Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen Review

Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen (Available exclusively on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Acquire
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Price: $39.99 (Retail) and $34.99 (PSN)
Download Size: 1.1GB

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Shinobido 2 M for mature because of blood and violence.  Like Tenchu, stealth-action ninja games like Shinobido feature lots of blood and heavy violence.  Most missions have you assassinating, kidnapping or obliterating everyone you see.

Plays Like: The Tenchu series.

Review Basis: Played more missions than I can list, but never actually completed the game. Even after almost a dozen hours it didn’t end.

Tenchu was a fantastic PS1 original from Acquire; one of the first games that made you feel like a ninja. Sadly, Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen doesn’t share much with that classic franchise other than stealth gameplay. Shinobido hadn’t left Japan before, and RoZ helps us understand why. So why isn’t this game really worth your time or money?

The Great:

Information and support. Before beginning any mission, you can keep up with the story, take on new jobs, use ‘near’ to trade goodies, or head to the workbench to create new tools and/or items.

The Good:

+ Interesting progression. The more missions you finish, more advanced skills are unlocked like the ability to pause the action, highlight an enemy, and strike him down with a simple button combo. You also earn a flight suit that glides for short periods so you can swoop down for a stealth kill.

+ Robust alchemy system allows you to create a manner of helpful ninja toys like smoke grenades, bombs, and healing items.

+ Portable-friendly.  Missions are extremely short, even despite the many load screens.

The So-So:

+/- The story. It’s about three warring factions, and how eight mysterious mirrors will help you avenge a close friend’s death. It never goes deeper than that, leaving you bored after around twenty minutes.

+/- The graphics are well-done, but repetitive environments and blocky characters hurt. There’s also a few jaggies once you close in on a texture.

The Bad:

– Meaningless consequences. Your reputation with each faction can be improved by completing jobs for them, but it doesn’t seem to do anything. You might kidnap someone for faction A, only to rescue another for faction B right after. Missions feel worthless after a while.

– Repetitive. With only a handful of environments, the hundreds of missions blend together, and objectives repeat. There’s only so many times you can kidnap, steal or murder before boredom sets in.

– Artificial length. After hours of play, I didn’t know what I’d accomplished. Yes, I was collecting mirrors and the story inched along, but the slow leveling system ruins the experience. It takes too long to increase your stats and put them to good use.

– Clumsy hit detection/physics.  Often when an enemy hits you, you flailing in the wind, which makes sense because enemies barely react to your strikes. Other times you circle an incoming enemy and attempt an instant kill, only to have it blocked for no reason.

– Voice acting. It’s laughable. There’s zero emotion when characters are killed, and some lines repeat often.

– Full retail price. It’s not worth $35 – $40.

The Ugly:

No ‘I’ in A.I.  You can jump, run, or slowly walk behind 90% of the enemies and they won’t hear anything.  Sometimes you can even kill one in front of another, so long as their back is turned.  This is bad in every sense.

The Lowdown:

Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen could’ve been interesting, but the artificial intelligence, repetitive environments and lack of consequences make it feel like a poor-man’s Tenchu…and that was released on the PS1.  This is too painful to recommend for even action fans. You’re better off with something else.

Average Score Scale: 4.0 (+/- 1.0) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 4/10 (Neutral)

Reason for +1.0 Inflation: You love Acquire’s previous work, and want a stealth ninja game.

Reason for -1.0 Deflation: The repetitive objectives, environments and laughable A.I. Don’t forget the disastrous price.