Shadow Dancer

Publisher: U. S. Gold
Machine: Amiga 500

Published in Zzap #73

Shadow Dancer

Terrorists have launched a massive, co-ordinated strike against America with hundreds of crack soldiers invading Florida. This awesome combat force has infiltrated numerous civilian establishments and planted explosives, making a conventional military response impossible. So it's time to call Shadow Dancer, the eponymouse hero of Shinobi who rescued a group of hostages from a vicious street gang in downtown LA. Saving Florida is a more formidable challenge, but fortunately he's not got a snazzy new nickname and a secret weapon: a vicious pet dog (which on the Amiga shrinks to chihuahua-size when hit!).

The terrorists arrived on a civilian airliner which landed at Miami airport and was promptly seized, then wired with explosives. Shadow Dancer starts here, aiming to defeat the terrorists and learn where they went from here. The concourse, cargo loading area and inside a speeding aircraft form the three airport stages: the first two contain plenty of bombs, all of which need to be collected before the stage can be finished. The third stage sees the Shadow Dancer go head-to-head with a giant shogun throwing fireballs. Defeat him and a bonus stage begins.

Shadow Dancer stands at the base of a tower, down which are leaping hordes of enemy ninjas. In this first-person perspective scene you have control of Shadow's hand and must kill the ninjas before they get all the way down the building. Succeed and bonus points, magic and credits are awarded.

Shadow Dancer

The next mission sees Shadow going after the supply route the terrorists have set up, including a railroad (battle on top of a speeding train), bridge and freight station (fight a train!). It's here that enemy ninjas make their first real appearance, jumping onto the screen and using their staves to deflect your shuriken. Hang around too long and yet more ninjas arrive. On the Amiga, this mission has an extra level. Due to memory restrictions programmers have redesigned the C64 game so it's made up of five missions, or loads, each with three stages. The Amiga game is the same as the arcade, with four missions but the same number of stages. On both versions later missions bring a factory, sewers, waterfall and a shuttle base.

The main game, where Shadow is collecting the bombs, usually boasts multi-directional scrolling with our hero capable of special leaps to jump onto higher levels. His weapon is basically an unlimited number of shurikens which can be thrown from a crouching, standing or leaping position. They can't be fired diagonally, so winkling out machine-gun-armed soldiers beneath you can be difficult.

If you don't want to risk leaping between his bullets, you can hold down Fire to send your dog on the attack. Baddies can't fire while he's savaging them, allowing you to get close and kill them. If you take too long the dog is wounded and unable to attack for a short time.

Shadow Dancer

Another weapon is magic, a smart bomb activated by the space bar which kills everything on screen (except mega-monsters which can take several magics to die).


Like most recent coin-ops Shadow Dancer doesn't offer much in the way of originality, but brilliant graphics packed with variety made it a big hit for Sega. Contrary to the ninja theme the game isn't really a beat-'em-up, it's closer to Green Beret than Double Dragon with our hero using a limitless supply of shurikens to hurl at the terrorists.

Both computer versions play much the same: as you yomp on, numerous traps are sprung, mostly consisting of a couple of guys firing at you. Dodging the bullets, then springing forward to take them out requires lightning-fast reactions, excellent timing and good tactical sense. It's familiar stuff, although the dog is an amusing innovation, often vital for distracting an enemy.

Shadow Dancer

Initially the game seems much too tough and only by heavy use of magic can you progress - however, with practice it becomes easier. Using a cheat we were able to play through the entire game and were glad to see some development of the simplistic early levels. A waterfall level where you have to jump from ledge to ledge, and a big level where exploration is vital to find the exit add much needed variety.

On top of this, you have some impressive mega-monsters to take on, including a bullet-firing train and a giant amazon woman, each with their own novel attack tactics. Then there's the bonus level, superbly presented for both versions, and great fun.

The C64 vesion makes especially good use of the machine, packing three varied levels per load, plenty of impressive background graphics including a parallax scroll particularly impressive on the moving train stage. The Amiga version is similarly impressive, although it's an ST port and there's no parallax scroll, the characters are big, look good and move realistically against some nice backgrounds. Also, the Amiga game has a bit more complexity on some stages, including one where you jump into the screen slightly to fight for some bombs.

Shadow Dancer

Although the basic game is a little limited, first class presentation, good variety and a terrific end-game sequence (on the C64 particularly) means anyone still fond of ninjas will love this.


If I see another ninja in a game, I may possibly go slightly mad - it's a crowded market with each successive game offering little over the rest. Luckily for Shadow Dancer the four-legged friend works well and boosts the limited depth and originality of gameplay on both machines.

Having multiple levels per C64 load restricts the sophistication of the graphics in each stage but there's still great shading, a good parallax scroll in places, and a superb bonus game.

Shadow Dancer

I'm not quite so enthusiastic about the Amiga game technically, it doesn't make quite as good use of machine since it's basically an ST port. However, for once the ST game seems quite excellent. The sprites are nice and big, there's good attention to detail and nice graphics variety, plus there's a great soundtrack.

The Images programming team did a great job with 16-bit Ninja Spirit and Shadow Dancer is no less impressive. On both machines, Shadow Dancer is a sequel which improves over its predecessor and is a good-to-great conversion of the coin-op.


Presentation 86%
Rapid multi-loading, good intro and outro.

Shadow Dancer

Graphics 83%
Big main sprites, well animated with varied, imaginative backgrounds.

Sound 85%
A varied soundtrack including plenty of tunes plus some good FX sampled from the coin-op.

Hookability 81%
Tough, but relative simplicity makes it easy to get into. End-level confrontations, bonus sections and general variety provide a strong hook.

Shadow Dancer

Lastability 85%
Fifteen varied stages provide a substantial challenge.

Overall 83%
A top-notch conversion of a popular coin-op.


Presentation 90%
Sensible multi-load with three stages per load, plus short bonus level load where continue-plays can be earned. Nice intro load outlining all the missions, plus great end-game sequence.

Shadow Dancer

Graphics 85%
Good throughout, with nice sprites, varied backgrounds and good magic effect. Bonus screen is great.

Sound 59%
Okay intro tune, effective in-game FX.

Hookability 81%
Tough but simplistic opening ensures good hookability.

Lastability 85%
A massive challenge with fifteen varied stages.

Overall 83%
A slick, varied shoot-'em-up packed with lastability.