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Shinobido: Way of the Ninja PlayStation 2

Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Acquire
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Shinobido: Way of the Ninja, an introduction.

When people think of stealth action games most tend to think of the Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell series. Whilst both are excellent series, they are completely linear affairs and for once it would be nice to have a stealth game that allowed you some choice in regards to the missions you take in order to plot a path through the game. It would also be good if you were rewarded for your effectiveness during missions. Thankfully Shinobido: Way of the Ninja does do these things and whilst it probably won't be regarded as the finest stealth action game to grace the PlayStation 2, it's definitely a game worthy of your attention.

What's the game about?

Your character wakes up next to a stream and is completely unaware of who he is. Looking around he finds a glowing, purple fragment that when touched triggers a memory. On further inspection of his surroundings he finds an arrow that's been fired into the nearby tree. This arrow has a message (from someone called Onji)  tied to it. The message informs him that he is the son of Lord Ichijo, although it doesn't state his name. The message also mentions that those glowing pieces that triggers memories are pieces of your soul and that they will all needed to be collected if his memory is to be recovered. The message then advises him to go to Utakata Castle. On arriving there he confronts Lord Ichijo who tells him he is not his son (Onji later informs Crow that he meant Lord Ichijo was like a father to him) and that he is his personal ninja. He also calls him Crow. From this point forward Crow is essentially a ninja for hire taking missions that you choose.

What's good about the game?

As we mentioned at the top of the review, Shinobido isn't a linear game and this is what makes the game so appealing. After the initial introductory phase (when Crow visits Utakata castle and learns who he is), you'll be at your hideout and it's from here you'll be able to chose missions, buy equipment, read important letters, check your results, watch tutorial videos or practice your skills in your garden. The missions you can take are either for Ichijo or his rivals, Akame and Sadame. Of course you have to be careful so as not to offend any of these Warlords when working for their rivals unless you choose to only work for one of them. There are several mission types too. You can have assassination, transport  and total destruction missions are just a few of the types on offer. If there's a mission type you dislike you can simply ignore it whenever possible. The choice of equipment you can purchase is also impressive and it's worth noting that the equipment types on offer change constantly. You'll have items such as grapple hooks, exploding mushrooms and bombs that confuse your enemies when they explode. There is such an impressive amount of fantastic items available that it's possible to play the missions in many different ways, which is quite simply superb. Sneak up on an enemy and you can perform a stealth kill. You can also make good use of your surroundings to outwit your enemies. If all else fails you can use items that you have on you to lure your enemy into a more preferable position. To top it off you also have a mission editor that allows you to create your own missions and it's quite a good editor at that.  

What's not so good about the game?

I suppose most will see the graphics as the most disappointing aspect of the game. In truth they don't look as good as they should but once you're involved with the game it's something you'll be willing to overlook. You'll get to control the camera with the right analogue stick and at times it can be problematic. Whilst the missions offer a good amount of variety, in terms of appearance many of the locations look a little too similar. Stealth kills are always preferable but when you are faced with taking out the enemy in a non-stealthy fashion you'll find the AI isn't that great at dealing with you. None of these problems really prevent the game from being enjoyable but it's a shame they hadn't been sorted out.

How does it look?

If this had been released early in the life of the PlayStation 2 it would be excusable, to some degree, that the game looks as poor as it does. However, as you all know, the PlayStation 3 isn't that far off so to have a game that barely makes use of the PlayStation 2's capabilities is rather disappointing.  The bland textures kind of give the impression that you are playing on a PSP rather than a PlayStation 2 game. Everything looks angular, the draw distance isn't always that great and the character models at times look rather crude.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Stealth games are usually tricky for deaf gamers but Shinobido actually doesn't pose too many problems. The game is almost fully subtitled with all of the main dialogue being shown in text. Comments that your enemies make when at a distance from you (which are non-essential comments) are not subtitled. The subtitles are not colour-coded and there are no character portraits or names placed alongside the subtitles. There are no captions in the game either. However, when you are in a position to make a stealth kill a sound is given out and a small glint of lint will appear to indicate this.  All tutorial messages are shown in text as are your objectives and these objectives can be recalled at any time. The game has an enemy indicator that shows the direction of your nearest enemy. Alert icons appear at the top of the screen (for each enemy) and these show you if an enemy has spotted you or is searching for you. The alert icons are an excellent idea but it's a shame there is no gauge/meter to show how much noise Crow is making when he is moving.

Final thoughts.

Shinobido: Way of the Ninja may lack the visual gloss of other titles in the stealth action genre but that shouldn't put you off a game that's generally a lot of fun to play. Being able to choose who you work for and what missions you prefer is certainly a very good idea. It also adds a lot of replay value to the game as you can go back and do different missions to the ones you attempted the first time. The range of items you can use in your missions also adds to the fun quite significantly. It's a shame that the combat in the game (other than the stealth kills) is rather unsatisfactory and there are some areas of the game that could have been improved but despite its faults, Shinobido: Way of the Ninja is one of the more enjoyable and accessible stealth games we've played.

Overall Game Rating: 7.8/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Shinobido: Way of the Ninja has its fair share of problems but none of these can stop it from being an entertaining and enjoyable experience. It's very refreshing to be able to take the missions you want and to be able to avoid those mission types you dislike. The amount of items also adds to the replay value of the game as they allow you to use different techniques in order to complete your goals.