Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun was a big hit when it released back in 2016. Since then, developer Minimi refined their Shadow Tactics formula, and released Desperados III. When Shadow Tactics: Aiko’s Choice was announced, I was excited for more Shadow Tactics—but I quickly realized that while it is indeed more Shadow Tactics, it doesn’t have all the refinement found in Desperados III, despite its incredibly similar gameplay. But what we do get is more Shadow Tactics, and I was all here for that.
Shadow Tactics: Aiko’s Choice is a stealth isometric strategy game and a standalone DLC for Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun. In it, you play as up to five assassins, each equipped with various ways to sneak, fool, and kill their way through their enemies in the Edo period of Japan. One of the things that made Blades of the Shogun so compelling was the ability to synchronize moves—allowing your characters to perform complicated takedowns, with each character taking their own actions. This returns in Aiko’s Choice, and means taking out various types of Samurai—from the lowly foot soldier and the determined straw hat, to the deadly armored Samurai.
Aiko’s Choice lets you approach situations as you see fit, like Blades of the Shogun and even Desperados III before it. But I feel like most of Aiko’s Choice consists of small levels, many of them missing some of the environmental interactions of Blades of the Shogun. The campaign also manages to feel very short—it took me about eight hours to complete, but others are saying they finished it in five or less. If you’re really good at Shadow Tactics, Aiko’s Choice might feel like a small morsel.
While Shadow Tactics: Aiko’s Choice is meant to be a standalone game, if you haven’t played Blades of the Shogun, you might feel a little lost. While I appreciate Aiko’s choice being standalone, it’s only just, as it almost feels like it’s necessary to play the original game for a proper introduction to the mechanics and more familiarity with the story. Aiko’s Choice does give you a story refresher and information boxes along the way to get you up to speed, but it feels more like a refresher than a full-fledged tutorial, and as someone who played the original, it took me a while to get caught back up. I actually had to restart my campaign on easy to remember how to get past the first level. If you haven’t played the brilliant Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, I definitely recommend jumping into that first.
Shadow Tactics: Aiko’s Choice is not a bad game, despite my criticism—far from it, in fact. Coming from Desperados III it feels slightly clunkier in ways I didn’t anticipate, but once I got back into it, it’s the same brilliant stealth gameplay as the original. That said, I don’t recommend starting the Shadow Tactics series with Aiko’s Choice, and instead suggest starting with Blades of the Shogun before jumping into Aiko’s Choice—and probably leave Desperados III for last, because that game really spoiled me on the potential for this type of isometric stealth game formula.
Shadow Tactics: Aiko’s Choice is available on Steam.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.