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Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen Review

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On 03/02/2012 at 11:29 PM by Nick DiMola

It's certainly not the prettiest game on the Vita, but it does offer fleeting moments of fun.

If you're willing to purchase the game digitally, it's not a bad one to load up for a few minutes to play a quest or two before putting it down.

From the moment I booted up Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen, something felt oddly familiar. No, it wasn't because I had played the last game in the series - that title never released in America – it was something else. Visages of Tenchu immediately sprung to mind, and rightfully so, as this was a ninja game from Acquire, the minds behind Tenchu. For those familiar with the Tenchu series, this is a good thing; however, repetition and poor controls ultimately get the better of this experience.

The structure of the game is most definitely less than conventional, in part due to the construction of its story. After your character, Zen, is initially betrayed by his comrades and left for dead, he's saved by Zaji, the leader of the Asuka Ninja who takes him under his wing. Once Zen comes to, he's put in the middle of three warring factions of ninjas and tasked with completing a variety of errands for the leader of each. Every quest you take will have an effect on both the requester and his targeted enemy.

Depending on how each quest goes, the effects will vary. If an enemy spots you and you don't dispose of them, they can bring word back to their leader, which can have negative consequences on their impression of you. Taking too many quests in a row from the same leader can also have similar consequences, so it's important to balance what missions you choose in order to remain inconspicuous to the three factions. Eventually you'll need to align with a side to start eliminating certain leaders, but it becomes much easier after you've slowly chipped away at everyone's resources over the course of the game.

It's an interesting design for Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen, but the quests themselves aren't often interesting. First off, no matter the type of quest, they all play out fairly similarly. Whether you're assassinating someone, killing a set number of enemies, stealing something, delivering an item, or just escorting someone, it all boils down to killing the right enemies in order to sneak around unnoticed. It certainly doesn't help that the locales change very infrequently, making the experience extremely repetitive.

In small bursts, Shinobido 2 does prove to be a good bit of fun. The grappling hook, though cumbersome, is a cool way to get around and it's always gratifying to sneak through a level completely unnoticed. Things start to fall apart when you have to challenge an enemy head on and can't perform the single button, sneak attack kill.

For whatever reason, when it comes to sword fighting it's nearly impossible to target your enemy and launch attacks in their direction. You'll likely get off a move here or there, but more frequently you'll completely miss and be forced to turn around and take another stab at it. Given the spotty controls, encounters take a ridiculous amount of time to complete and they're only made worse when you have to fight stronger boss enemies throughout the game.

Some of the other controls are equally frustrating. Opening doors is impossible when holding an item, forcing you to place it down before attempting to enter a building. Many times there are a multitude of doors, making it tedious work to get to where you're going.

While it's totally possible to progress through the entirety of the game without using tools, the game offers a variety of them to shake things up. You can drop decoys to attract enemies or well-placed explosives to both injure enemies and stir up a commotion. And if you don't have an item you need, you can use the alchemy system to craft one. It's an interesting twist on the plain vanilla gameplay, though one that won't often be put to use.

On one hand, I really love Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen - it offers a compelling mix of stealth and action that's often satisfying to partake in. On the other, it's rife with issues of both repetition and cumbersome or ineffective controls, making it a plodding and frustrating experience. If you're looking for a game that offers very brief moments of intrigue and excitement for quick burst play, Shinobido 2 is a great purchase; however, if it's a ninja epic you're looking for, Ninja Gaiden is a better choice for the time being.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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