Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen Review

Exploitable enemy AI and finicky physics spoil Shinobido 2's stealthy aspirations.

by

An enemy sentry stands guard in front of a keep. The night is cool and quiet, save for the footsteps he can hear approaching from the right. They seem to be getting closer, but as he stares straight ahead, he sees nothing and decides the coast is clear. The thump of feet landing on the bridge behind him? Probably that fat housecat he keeps seeing around. The boxes tumbling into him from behind? Likely just knocked over by the breeze. Only when he sees the knife protruding from his gut does he think, "Hey, maybe there's a ninja somewhere around here."

Not every enemy in Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen is this oblivious, but many of them are. As you sneak, jog, sprint, and leap your way through this stealth action game, the rules governing the enemy AI quickly become obvious. They create the sense that you aren't sneaking up on a vigilant foe so much as you are exploiting a system of rules. This drains most encounters of excitement, and when you break into full-on combat, poorly tuned physics make for frustrating fights. Satisfaction from a well-stalked foe or a well-fought enemy rarely occurs, leaving Shinobido 2 with precious little to recommend it.

The setting is feudal Japan, and you are a ninja. The land is swept up in a tense conflict among three warring factions, and you've joined up with a freelance ninja crew to seek revenge for your murdered companion. Each leader sends you contracts to enlist you to his or her cause, and it's up to you to choose which missions to take. You can favor one over the others or play them all off of each other, but it's unlikely you'll care about any of them. They are an uninteresting lot, and the main character's focus on pursuing a hated enemy leaves you without much reason to care about the fate of the region.

The intrigue surrounding your dear friend's death and the eight mysterious mirrors that may or may not grant supernatural powers to her assassin aren't very interesting either, though there are fairly lengthy cutscenes interspersed throughout the game that try to illuminate the story. The colorful character models have a kind of rigid realism, but the lesser characters are homely, and everyone seems to have blocky polygons resting just below the surface of their skin.

No one ever looks in the bushes.

The environments also have an archaic feel to them, though they look crisp and clear, as well as communicate a good sense of place. And you'll have an even better sense of each place before too long because Shinobido 2 recycles the same handful of environments frequently. You may embark on a mission to eliminate all enemies from a small compound, only to go back to assassinate a merchant and return again to retrieve a crate of documents. Becoming familiar with each area breeds a mildly gratifying knowledge of the landscape, and it can be fun to maximize your route through hostile territory. However, the repetition of environments saps a lot of the game's momentum, making you feel like you're just treading water and waiting an indeterminate amount of time for things to progress.

The main source of change from mission to mission--aside from rotating objectives--is the enemy placement. Unfortunately, standing in different places doesn't make these fools any smarter. Standard guards of every faction have a strict viewing radius, so if you walk up to them from the side, they won't see you and you can execute a stealth kill with the press of a button. Dropping from rooftops, climbing up next to them, and even knocking boxes over behind them consistently fail to alert them to your presence. This robotic adherence to surveillance parameters wouldn't be so onerous if the level design forced you to be clever, but the wide open areas offer a variety of easy approaches. It almost makes you sorry for taking so many virtual lives, and at the very least, you don't feel like much of a ninja when doing so. On top of all that, there are icons that alert you to their presence before you can see them, giving you even more of an advantage.

Certain enemies are not so easily slaughtered, and you have to be more careful when approaching them because they can hear well and possibly resist your stealth kill. Using your instant kill ability to off them from a distance is a safe bet, provided you've leveled up your meter enough and can nail the simple quick-time event. Or you can strike down from above if you reach an elevated position. Your grappling hook is handy for setting up kills and escaping alerted guards, and the rear touch pad can help you aim it more precisely. Later in the game, you unlock a wingsuit that lets you glide through the air for as long as you've got space, and swooping down on an unsuspecting foe is one of the bright spots in Shinobido 2's action.

No one ever looks up at ledges.

If you undertake certain missions or choose not to flee alerted guards, you drop all pretensions of stealth and engage in combat. Slashing with your sword and blocking or dodging an enemy's attacks are all that you need to win, but often it's easier said than done. Though you generally move with a ninja's agility, getting hit can send you tumbling lazily across the ground as gravity seems to temporarily loosen its hold on you. This allows your quick foes to pile on the damage, and it's often difficult to regain your footing. Being helpless isn't fun, but even when you're in control, hacking away with your sword just feels like a desperate last resort that you'd rather not endure.

You can try to streamline these encounters by using items from your vast arsenal, which includes explosives, projectiles, and poisons. Unfortunately, all thrown items are subject to the same floaty gravity as your injured body, so accurate throws are a bit tricky, even with the lock-on mechanic. Still, many of these items are effective, and you can gain more of them through the alchemy system that is laboriously explained throughout seven pages of text and diagrams. While far from engaging, alchemy can generate some helpful potions and bombs to help you get through tough missions, notably the melee-heavy oxcart defenses that bring the finicky physics of open combat to the forefront with disastrous results.

