Shadow Dancer is a side-scrolling hack-and-slash action game produced by Sega and originally released as an arcade game in 1989. It is the second and the final arcade game in the Shinobi series, following the original Shinobi itself. The player controls a ninja aided by an attack dog, who is fighting to save the city from a terrorist organization.
Shadow Dancer was the first game developed for the Sega System 18 arcade board hardware, and its generally well-received home versions were released for the Master System console and several home computer systems in 1991. A loose adaptation titled Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi was released exclusively for the Mega Drive/Genesis in 1990.
The play mechanics of Shadow Dancer are similar to these of the arcade version of the original Shinobi. The controls and almost all of the player’s moves from the original Shinobi are present here as well.
The biggest change is the addition of a canine companion, Shadow, that follows the protagonist around. When the dog barks towards an enemy, the player can sic the dog on the enemy by pressing the attack button while crouching, allowing the player an opportunity to attack the enemy while it is being bitten by the dog. However, if the player takes too long to attack the bitten enemy or the enemy has a strong defense, then the dog will be hurt and turn into a harmless pup. The dog will then remain in pup form until the player acquires the next time bomb or finishes the stage.
The player’s weapons consists of an unlimited supply of shuriken and a sword which is used when adjacent to an enemy. When the player collects half of the time bombs in each stage, stronger weapons are granted until the player finishes the stage or loses a life. The player can also use one of three random ninja magic (ninpo) techniques that will clear the entire screen of enemies. Normally, these techniques can only be used once per stage, but if the player continues the game by inserting more coins and pressing START, the protagonist restarts the stage with two units instead of one. Bonus points are awarded if the player completes the game without using shuriken or ninja magic.
There are four different missions, consisting of three stages for the first mission and four stages each for the remaining three. In the first few stages of each mission, the player must collect a certain amount of time bombs scattered throughout the stage in order to proceed to the goal. The final stage in each mission is a confrontation between him and one of four bosses: an armoured giant throwing energy balls, a weaponized tank engine, a woman armed with a shield/weapon device, and a female ninja using magic and a naginata (the dog does not appear during boss battles).
Between each mission, there is a bonus stage minigame seen from the character’s perspective as he tosses shuriken at enemy ninjas dropping down from a building. The player is awarded an extra life after successfully completing the minigame.