The original Shinobido: Way of the Ninja was one of the most unique and underrated stealth games I’ve ever played, offering something that few games of any type had in 2006 – consequences that were reflected not just in the ending you got, but over the course of the game as you took on the role of an amnesia-stricken ninja working for three feudal lords vying for control of the war-torn province of Utakata.
Shinobido allowed players to choose which missions they’d undertake based on the risk, monetary reward and the pros and cons of remaining loyal to or double-crossing your employers – rather than presenting us with a linear set of stages to play through. Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen for the PS Vita picks up shortly after this game, and the province of Utakata is once again war-ravaged and in need of a ninja’s touch to break the stalemate. This time, players take on the role of Zen, a ninja of the Fuka clan who is out for revenge against a traitor who murdered his lover – and thanks to the power of plot-convenience, working for the three feuding warlords is the quickest way to achieve this.
The game is almost exactly like its predecessor, with one or two minor changes. The hopeful warlords still fire arrows with letters attached into your hideout, telling you the specifics of the missions they’d like you to undertake and the rewards they’re offering. Choosing and working for a single warlord increases their military strength, provisions and their opinion of you. This is achieved by rescuing their captives, protecting their VIPs and safely transporting important items or provisions. Working against a warlord, by murdering their generals, stealing their provisions and capturing VIPs, will make them weaker and affect their opinion of you – if they find out, that is.
The beauty of it is that you can actually see the affects of your handiwork in the game. If you deliver a new weapon design to a warlord, his soldiers will be equipped with that weapon, giving them an edge when they fight their enemies – or you, if you ever need to go against them. If you steal a warlord’s provisions, eventually his soldiers starve and will be distracted from their duties – and be more likely to eat poisoned sushi. This tangible validation of your efforts is one of the game’s biggest charms.
That is not to say the game is without a few gremlins. The combat still sucks. Your ninja may be a great assassin, but in a fight, he’s a complete pansy. If you don’t have any grenades or potions – run away. The camera can still be ill-behaved in close quarters and the grappling hook, one of your primary tools, must be handled with care.
And that’s Shinobido 2, folks. There are many more intricacies I could mention, had I the space, but hopefully I’ve intrigued just a few of you enough to give it a try because, really, there’s nothing else quite like it.