North American Saturn cover art
Vic Tokai (North America)
|Composer(s)||Richard Jacques (Shinobi X)|
Shinobi Legions is a traditional side-scrolling action game, which means that each level must be finished from left to right. Along the way, the protagonist ninja Sho will come across various foes and obstacles that will test the player's skill, including boss encounters. The gameplay itself is largely the same as that in Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master. However this time emphasis lies on the use of Sho's katana instead of his shuriken, and separate buttons are now used to control them.
The four ninjitsu techniques from earlier Shinobi games have also disappeared. Instead, Sho gains his special abilities by picking up various items scattered across each level. Among them are simple power-ups (yellow and red orbs to restore his hit points) or temporary ninjitsu abilities, such as the Great Sword or the Bunshin clone shield against enemy attacks.
Also found in each level are blue orbs called life spheres. Every time the player manages to collect ten of them, Sho gains one continue. Some item crates contain bombs that will damage Sho if he is standing too near.
Years of civil war have brought the ninjitsu code and its warriors to the brink of extinction. It is time to rebuild, and find the next generation of fighters who will learn the ninja traditions. A ninjitsu master stands alone amidst the wreckage of years of warfare. In his searches, he has found three children who show promise: two brothers, Kazuma and Sho, and his own daughter Aya. He begins to train them.
Fifteen years pass. The oldest boy, Kazuma, begins to reject all the ninjitsu teachings, save one: the technique of strength. Obsessed with power, Kazuma demands that the master teach him the ultimate technique which would make his power absolute. The master refuses, and Kazuma vows to return one day and take revenge. Sho and Aya continue their studies and master the ninjitsu teachings.
Now, Kazuma has returned. He has made an army and acquired the resources to build a fortress. Although the old master has died, his pupils contain within them the secrets of the ultimate technique. Kazuma sets up a trap to lure Sho into his hideout, and kidnaps Aya to use her as a bait. The fate of the world now rests within Sho's hands.
To finish the game, Sho must first go through nine stages, each of which consists of several scenes with a boss battle at the end. Once a stage is finished, a small cinematic plays to advance the plot. The final battle is against Kazuma himself.
- Kyoto: The battle starts at the site of an ancient ruin in Kyoto, in a level reminiscent of Ibaraki Province in The Revenge of Shinobi. The stage proceeds in a simple linear fashion as Sho makes his way across walls, bamboo forests and bridges. At the end he is confronted by a magical flying mask.
- Mount Fuji: A stage designed mostly to test the player's jumping technique, Mount Fuji has only one way to go and that's up. The player jumps from tree to tree while constantly under attack by enemy ninjas. At the top of this stage, Sho fights two boss battles.
- Kazuma's Laboratory: Kazuma's Laboratory recalls the infamous Body Weapon stage of Shinobi III. In this industrial complex Kazuma performs his illegal experiments on animals, guarded by a platoon of military personnel. A genetically engineered supercreature sleeps in the central chamber of this facility.
- Tunnel Trouble: Kazuma uses these tunnels to move materials from the outside world into his secret laboratory. Sho must make his way past spear and stone traps.
- Mine Ride: This stage is the heart of Kazuma's empire. Here minerals are mined and sent to fuel his army. The water below is contaminated, and the only way through is by using the mine carts. At the end of the stage is a dangerous elevator ride, but no boss guards this level.
- Jungle Heat: A level similar to Mount Fuji, Jungle Heat requires Sho to leap from vine to vine while dodging poisonous snakes and cannon fire.
- Hong Kong Harbour: This stage recalls the Breakwater scene from the New York level in The Revenge of Shinobi. In this dangerous level, Sho must leap from boat to boat while fending off Kazuma's minions. One step wrong and he winds up in the water.
- Mountain Pass: Sho is at the foot of Kazuma's fortress. Eagles circle this steep canyon, while giants keep pounding on the rocky floors to rain down showers of boulders upon Sho. The exit is closely guarded by a relentless killing machine.
- Kazuma's Fortress: Sho arrives at Kazuma's fortress just in time. His brother has extracted the ultimate technique through artificial means and his power is growing. If Sho can't stop him now no-one will.
The European version of Shinobi Legions, published by Sega Europe and renamed Shinobi X, was delayed and released in 1996 due to the fact that Sega Europe's producer David Nulty disliked the original music score and wanted to change it for the European release, in a similar way that Sega of America did years before with the North American release of Sonic CD. The whole in-game tracks were replaced by noted British video game composer Richard Jacques, while the cutscene music tracks were left intact. The European soundtrack is generally considered superior to the original Japanese soundtrack and closer in style to the traditional series, as Richard had the intention of resembling the style of Yuzo Koshiro's Revenge of Shinobi. The North American version, published in 1995 by Vic Tokai, had retained the same music as the Japanese version.
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On release, Famicom Tsūshin scored the game a 26 out of 40. Although Shinobi Legions boasted improved graphics and superior sound, it was unfavourably received because of the limited use of the then new hardware's capabilities and its use of live-action cutscenes, though notable for its time, was much ridiculed for what was considered poor acting.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2011)|
- "What happened was that they had done the Japanese version and the producer in Sega Europe said that he didn't like the music and he wanted to change it. So he played it for me and said 'Can you redo the music for this?', the only difficult thing was it was all done on the sound chip instead of CD. And I only had 2 weeks to do the whole game that consisted of about 20 tunes. I only had about 200K of memory to play with as well." – Richard Jacques, on the European Shinobi X, "Gaming Age Online, 10 March 2000.
- "I tried to do it like Yuzo Koshiro as his sound tracks are absolutely brilliant. He didn't do Shinobi X on the Saturn, but a lot of people were expecting it to sound like him. So I tried my best attempt to sound like him which is impossible because he is an absolute genius." – Richard Jacques, on the European Shinobi X, "Gaming Age Online, 10 March 2000.
- NEW GAMES CROSS REVIEW: 新・忍伝. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.342. Pg.32. 7 July 1995.