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Video Game / Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

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"One can only wonder how many fought and died for the shogun. Their names - never mentioned, their deeds - secret, their tales - forever hidden... In the shadows."

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a Real-Time Strategy Stealth-Based Game developed by Mimimi Productions and published by Daedalic Entertainment, released on December 6th, 2016. It aims to revive a seemingly long-dead genre codified by Commandos.

The game follows the exploits of a group of assassins working for the Shogun. They are:

  • Hayato: The Protagonist, experienced mercenary, and classical Ninja. Hayato is agile enough to walk tightropes and scale buildings with ease, and strong enough to walk while carrying an incapacitated guard. His Shuriken is a somewhat noisy way to take out an enemy from afar, while his Throw Stone forces any foe to face the noise for a few seconds. He is a strong infiltrator and stealthy killer, but has no way to divert the enemy's movements.
  • Mugen: Deuteragonist, Blood Knight, and honorable Samurai. Mugen lacks the agility of his comrades but is instead capable of astounding feats of strength. He can throw heavy objects onto rooftops, carry two dead/incapacitated people while running, and outfight enemy samurai without any firearm assistance. His Sake Bottle will entice normal guards to come pick it up, his Sword Wind ability can kill any number of guards in a small area, and his unique Hand Cannon can instantly kill samurai. He also has more health than the others.
  • Yuki: A young girl whom Hayato stumbles across during one of his missions. Her difficult, isolated life has helped her develop skills rivaling the group's ninjas, but her relative lack of muscle only lets her slowly drag incapacitated guards. Her Little Trap is a pressure-activated mine that will kill any guard who steps on it, and she can Whistle to lure guards into blind spots, including right into the trap.
  • Aiko: A kunoichi, and Mugen's lover. Like Hayato, she is a consummate acrobat, but like Yuki, she can only drag incapacitated guards along the ground. She has Sneezing Powder which will reduce a target's sight range for a few seconds, and with the help of the right clothes, can Disguise herself as a Geisha or priestess to make anyone but samurai ignore her. While disguised, she can start a Conversation with any guard to make him face her as long as she remains.
  • Takuma: An old man with unique skills, loyal to the Shogun. His advanced age and peg leg give him Mugen-like agility (in other words slower than the ninjas), plus he makes noise while running. He cannot perform any physical feat needing more muscle than climbing a ladder. His cane and peg leg convert into a Sniper Rifle for long-range takedowns, and can disable groups with either deadly Explosive Grenades or stunning Poison Grenades. While between vantage points, his pet Tanuki, Kuma, can lure guards to it, similar to Yuki's Whistle.

The story follows these five as they work together to undermine the conspiracy attempting to overthrow the era of peace established by the Shogun in the early Edo Period. The five characters must use stealth, tactics and their wits to perform espionage on rebel forces of the would-be usurper, Kage-Sama.

A standalone expansion, Aiko's Choice, has been announced and was released on December 6th 2021.

A tactical stealth Tabletop Game based on the game, Shadow Tactics - The Board Game was funded through Kickstarter and released 2019.

