order to climb steps and activate a switch.
To the game's credit, the number of abilities you have access to is rather substantial. From the outset, you can walk, run, crouch, somersault, and grab onto ledges, as well as slash with your sword and hurl throwing stars. As you visit the dwellings located in each stage, you'll earn new skills, such as four different types of attack magic, a double jump, and a stealth move.
Unfortunately, all these actions are meaningless for two reasons. First, there are precious few moments when you'll actually need to use any of your abilities to bypass an obstacle or navigate a tricky environment. Unlike in a game such as Castlevania, in which you need to discover the best route through a stage and then figure out the proper timing for jumps and switches, there aren't any specific routes or puzzles in Revenge of Shinobi. As long as you move cautiously to the right, you'll be able to see and avoid most hazards. There are few times when you need to climb upward or backtrack--so few, in fact, that every level feels like a journey from left to right.