There is certainly some satisfaction to be had in stealthily eliminating a whole camp of enemies, but Shinobido 2 delivers very little of it. Instead, it favors quantity over quality. The reuse of environments and introduction of a second playable character (complete with her own slow-to-improve attributes) can add hours to your play time, but the poor AI and clunky combat will likely turn you off long before then. The appeal of being a ninja is all about vanquishing your foes through superior skills, but when your enemies are this dumb, you just feel like a bully.

The Good
Gliding in with the wingsuit for a kill
The Bad
Easy to peer behind the AI curtain
Combat is simplistic
Inconsistent physics
Levels are frequently reused
3.5
Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

With his Apple IIGS as the spark and his neighbor's NES the fuel, Chris Watters' passion for gaming caught fire early. Years later, you can find him aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent while desperately avoiding sunburns.

Discussion

66 comments
Ezioprez9709
Ezioprez9709

Looks like another shoddy Vita title. That's all the console's good for.

BOONYAO
BOONYAO

It comes down to this: Either you enjoy Shinobido/Tenchu, or you don't. Tenchu Z has a 56% on Metacritic, yet it's one of my favorite games of this generation. I put a good 60+ hours into it. Not that these series aren't without their issues, but they're very niche games.

Victorious_Fize
Victorious_Fize

"No one ever looks up at ledges."

 

I played the game and can confirm this only happens on Easy.

 

>plays on easy difficulty

>says AI is dumb and game is easy

Typical GameSpot reviewer.

godslayer61
godslayer61

out of all the games i have this is the funniest i love it,7/10

RICHARDuk
RICHARDuk

they always give sony games low scores if it was on xbox it would of been a 8.0 im sorry but they always lean towards microsoft more than sony i would love to see a unbliased game review site.

Halloll
Halloll

come on, this is at least a 6 or a 7

Lord_Sesshy
Lord_Sesshy

Anyone notice that this guy always gives Vita games bad reviews?

Soldier235689
Soldier235689

he was probably playing on the easy difficulty were as on hard or deadly difficulty the enemies are much more alert. there are also other enemies that look behind themselves who are better fighters and harder to kill. he also did not finish the game to unlock other characters. he probably also didn't play long enough to unlock more store content. he probably also didn't play enough to find more areas that are found later. so basically he should have played more before he made the review

azumabob
azumabob

Poor score for a good game, It is one of the best games I have played on My PS Vita or my 3DS. Thank god Gametrailers know a good game when they see one, and they even bothered to record a video to go with their review and score of 73, just .2 less than the 7.5 Gamespot gave Zelda Skyward Sword.

Lightsyde
Lightsyde

@PodXCOM If they are armed women, then, yes.

tr1n1tr1n1
tr1n1tr1n1

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

InquisitorCrox
InquisitorCrox

A very filthy job on this review. I guess noone really wanted to test it out properly and write a review for it. So, the valve guy took the sort stick and had to waste some hours who could be enjoying as playing a female lesby Shephard and write a review for his game. Prolly never have played a stealth game before, let alone craving for some realistic ninja action for 5-6 years. So he never got past the surface, didnt even bother with the RPG elements of the game, which are supposed to be his fav...

Cappuccin0
Cappuccin0

Damn. I really, really wanted this game to be good... I miss stealth ninja games. The last decent one was Tenchu 3 on the PS2! Ninja Gaiden and Naruto aren't really ninjas, and now there's no way Assassin's Creed will go the ninja way. The genre is lost.

TheGuardian03
TheGuardian03

The first game is superior in every way, don't know what happen with this one.

residude
residude

@PodXCOM, yes you are the only one. Why should it matter

PodXCOM
PodXCOM

Am I the only one who is bothered by the fact you are killing women in this game?

SANDMAN201
SANDMAN201

Wow those sound effects are really repetitive.

whitejackel
whitejackel

@YukoAsho granted and i agree with you on that so to agree to disagree on the rating thats my opinion on the game is that it should have gotten at lest a 6 or so but anywho. we both have good points.

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

@whitejackel Well, at the end of the day, the reviewer can only tell you what s/he thought of the game. Opinions are like voices, we all have a different kind.

DeathwachMarine
DeathwachMarine

I played the demo, and i know thats not much, but even so, I don't think it deserves such a low score, I had a lot of fun.

whitejackel
whitejackel

@YukoAsho i own the game and its just plane fun it resicved a updated idk if they took that into consideration or not.