Tropes found in Shadow Tactics include:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality:
    • Matchlock firearms are both dead-on accurate and quick to reload, both of which would be questionable during this era, but make them more flexible in the player's hands and more dangerous when an enemy spots you.
    • If the guards took alerts more seriously, looked up at rooftops, or more often questioned why one of their comrades suddenly vanished, controlling a group of awesome ninjas would be a lot less fun.
    • Given their effectiveness, you'd think the characters would carry more of their tools like shuriken, sake bottles, bullets, and such, but it'd reduce the challenge.
    • A guard which finds another guard unconscious will wake them and raise the alarm, but if the guard comes to on their own and doesn't find one of the player characters, he won't raise the alarm (out of shame at being knocked out).
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Shadow Mode, which allows for you to sync up movements between characters, is excellent for creating elaborate traps to tackle difficult problems. Want to make a difficult move requiring multiple characters to act at the same time? Simply queue up their movements in Shadow Mode and press enter to do them all at the press of a button. It can even be handy with just one character; for example, you can have Hayato kill two enemies in close proximity by storing his attack on one enemy in Shadow Mode then executing it immediately after throwing a shuriken at another.
    • The game features numerous U.I notifications to keep track of information, like the cooldown for certain character's moves or where droppable objects are located.
    • Pressing the "highlight" key highlights every interactable element in the environment, which is excellent for picking out enemies in a crowd or looking for hiding places.
    • In the few missions where sniping a target is a main objective, Takuma keeps a single bullet for this purpose, preventing the mission from becoming Unintentionally Unwinnable if you use Takuma's rifle too much.
    • Mission 8 is set in a warzone, and thus gives the player allied soldiers. Since the defensive formations are way more difficult than usual (thanks to groups of soldiers gathering together), killing an Officer will instantly cause all the allied soldiers to move up to a forward position and kill all the enemies the player hasn't touched yet. This gives the player a little bit more leeway with how they approach killing the officers, and makes it so that killing them does not make the game unwinnable thanks to the constantly shifting positions of the guards.
    • The game has a robust quicksave/quickload system. A timer even appears at the top of the screen during gameplay, reminding you how long ago your last save was.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: If the dialogue language is set to Japanese, all the spoken lines will be in period-appropriate Japanese... except Yuki occasionally uses English loanwords more reminiscent of modern Japanese; for example, the words "melody" and "jump." Aiko also has one instance wherein she uses the English loanword for "message."
  • Arm Cannon: The matchlock pistols developed by Takuma for use by the team are wrist mounted.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After bringing Masaru to the Shogun, the Shogun allows him to ramble on about how Ryunosuke was murdered, and simply asks his nephew point blank: "And you know all this because you saw the murder happen?" when no one save for Mugen was supposed to know his location.
  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • Guards are fairly smart. They have wide vision cones, behave according to their class type and generally work together to weed out intruders if you're spotted.
    • They're quite clever in that they will search the area around dead bodies thoroughly.
    • If a guard's route involves them speaking to someone else and that person disappears, the guard will become suspicious and take a look around.
  • Artificial Stupidity: ...yet, as Acceptable Breaks from Reality mentions, they're easily distractable and quite easy to manipulate.
    • Guards will almost never look up, even when a gunshot was heard coming from above them. As long as the inner cone doesn't spread to the higher elevation (which depends on terrain) you can crouch above them and do most actions without fear of detection at all.
    • Strawhats and Samurai are smarter, in that they won't get manipulated by distractions. However, this includes alerted civilians - even if a civilian runs up to them screaming about ninjas murdering guards right around they corner, they will turn around but will not move nor raise an alarm. In some situations, this means that if you can rid an area of normal guards, you can effectively run around in front of civilians at your leisure without fear of reprisal.
  • Barehanded Blade Block: A subtle example. If Mugen is ordered to knock out an enemy samurai, the animation includes him deflecting the samurai's sword with his hand.
  • Big Bad: The mysterious Kage-sama, leader of the rebellion. He's actually Lord Noboru, the brother of the Shogun.
  • Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: The strongest member of your team, Mugen, is also the only one to die.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The group delivers Masaru to the Shogun, the former revealing the truth and clearing the group's name, with the Shogun sending them to assassinate Noboru. When all is said and done, the group, still affected by Mugen's death, go their separate ways and cease contact instead of returning to the Shogun, though Aiko still reports the mission's success.
  • Blood-Splattered Warrior: As can be seen above, everyone's looking like this in the main menu (even Takuma!...must have stood close enough to some guards he grenaded)...though aside from Mugen, they're really more like Blood-Splattered Assassins. The blood further stands out with the coloration being almost monochromatic black-and-white (though there's a slight blue hue to it as well).
  • Breaking the Fellowship: After the group managed to assassinate Lord Noboru/Kaga-sama and avenged Mugen's death, everyone decided to go their separate ways, though they at least remain together for a while longer on the road back home.
  • Cain and Abel: The Shogun, who is The Good King, is the Abel, while his brother, Noboru, is the Cain, leading the rebellion against him.
