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July 31, 2006
Shinobido: Way of the Ninja - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
584KBDolby PLIIYesNoNoneYes

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Graphics are adequate...
It’s not very often that a game that hasn’t reached US shores is released in Australia (with exception of local releases such as the AFL games). Even rarer is it that the few games that do fit this category come from developers of such games as the Tenchu series and the like. This is, however, exactly what has happened with Acquire’s (Tenchu, Way of the Samurai) release Shinobido: Way of the Ninja.

Shinobido is set in feudal Japan, around about the 16th century, with several lords on the brink of war with each other. The opening cut-scene shows the game’s main character, Goh, waking up washed up on the shore of a river. It quickly becomes clear to the player that Goh is suffering from some extreme amnesia, until he picks up a small glowing stone which contains some of his memories. Goh then finds a letter inside, his now burnt-out, home and so the missions begin.

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Turn around...
It seems that, while Goh has forgotten who he is and everything about his life, he has not forgotten his ninja skills, and the majority of the game is based on using these skills to slip into areas, kill without being seen, and get out. To begin with, missions are fairly boring - message delivery and such, but before long players will find themselves performing high-risk robberies, assassinations and angering the various lords in many other ways.

The game allows players to take on the roles of three different characters; two ninjas and a bear (though how playing as the bear will transpire… well you’ll just have to play to find out!) While stealth is obviously the main focus and the easiest way to stay alive, you do not always have to creep up behind everyone and slit their throat, or drop from above to break their neck. There is a close-combat system involved that is very similar to that of Genji, but also suffers the same problems, being very stagnant and difficult to get used to. However, after a few missions Goh receives another letter that tells him how to perform the additional combos possible, and all of a sudden even multiple-enemy battles become enjoyable, and are also quite a lot of fun to watch (and needless to say, quite bloody!).

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The game can be quite bloody!
The main problem with all this though is that Shinobido, very quickly, becomes quite repetitive. There are only a dozen or so different locations in which missions take place, and while this adds to the realism (being as it is all set in the same region of Japan), it does become quite boring very quickly. The game also gives no indication of how players are meant to advance the story and it basically becomes a lucky dip, with multiple missions on offer and only certain ones triggering off story-events. It took us 8 hours of gameplay to advance to chapter two in the story. Having said that, it does help add to the longevity of the game, with our total gametime here at being just under 15 hours.

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Halt, who goes there?.
On of the more interesting features of this release, especially considering there is no multiplayer, is the inclusion of a level/mission editor. Surprisingly enough, the editor has actually been incorporated into the story, as players are encouraged to edit Goh’s ‘garden’ (both a training area and a last line of defence against invaders and thieves). A PSP version of the game is scheduled for release in Japan later this year, and while no comment has been made on the game hitting Australian shores, if it does, players will be able to make missions on the PS2 version then play them using the PSP. Obviously, you can also swap missions with friends providing they also have the game. Japan has also seen, recently, a release made up of over 150 fan-made missions as an expansion for the original game. Again, no word has been said about whether or not this will get to Australia.

While the levels become quite repetitive, at least they are quite nice to look at, with the game holding its own quite successfully in the graphics department. The only real issue here is that all missions, apart form defending your garden (more about that in a minute) take place at night. This means that we don’t get any real nice bright look at the levels, but the amount of difference between a clear night and a stormy night is quite impressive, and even enemies won’t be able to find you as easily in a storm. The cut-scenes are also quite nice and the in-game ones show how nicely detailed the character models are.

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Slightly outnumbered...
Repetition, it seems, also is a down-point for the audio, with the main culprit being the battle music. Rather than have different tracks for each area of the land, there is a single track for all battles, and while the track is a beautifully composed piece, by the third hour into the game it become quite annoying. The other music, used in cut-scenes, menus and so on, is quite nice and it’s a shame that there was not more of it put into the game. Voice-acting is actually quite good, even in English; however the game does give you the option of using Japanese audio with English subtitles.

So is this game for you? If you were/are a fan of the Tenchu series, or you just like stealth games with some pretty cool sword-play, then definitely give this one a play through. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for simple hack and slash, this probably isn’t the one you’re after. So the verdict? Shinobido: Way of the Ninja is a solid release from Acquire with only a few issues making it short of a must-have title.

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
GRAPHICSNot perfect, but solid enough. Captures the spirit of the game well.
SOUNDMusic is the best part here, with exception to the battle theme. Voice-acting is quite nice also.
GAMEPLAYQuite difficult, but very enjoyable when you get used to it. Slightly stagnant combat system.
VALUEA nice length, and plenty of unlockables to keep you playing it over and over. Well over 100 missions.
OVERALLA nice release with a few problems that make Shinobido fall just short of a must-have stealth title.

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