Review by stealthgiga
Great Portable Ninja Game!
A Shinobido game review is never complete without mentioning that the game is an offering from the original creators of Tenchu, also known for their Way of The Samurai series. Acquire developed the early Tenchu games and through some 'mess', somehow lost the rights to the series.
The console counterpart of this game, known as Shinobido: Way of The Ninja in Europe, never made it into US. So is this game, technically. A pity that such a cool (Ninja simulation) genre for video gaming has such a messed up history.
Alas, PSP games are not region locked, so you can import Tales of the Ninja and play it on your PSP without worry!
I have only tried a bit of Japanese version of console Shinobido, but from what I can tell, the PSP game is a collection of custom missions created by the developers. There are 80 of them, with different types of missions, ranging from Assassination, Elimination (dubbed Total Destruction) to Escort and Rescue.
For the newcomers, what is this game about? You play as a ninja, completing your missions with stealth. You can jump around rooftops. You can perform ninja maneuvres like wall running and climbing. You can kill non-suspicious enemy in a single strike. And you can use authentic ninja items to aid your missions. Plain and simple.
So far, Tenchu series often just let you reach certain points to complete the level. You may or may not have boss fights. The other variations are to eliminate every enemies, or follow an enemy. Guess what, Shinobido has more! And some are extremely cool in concept.
You have standard objectives such as Assassination, where it's up to you whether or not to kill other enemies, but you have to kill a certain enemy. Unlike Tenchu, you are not forced into a 'boss fight'. Then you have Total Destruction which, you have to kill everyone in the map.
You have Steal, Transport and Robbery. They are pretty much the same: You have to carry an object to the goal. But there is some difference. For Steal, you have to find the object first, somewhere hidden in the level. For Transport, the object is already in your possession. As for Robbery, an enemy is carrying the object! It is up to you to snatch it before he is gone.
Travel is what Tenchu is about most of the times. You have to reach the goal. But this type of missions exists only a few times in this game.
Then we have Escort and Attack. These two involve moving ox-carts. In Escort, you have to protect the cart from enemies until it reaches a point in the map. In Attack, you have to destroy them!
Other cool types of missions include Rescue, Kidnap and Guard. In Rescue, you have to save a locked up princess and carry her to the goal. In Kidnap, you have to find a certain enemy and carry him to the goal. In Guard, enemies are targeting a certain person, guarded by you and other soldiers. The way to kill the enemies are to stealth kill them while they are busy fighting with the soldiers!
The controls take a little getting used to. You can't rotate around the camera like in Monster Hunter Freedom or Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops, the directional buttons are occupied for item usage. but you can hold L button to lock on an enemy and R button to re-center your camera. For First Person View, you have to hold R and circle button together.
I guess you can do everything you can in console version. My only complaint is that for me it is a little hard to control the jump, since the characters jump so high in this game.
There are no cutscenes in this game. Only story texts and illustrations at best. You can't create custom missions within the game but you can import custom missions data from console version. So in a sense this game is just 80 missions slapped into it? Well yeah, but..
The missions are challenging. I have to get out another point first, that the Ninja items for each mission are pre-determined. I guess that's how custom missions from console version work as well. That means whatever you have in your inventory during your missions, there's gotta be tactical uses to it, because that's what the developers want you to use during the missions. By removing Grappling Hook item from certain missions for example, what could be an easy mission had increased in difficulty and had to be carried out differently.
Okay, back to the missions are challenging. Yeah, they are challenging. It seems the developers had churned out every bits of creativity they can into this game. And they force you to utilize every moves your character has.
It's hard to say about the nature of the missions but as an example: There is this mission where you have to kidnap a person. If you just kidnap him right away and you carry him on your shoulder, you will realize that you can't get out from the place where he is since you can only jump low carrying such a weight. You have to find a box and put it there so you can jump over it. If you had him on your shoulder already you would have to put him down first, in which he would be able to attack you or get away.
In other mission, stealth killing a person could cause you a death by fall, because the areas are full of cliffs. You have to wall climb immediately after the kill to stay on the ground. There is a mission where because you don't have a grappling hook item, you have to do a perfect wall climb or die, to clear enemies off your return trip.
There is a mission where the object to be stolen is on a place that is not impossible to reach, but impossible to get out after you are carrying it. Only after exploring the area more will you find that there is one more object hidden in the area that you can retrieve to the goal.
As for Replay value, characters in this game gain experience by completing missions. Perfect score for each missions is 100, so if a character only get 50 from a certain mission, you can replay the mission and achieve perfect score to net the remaining 50.
By gaining experience, character's Attack Power and Health increase. In addition, new move is unlocked and new characters may be unlocked. There are 36 characters in this game.
Say, if you are a perfectionist and you want to get Perfect score with each characters for all 80 missions, that would be 36*80= 2880 times of playing the missions, not forgetting you might have to restart failed missions again and again.
That's alot to do.
As for other game features. You can import custom missions data from console Shinobido, but you can't build one within the game. Such a shame, not everyone has or can play the console version even if they like this game.
You can play multiplayer too, with custom missions included in the disc or more from the console imports. Again, such a shame there is no mission editor in this game, but I guess the concept is cool, having interaction between PS2 and PSP systems.
So, in summary: the game may be minimal in terms of features and content. This game is awfully simple compared to games like Valkyrie Profile or Monster Hunter Freedom. Technically it is 80 separate and short missions with a set of different objectives with pre-determined Ninja items plus different characters with different abilities and feel. But creative missions in the game help for a fun gaming experience that is suitable on the go.
Buy or Rent? Buy if you like Ninja! This is another game you can pick up and play for short sessions, pretty much like DJ Max Portable, thanks to the nature of the missions.
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