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. A ninjitsu master selects three children to carry on the ninja traditions for the next generation: 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 the technique of strength. Obsessed with power, Kazuma demands that the master teach him the ultimate technique. The master refuses, and Kazuma vows to return one day and take revenge. Sho and Aya continue their studies and master the ninjitsu teachings.
Kazuma returns with an army and the resources to build a fortress. Although the old master has died, his pupils contain 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.
In the ending, Kazuma sacrifices himself to save Aya and Sho from an explosion.
The European version of Shinobi Legions, published by Sega Europe and released as Shinobi X (a revert to the game's original title from when it was first announced at the Tokyo Toy Show in June 1994), was delayed and released in late 1995. It was delayed because 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. Jacques composed the soundtrack in imitation of the style of Yuzo Koshiro's The Revenge of Shinobi. The North American version, published earlier the same year 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 was much ridiculed for what was considered poor acting.
Sega Saturn Magazine gave the game 3 out of 5 stars, saying that it plays well but fails to make any real use of the Saturn's capabilities, calling it "another Shinobi game that somehow managed to find its way on to CD instead of cartridge." They suggested that the "tacky" FMV scenes were added simply as an excuse to release the game on the Saturn instead of the Sega Genesis.
- "Sega's Saturn: 32-Bit Intensity". Electronic Gaming Monthly (61) (EGM Media, LLC). August 1994. pp. 50–52.
- "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.
- "Review: Shinbobi X". Sega Saturn Magazine (1) (Emap International Limited). November 1995. p. 96.