This was the game that should have been released to consoles back then.
The whole purpose of being a then next gen console owner was to be able to enjoy the game you were playing in the arcades at home. On many occasions this wasn't the case and we were given games vastly or slightly different which didn't end the quarter munching; the results were good games or bad games to simplify things. Shinobi: Shadow Dancer for the Sega Genesis was definitely the latter. The console version couldn't hold a candle to the original, and it looked a lot worse since it came after Revenge of Shinobi on console, and many never even knew about the arcade counterpart. Well, the arcade version was a good improvement over the original Shinobi and was far superior to its console version. It wasn't as great as Revenge of Shinobi, but I can't look down on it either.
Shadow Dancer takes all the elements of the original Shinobi and expands on them well enough. If you played the original and thought it was tough, then brace yourself for this monster should you ever come across it. I remember Shadow Dancer killing guys in the arcade for good in the first two sub stages. Now that's difficulty for you.
Shadow Dancer takes place 20 years after the original and follows Joe Musashi's son Hayate. A terrorist organization called Asian Down kills Hayate's friend in New York to work as a diversion keeping him out of their real plan. Hayate still goes after them seeking revenge with his friend's dog Yamato; they battle the group and dismantle bombs along the way to encountering various bosses.
This game uses the same formula as the original with Hayate being able to jump to the higher levels and back to lower levels creating a two plane plat-former. This sequel however takes advantage of this later in the game especially creating some nice stages to traverse. The stage design is far superior to the console version in every way. Plus Yamato is really useful here attacking enemies for Hayate to get close for the kill, because the enemy placement can be a serious pain with shooters and projectile hurlers being in near perfect, stationary positions to take you out easily and repeatedly. There were segments I had to use the ninja magic.
There are also some plat forming segments late in the game that work well into this Shinobi game bringing the difficulty a little higher. Even many of the boss battles are quite challenging and I will say they are tougher than the original. The game has 15 stages across 4 areas and although quite short, well, the difficulty makes up for this.
I think the graphics are better here than on the console also. The character designs are many and they feel less weird. Backgrounds and settings which take place in a junkyard, airport, and even waterfall, just to name a few looks really good. The one glaring weakness is definitely the soundtrack. I find it to be way too forgettable and there's so much I simply dislike.
This version of Shadow Dancer I would definitely recommend if you enjoyed the toughness found in Shinobi games. This game is not Shinobi in name in the least and it should be played once if possible, and the console version should be ignored unless one is very curious.
Highs: Improves on predecessor, highly challenging, nice visuals
Lows: Forgettable soundtrack, difficulty will put off some