Review: Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen (PSV)
Title: Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1036 MB) / Game Card
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Original MSRP: $34.99 (PSN) / $39.99 (Game Card)
ESRB Rating: M
Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen is exclusive to the PlayStation Vita.
The Game Card version was used for this review.
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 277 of the podcast.
As Zen, your companion is killed in the first cut scene of the game setting you on the path of your titular ‘Revenge’. Sadly, getting there consists of a series of what essentially feel like side missions for three warring factions.
You’ll spend your time picking up odd jobs for any of the three rival warlords and this is where the game gets bogged down. You’ll be doing a lot of the same couple of missions over and over, wiping out all the enemy forces in an area, killing a merchant, stealing an object and a handful more. There’s just not a lot of variety here.
As a ninja, stealth is the key to the game though, sadly, the enemy AI tends to break this. You can walk directly up behind or even next to most enemies making noise along the way and they won’t ever know you’re there while other enemies jump at the slightest sound. Because of this, you don’t really need to be concerned with stealth too much. If you’re spotted, just make a run for it and more often than not you’ll be fine.
You have a number of weapons at your disposal along with an alchemy system for creating healing potions and smoke bombs and such but I was able to handle most missions without ever using this. You never, ever want to get into combat. You character is weak and relies on stealth kills. He’ll get tired easily in a fight and the combat system is generally a mess. Often times you be facing in the wrong direction as you and your enemy are flailing about connecting every now and then. It really doesn’t work well at all.
Another addition to your arsenal is the eventual addition of a wing suit for gliding. While a lot of areas don’t give you ample space to use it, the ones that do end up being easier missions since you can glide right over your enemies heads. It works, but doesn’t really feel like it fits into the game. Front and rear touch controls come into play for some of your weapons and attacks, but much like the rest of the game, it all feels poorly implemented and unfinished.
You take the good with the bad. Parts of the scenery and characters look fantastic with a nice level of detail and they do a great job setting the mood. Unfortunately, that’s only half the story as other parts of the landscape are distinctly polygonal and blocky along with very limited NPC models. Killing the same fat merchant (with the same voice actor) over and over again can be a let down.
There seem to be a limited number of environments in which each of the missions takes place as well. Even when they aren’t being recycled, everything feels them same or at least similar enough that it gets boring after a while. The same buildings in every village, the same trees, huts and paths in the woods and in the mountain passes. It just feels as if the game was a bit rushed.
The voice acting isn’t terrible but it’s very limited and you’ll be hearing the same few phrases over and over and over and over again. Sound effects are, for the most part, pretty good, with the rustling of leaves, steel on steel for those sad times you get caught in a fight, even the music is a nice complement. The downside is the inconsistency just like in the rest of the game. For every well chosen sound effect there’s a perplexing one that doesn’t fit the on screen action at all. It’s as if placeholder sounds were left in the final product, which I’m not entirely convinced wasn’t the case here.
There’s no online mode for the game, but you can use the NEAR functionality to send and receive “Network Jars” consisting of alchemy ingredients. A neat idea I suppose but as I mentioned, I didn’t need to use the alchemy system all that much and there aren’t many people playing the game anyway.
Shinobido 2 was a launch title for the Vita and it shows. Everything about the game feels rushed and a little rough around the edges. Could it have been saved by a little more development time? Probably not, it’s just the nature of the game.
There is some fun to be had here in small doses. The story, however, is pretty convoluted and the cut scenes furthering it come up so infrequently that when you finally get more of the story, you don’t remember the earlier parts and probably won’t care. Poor enemy AI and limited variety in mission types and environments tend to bring the game down.
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