Shinobi Legions (Saturn) review
"Shinobi III was an awesome ninja game, most likely the best ninja game of the 90s. You had a really flexible ninja, which made attacking your enemies easy once you master his moves. Though, that didn't mean the game itself was gonna be a breeze to go through. You were attacked by ninjas, soldiers, kite ninjas, evil brains, ninjas on hovercrafts, robots, ninjas with wings, a giant, mutated freak, and, of course, Mechagodzilla. It was a really fun title that took you all over the place, from a sim..."
Shinobi III was an awesome ninja game, most likely the best ninja game of the 90s. You had a really flexible ninja, which made attacking your enemies easy once you master his moves. Though, that didn't mean the game itself was gonna be a breeze to go through. You were attacked by ninjas, soldiers, kite ninjas, evil brains, ninjas on hovercrafts, robots, ninjas with wings, a giant, mutated freak, and, of course, Mechagodzilla. It was a really fun title that took you all over the place, from a simple forest and a clone factory to a robot facility and, eventually, a fortress in the sky. And after all that was done, with the credits rolling and your ninja literally riding off into the sunset, you then see the words "To Be Continued!". Of course, after completing such an awesome game, you were excited by the prospect of playing another great Shinobi game. Well, I was, at least.
A few years pass, and finally, Shinobi Legions gets released for the Sega Saturn in 1995. Now, I didn't get a chance to play it when it originally came out, in fact, I played it for the very first time a few days ago, in 2008. Yup, that's a long ass time. Still, I was pumped to play it, and not even the thought of playing and seeing digitized actors (ugh, Battle Monsters... THE HORROR!), over traditional, 2D sprites, stopped me from trying it out. As I started going through the first stage, things actually went pretty well. You get over the digitized actors pretty quick, and you basically retained most of your moves from Shinobi III. Sweet. Though, there's some changes you'll notice right away; one such change is the fact that you have a sword button, which transforms the style of the gameplay. In past Shinobi games, shurikens dominated your attack pattern, while the sword attack, which was on the same button, was more of a secondary attack.
Here, however, there's a strong emphasis on using the sword, which will take some getting used to for fans of previous titles. But, you can do some pretty cool things with it, like deflecting shurikens back to your foes or performing a somersault slash attack. And once you slash an enemy with it, they don't disappear or explode like before, instead, they split in half with blood spilling out. How awesome is that? I'm actually surprised they managed to get away with it with digitized actors and a T rating. And trust me, you're gonna be slashing a whole lot of people all over the place in Legions. The entire second stage has you climbing up really tall trees, attacking and avoiding ninjas on branches on your way to the two bosses. And in another stage, you'll be going through some weird factory where green demons/dragons pop out of containers to attack you. The stage is obviously based on or inspired by the one from Shinobi III, where brains burst out of containers as well. Though, it's not as pretty-looking, just a bunch of grey. It's also home to one of the freakiest moments in the game: during two instances, a giant, green turd monster will pop out of nowhere and take up most of the screen. Scared the crap out of me the first time it happened.
Now, for the first half of Legions, things are pretty good, and you start getting used to the taking-your-time approach gameplay that Revenge of Shinobi had. However, things get annoyingly hard during the second half. It seems fitting that the very first stage this begins on happens to be a cart mine stage... I don't even have to say anything else, because you know what those are like. But I will, because this stage is just unforgiving. As you're riding on this big cart, enemies will just pop out of nowhere, from the water, dropping down from the top screen, and in all sorts of weird combinations. Some you'll be able to predict and take out before they cause any damage, but most of them appear so fast that, you'll have to block their first attack and then strike afterwards. However, most of the time, that'll be too late, because one or two more ninjas will appear, giving you a harder time. There's even this moment towards the end where a cart will appear behind you with 4 or 5 ninjas that toss bombs that you can't block. You will get hit.
But that's just half of the problem with that stage, the other annoying aspect of it is when you have to jump on new carts when the ones you're on hit rocks or fall into the water. Now, when I had to do my first jump and saw that the new cart was a considerable amount of distance away, I did the obvious thing and performed a double jump. My ninja flew over the cart and into the water. Got sent to the start of the stage. So, I got back to that point and did a normal jump, and I landed on the cart. Success! However, when it came time to jump on another cart, I used a normal jump... and landed in the water. Of course, this one needed the double jump. Got sent back to the start of the stage. Did the double jump, made it, tried to jump on the last cart, and... you know what happened. It's just one of the most frustrating stages in the game. One of the? Yes, there are other annoying stages, like the mountain stage where a gang of eagles attack you every two seconds and the background blends in with the foreground, resulting in a lot of "pit deaths". Then there's the final stage where you have to avoid gigantic missiles that kill you in one hit. It's much more absurd than it sounds, trust me.
Legions had the makings of a great game, but it messed up. Hilariously, it wasn't the digitized look nor the live-action cutscenes that made your ninja look like a wimp, but the difficulty that gets cranked up in the later levels. It has the type of "learning"curve" that you loathe, where you keep failing over and over again until you get by with some luck. Other small problems contribute, like your shuriken count not reseting at all after dying, combine that with the small amount of shurikens you obtain when picking some up, and they're next to useless. Unless you crank the shuriken count to 100 in the option menu, though, and even then, it shouldn't be a problem. Another flaw is the pointlessness of the running slash attack. Unlike in Shinobi III, where you become invisible as you're performing the attack, you'll get hit in this game. It's just not worth using.
It's funny, when I started Shinobi Legions, I thought it was better than Revenge of Shinobi, but now, it's below it. Revenge of Shinobi may not be a great game itself, but at least it was more forgivable.
Community review by pickhut (March 12, 2008)
Alternative tagline: Hit the Road, Jack.
If you enjoyed this Shinobi Legions review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!