The catch is this, should the meter run out, the sword will start to drain Hotsuma's soul and eventually kill him unless he starts to do some killing himself. The good thing about the sword is that should you kill loads of foes in quick succession the sword will become stronger. Tactics are all important when you approach boss characters throughout the game as they will spawn smaller weaker foes, you should kill them quickly and then deal a decent blow to the boss when your sword is powerful. As well as the sword you can also use a limited number of knives to thrown and enemies and stun them, giving you a free hit.
Shinobi most of the time encourages quick fighting and lots of dashing around, but this is easier said than done as Shinobi is a pretty tough cookie to break. The levels are all reasonably long and each stage progressively gets tougher towards the end, but the early levels in the game are nice and easy so you can get familiar with the controls and techniques. The levels in Shinobi must be completed, should you die mid level you will have to start right at the beginning. This sounds frustrating and it can be at times, but due to the excellent controls you will not die needlessly, it will always be your own fault and you will need to improve yourself to progress. There are a couple of unfair reasons why Shinobi is so difficult but they are pretty minor, you may get a bit disorientated due to the speed that you will be moving around, combined with the moving camera and dodgy viewing angles. I feel a migraine coming on.
Shinobi has a high difficulty rating but you shouldn't find yourself frustrated by this because Shinobi encourages skillful and tactful play due to all Hotsuma's moves and the properties of his soul slurping sword. The levels are all pretty similar, starting pretty easy and finishing with lots of long technical jumping sections. The levels also look pretty similar so you're not going to get blown away with the unimaginative and laborious visuals. Shinobi isn't a game that everyone will like due to the structure of the levels and the bucket loads of challenge. If you like your games to reward you for being skillful and you like them to look pretty stylish to boot you will not go far wrong with Shinobi.
8.0 out of 10