Shinobido: Tales of the Ninja PSP
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Acquire Corp.
Release Date: Out Now
Last year we reviewed Shinobido: Way of the Ninja and whilst the game was never going to win stealth game of the year it was certainly entertaining and quite refreshing in the way it allowed you to take the mission types you preferred and ignore those you didn't like. Shinobido has now arrived on the PSP in the form of Shinobido: Tales of the Ninja and offers a wealth of mini stealth based missions for you to undertake.
Shinobido: Tales of the Ninja offers a Story Mode, a Single Mission Mode and a Multiplayer Mode. The game also offers a download feature where you can download any maps you have made with the editor on the PlayStation 2 game Shinobido: Way of the Ninja. You'll initially play as Goh (who was called Crow in the Way of the Ninja), an immensely skilled ninja who has been charged with numerous tasks in Utakata. It's the period of the Warring States and the clans of Ichijo, Akame and Sadame are once again preparing for conflict. The game's Story Mode allows you to take part in large amounts of small missions (there are around 80 in all). There are quite a few different types. Although you'll begin with just Goh as a playable character, you'll unlock up to 36 playable characters by the time you've completed the game and each character will level-up as they successfully complete their missions.
With all that it offers Tales of the Ninja should really be a promising portable stealth title. Unfortunately a variety of problems prevent this from being the case. As we've just said though, it should have been a promising title. Let's take a look at the positives first. The missions are all short and should only take a few minutes to complete making it ideal to play when making short journeys on the bus or on the train. The number of playable characters in the game is rather impressive. Sure, not all of the unlockable characters are that useful to play with but it still beats having to play as the same character for the whole of the game. There are a fair amount of weapons and usable items in the game and this helps to keep things interesting as you often have a choice of how to go about things. There are a few mission varieties here such as stealing, assassinations or simply killing everyone within a settlement and this helps to keep things from getting too repetitive. On the flip side the negatives are pretty disappointing. To begin with the AI is not good and stealth kills are probably a little too easy to pull off. A fair amount of the unlockable characters are actually pretty useless to play as. It would have been better to have had just eight or so characters that were truly worthwhile. The game's story is poor and most will simply ignore it. You'll need the PlayStation 2 version to make use of the download facility. When your stealthy plans go awry and you have to resort to normal means of combat it all becomes a bit of a button-bashing mess and you'll become aware of how poor the camera really is. It's also a shame that only ad hoc multiplayer is supported as it might have been more fun to play the game online.
Way of the Ninja wasn't a great looking PlayStation 2 title to be perfectly honest and Tales of the Ninja certainly isn't what you would call a visually stunning game either . The biggest two problems are the draw distance and the camera angles. The draw distance is actually pretty bad with a black shroud preventing you from seeing too far in front of you. Being a stealth game Tales of the Ninja needs at least a good draw distance to enable you to get a clear view of the surrounding and at times you kind of feel like your view is being unfairly restricted to add some kind of challenge to the game. It's often been said that the PSP really suffers from not having a right analogue stick to enable you to control the camera in games. Tales of the Ninja is one of those games you wish that a right analogue stick was present because at times the camera angles are nothing short of frustrating. Yes you can pull the camera view back to being just behind your character but there are still times when you are left with a very awkward view of the proceedings. The character models in the game look rather basic. The various environments all look pretty bland with the texture quality being particularly poor. None of this is surprising though given the rather crude nature of the graphics in the PlayStation version of Shinobido.
Tales of the Ninja is actually quite deaf gamer friendly for a stealth game. There's no real speech in the game and therefore the entire story is told in text. Mission background information and mission objectives are shown in text too. When you are in position to perform a stealth kill a sound will alert you to the fact. There are no captions for these sounds, although you will see a glint of light appear on your character's weapon. All tutorial messages are given in text. The game uses the same system as the PlayStation 2 version of Shinobido to show you if the enemy has seen you. Alert icons appear at the top of the screen (for each enemy) and these show you if an enemy has spotted you or is searching for you. The alert icons are an excellent idea but it's a shame there is no gauge/meter to show how much noise Crow is making when he is moving. Like the PlayStation version, the game has an enemy indicator that shows the direction of your nearest enemy.
Stealth games still haven't managed to really hit the spot on the PSP (excluding Metal Gear Acid which is more of a card game than a true stealth game) especially with Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops still being a few months away here in Europe. Shinobido: Tales of the Ninja definitely had the potential to be a good stealth game but there are some real problems here that prevent the game from being worthy of a purchase. The number of missions available is impressive and it's great to be able to pick from a wide selection of characters to play as. However, the AI is poor, the camera is awkward and the draw distance is disappointing to say the least. The hunt for a worthwhile stealth game on the PSP still goes on I'm afraid.
Shinobido: Tales of the Ninja is ultimately quite disappointing. It definitely has the potential to be a good game but the poor AI, bad camera angles, poor draw distance etc. all serve to make the game feel like a letdown.