previews\ Jan 21, 2012 at 9:00 am

Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen Preview


When I was a youngster, I was sure that I would grow up to be a ninja. I was lucky enough to come of age during the early- to mid-80s, when action stars like Sho Kosugi and Michael Dudikoff hit the scene wearing traditional shinobi shozoku and tossing shuriken like they were going out of style. While the ninja movie scene died off quickly, my voracious appetite for all things ninjutsiu was sated by a spate of excellent video games. From Shinobi to The Last Ninja, I spent an inordinate amount of time felling virtual foes with my trusty katana. More recently, I’ve been a big fan of the action-heavy Ninja Gaiden games, as well as the more stealth-focused Tenchu series. With that said, you can imagine how pleased I was when I found out I’d be spending some quality time with Acquire’s Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen at a recent Namco Bandai event.

A PlayStation Vita exclusive (and system launch title) Shinobido 2 is more akin to the Tenchu games than the Ninja Gaiden franchise, a fact that’s probably not surprisingly given that Acquire was the developer of the former. You play as Zen, a master ninja that is seeking revenge after being betrayed by his former comrades. That’s really all you need to know, isn’t it? After all, everyone knows the best ninjas are fueled by revenge.

During my time with the game, I played through a lengthy tutorial that was broken down into different sections like movement and combat. Most of the controls are intuitive, such as using the X button to make Zen jump and the square button to perform an attack. However, given that this is a ninja game, you’re probably doing something wrong if you’re spending a lot of time attacking. Instead, the focus is on stealth and quiet executions. The right shoulder button might as well be called “the stealth button”, as it allows Zen to crouch out of sight when out in the open, while pressing against a wall and hitting it will put his back to it. Once you’re in that position, you can peek around the corner to scout out the area undetected. There’s no doubt that it will all be very familiar to fans of the stealth genre.

There were a few nifty Vita-specific controls on display, too. The coolest was probably the ability to enter a first-person mode using the touchpad on the back of the system. When in this view, Zen can fire a grappling hook to reach areas that he can’t access simply by jumping, as well as get a better look at the environment around him. The system’s touchscreen comes into play too, as you can tap it to switch between secondary weapons like shuriken and caltrops. It can also be utilized to get a better look at any enemies that are looking for you. An eye will appear on the screen (yellow means the enemy is alert and searching for you, while red indicates that you’ve been spotted), and tapping it will turn Zen toward the foe.

While Shinobido feels like a natural offshoot of the Tenchu series and should make for a solid (if unspectacular) launch title, there were a few design decisions that bugged me a bit. For instance, while you’ve got the ability to throw an enemy to the ground, there’s no way to quickly finish them off, so you’ve got to wait for them to stand back up before performing a standard attack. I may not be a ninja (yet), but if I was one you can be sure I’d stab my fallen foe right through the throat, real sneaky-like.

Stay tuned for more Shinobido 2 coverage around the PS Vita's launch.

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