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

@whiteJackel - Did you SEE that video? This game is straight-up broken.

theJBlounge
theJBlounge

Makes sense. Seems the same as Tenchu 1 back in 1998. If it's a game hard to recommend then it probably deserves something around a 3.5.

whitejackel
whitejackel

wow GS im very suprised at this review... sure the ai can be dumb but the game is really fun and thats what matters. who ever rated this hates the vita or just hates japan stealth games like this way of the samurai tenchu and so forth.

blue900
blue900

@jaifrecap understood but ports are still great to have on a handheld. Give me a port of great jrpg's from the past anyday.

zowbaid
zowbaid

Wow 3.5?? What a joke! I would give this game a 7 or 7.5. Yeah, I made the right choice of not listening to Gamespot's reviews and just going with my gut

shadow655
shadow655

@EVIL346 Neither the 3ds or Vita are bad or a waste of money.

EVIL346
EVIL346

PS fanboys say the 3ds is crap but I haven't seen any scores with a 3 or a 3.5 lol Like I said before what a waste of money buy an expensive handheld to play an expensive game lol only to find out its no good I feel sorry for all those who are blinded buy Sony.

jaifrecap
jaifrecap

@shadow655 As long as those great games aren't ports, I might consider it.

shadow655
shadow655

@jaifrecap Remember the Vita just launched. Anyone who's buy's it now are fans of Sony. By next year the the Vita should be affordable and have a great variety of games.

itchyflop
itchyflop

why ?? just why ?? get off the virtual band wagon and be original and spontaneous. i payed 300 quid for my vita and i expect better than this.

SillySkeleton
SillySkeleton

Despite enjoying the game, I think I have to agree with this review. Though I have a rather large issue with the game that wasn't even addressed. For those of us that played the original, it's hard not to notice how the developers shamelessly reused assets from the PS2 game. It's basically a Shinobido1 port with a couple of new characters, a new (unengaging) story, a couple of new skills, and no awesome ninja hideout to customise and defend.

PlasticToy
PlasticToy

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

BFKZ
BFKZ

@shadow655 COD??...no man, Iam personally waiting for an exclusive final fantasy, something like crisis core.

cameio
cameio

I bought Shinobido 2, rayman, Ninja gaiden and Uncharted and tried all of them i can just say WOOW they are all awesome for me and Gamspot reviews can go to hell, it's just a one man rating, i tried Unit 13 yesterday and i was shocked how the gamplay is smooth and awesome i will buy it when i finished my games soon for sure :)

daveg1
daveg1

my word theres been some bad launch games already.. ive only got uncharted and i think il be waiting for something decent to come out.. they want 40 quid for these poor games?? lol

HeroKane
HeroKane

If you dont like Vita and have no interest in one then your only here to be a troll. Go back to your bridge. To the review- If you liked Tenchu and miss the series you'll like Shinobido 2.

jaifrecap
jaifrecap

@shadow655 I'm not forcing my opinion onto others. I just think the VITA isn't worth it. Its too expensive and the games aren't good enough. And I never said I like 3DS games, I don't.

shadow655
shadow655

@BFKZ Good game? I think you mean a game that's for you... I'm guessing COD?

shadow655
shadow655

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

shadow655
shadow655

@jaifrecap The Vita just launched! The fact that you think that this is the best Vita's going to get is hysterical. This is just the begin the Vita is only going to get better. If you like 3ds games then good for you! Just stop trying to force your opinion onto others.

shadow655
shadow655

The game isn't bad. If your into Tenchu.

chazy035
chazy035

I played the Demo for 3 minutes when his running speed did not match the ground. It's my little quirk...

chazy035
chazy035

Please, just remaster Tenchu from PS1!!! The ending made me cry...

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

if it has a low score that means price will drop sooner, I will buy it and enjoy it as I did with tenchu for psp, haters will always hate, I just play and select games I like

Oosaka-chan
Oosaka-chan

 @RICHARDuk I totally agree. Gamespot is an Xbox fanboy. Just look at the top row: "Xbox 360, PC, PS3, Wii U" etc. If it's in chronological order then PC should be the first, but if it's in alphabetical order then 3DS or Android should be the first. Putting Xbox in front doesn't make too much sense.Also Xbox exclusive games always get 8.0 or above scores PS3 games rarely (except for cross-platform games).Not to mention the Black Ops 2 Xbox review (it's an FPS for God's sake it should be reviewed on a PC) and that irritating Halo 4 advertisement all over this site (every second "News" is about Halo 4).

Ka3DX
Ka3DX

@Oosaka-chan @RICHARDuk I'm pretty sure I've seen quite a few reviews where the Xbox and PC version of the game will get say an 8.0, while the PS3 gets a 7.5

Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen More Info

First Release on Feb 21, 2012
  • PlayStation Vita
Play as Zen and fight your way through scores of ninja in order to influence the outcome of a war and avenge your friend.
6.8
Average User RatingOut of 68 User Ratings
Please Sign In to rate Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen
Developed by:
Acquire
Published by:
Namco Bandai Games America, Spike, Namco Bandai Games, Spike Chunsoft
Genres:
3D, Action, Adventure, Open-World
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
All Platforms
Blood, Violence