Shinobido: Way of the Ninja is a tale of 16th Century Japan and the fallen Asuka ninja clan. Centred on the province of Utakata, which had been previously safeguarded from harm by the skill of its infamous ninjas, this once peaceful land is now under threat from the machinations of several Warlords.
As the only survivor of your clan's brutal massacre you are caught between a rock and several hard places. The situation is compounded by memory loss, which was caused by evil magic on the fateful night of your family's demise.
Worse yet, your loss of memory is directly related to a failed attempt to steal your soul, which has now fragmented into eight pieces and been 'lost'.
Guided by a mysterious benefactor, who communicates with you via letters, you're able to recover the first fragment at the Warlord Ichijo's Citadel. A man who claims to have been both your friend and lord! Freedom to choose
Shinobido excels at providing you with options, and the path that you take is firmly under your control. Ichijo is just one Warlord vying for your talents alongside Akame and Sadame, all of whom promise you not only riches but assistance in reclaiming your memory.
It is these Warlords which threaten Utakata and it is a fine line to walk between keeping them in check and discovering your past.
Undertaking missions, in which your nocturnal talents are put to the test, is the surest way of earning the Warlords' trust, while gift giving is another way to win them over. The more they trust and rely upon you, the more forthcoming with information on the whereabouts of your soul fragments they become.
This is a two edged sword, as to curry favour with one Warlord often means sabotaging the schemes of another. If careless you can soon find yourself with very few friends in the middle of a ninja-hunt. Light is not your friendninjutsu n
. the traditional Japanese technique of espionage, characterised by stealth and camouflage. Source: Oxford English Dictionary
Shinobido captures the essence of ninjutsu. Gameplay is firmly rooted in your ability to avoid detection and stealthily dispatch your foes. Face to face battles rarely go well even when it is just one-on-one, often descending into a fatal game of ninja-piñata as adversaries call out for back up.
Thankfully the nighttime streets and rooftops of 16th Century Japan provide adequate cover to skulk past watchful eyes. The AI for both guards and villagers is well implemented - an unusual noise or brief glimpse is enough to provoke their curiosity and if you're spotted they will give chase while alerting others. The guards even react to discovering the bodies of their fallen comrades, hastily beginning a search of the area.
Such diligence can be used to your advantage, luring your target to a specific spot with a well thrown shuriken, or planned for, by disposing of dead bodies down wells or dark alleys. A silent blade in the garden
A veritable arsenal of weapons is at your disposal, foremost of which is your sword that, hopefully for the majority of assassination victims, delivers a swift end.
Alongside the usual ninja kit of shuriken and smoke bombs, more exotic weapons and devices such as poisoned rice, potions and grapples are available. The last is indispensable as with it you can easily 'jump' up to higher roof tops and ledges that you cannot normally reach even with your formidable acrobatic skills.
A nice touch is your hideout from which you accept missions, keep tabs on the political situation, purchase new equipment, tend your garden...
This isn't a softer side to your nature, you're not deadly assassin by night and mild mannered, green fingered gardener by day, but a training ground that you can customise to your own tastes. A handy tool, as when things get rough you may have to defend your hideout against considerable odds. Old and new schools
Shinobido is neatly rounded off with a level editor, which enables you to create your own missions from assassinations to kidnappings. You can designate targets and best of all create maps to explore from scratch.
New features aren't limited to PlayStation 2 either, as Shinobido: Way of the Ninja is compatible with its smaller cousin Shinobido: Tales of the Ninja, coming to PSP (PlayStation Portable) later in the year. For more information stealthily check out the official site atwww.shinobido-game.com