  • Cast of Expies: Most of the main cast are analogous to the Commandos:
    • Mugen, as a Blood Knight who is both The Leader and The Big Guy, specializes in generally killing enemies and can carry barrels, fulfills the role of the Green Beret.
    • Hayato's ranged silent attack and swimming abilities (which Yuki and Aiko also have) make him closest to the Diver. He also shares striking similarities to John Cooper, who plays much like Hayato in Desperados III.
    • Aiko's use of disguise and distraction using feminine wiles makes her comparable to Natasha.
    • Yuki, as the smallest member of the team with a pickpocket ability, is most like the Thief, albeit with the Bear Trap used by both the Sapper and the Driver.
    • Takuma is the Sniper, right down to his Crippling Overspecialization from the early Commandos games combined with the Sapper's grenade ability.
    • Kuma, the Team Pet whose only ability is to distract enemies without being attacked, is effectively Whiskey the dog.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: All five characters are marked with a different color to make it easier to differentiate them on the map. Hayato is blue, Mugen is orange, Yuki is yellow, Aiko is purple, and Takuma is green.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The whole crew. That's standard procedure for ninjas, but even Mugen is going to be crawling around in bushes and attacking enemies from behind.
  • Contrived Coincidence: You can kill Noburu while he inspects his troops by putting sneezing powder on a named rifleman in the final mission. With matchlock firearms, this would be a horribly improbable situation to the point genuinely accidentally have this happen would practically be impressive as this would require the user to have already loaded the gun, lit the match and opened the flash pan in spite of how he's pointing his weapon in the direction of a person he should obviously not be firing at.
  • Crutch Character: In a sense, Mugen. He's the only character in the game who can kill Samurai with a single attack and without arousing too much suspicion, pick up and throw heavy objects, run while carrying corpses (and hold two at the same time no less), and can kill multiple enemies at once as often as needed. Which makes missions where he's absent notably more difficult. Particularly the last four.
  • Darkest Hour: Everything's fun and games until the imprisonment at Mount Tsuru. Mugen is forced to reveal the secret location of the Shogun's son, resulting in the heir's assassination. The team is imprisoned, then escapes only to watch Mugen commit seppuku in shame. And even afterwards, they're not clear of the prison just yet. For some time after, the characters' command acknowledgements are depressive, particularly Hayato the stone-cold mercenary.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Yuki is impressed by Hayato being able to carry guards while walking, lamenting that she's not strong enough and has to drag them. In actual gameplay, she and Aiko are actually much more useful than the others for moving bodies because they remain crouched while doing so, allowing them to move bodies through an enemy's second sightline.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: Averted! You could be forgiven for deciding to roll your eyes when you're first introduced to Mugen in the first mission, a big orange samurai who comes charging in and effortlessly kills a nasty-looking rebel samurai in a dramatic but brief clash. Two missions later you're properly introduced to the enemy samurai, and the tutorial scroll specifically mentions only Mugen can safely kill them up-close.
  • Death Trap: Lady Chiyo's hidden fortress, Hana Gakuen, is full of deadly traps meant to stop intruders and test the new kunoichi recruits. The heroes can use them to their advantage by turning them against Chiyo's own men instead.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Mugen committing seppuku, which none of his friends attempt to actually dissuade him from doing aside from Yuki, who is a kid compared to the rest of them. They are saddened by it, but do not think they should stop him or fault his values for doing it - even Hayato, with his slight disdain for the requirements of a samurai's honor, never throws any sort of blame toward Mugen for his suicide.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • Tying into Artificial Brilliance, enemies that die due to perceived "accidents" will not raise an alarm. This includes dropping rocks on them, pushing them off cliffs or provoking stationary cattle into kicking them.
    • In some levels, dialogs will change if you do things in an unusual order. For example, finding the secret passages in mission 4 before you reach Takuma will cause your characters to mention that they already know about them. Mission 7's dialog with Mugen will also change if you somehow managed to save the villagers before saving him.
    • If you use Kuma to lure a group of guards beneath a ledge and drop a rock down to kill them, Takuma will make one of several comments marveling at how Kuma survived.
    • Each character has their own line delivered if they are the one who kills the Big Bad. This includes Takuma, who requires the somewhat improbable process of someone else knocking out the Big Bad and throwing him to where Takuma can get a clear shot.
    • In Aiko's Choice, the final mission requires Aiko to enter the inner sanctum of Lady Chiyo's fortress alone to assassinate her personally, which means other characters will be locked out of the final areas where only Aiko could enter, setting up Aiko to be the one to finish her mentor off. However, should you find a way to have other characters kill Lady Chiyo from the outside instead, there will be a special dialogue spoken between them and Aiko.
  • Easy Level Trick:
    • In the first mission, instead of killing your way to get Mugen through the patrolled castle, you can just sneak Hayato to the gate behind the two Strawhats. After the cutscene, Mugen will be "teleported" there.
    • During mission 8, the final segment has the Arc Villain emerge with a small retinue of soldiers and patrol an extremely small space. The intent is for the players to slowly thin out the soldiers' ranks to eventually make enough space for an attack on him, but you can circumvent this entire segment by placing an explosive barrel right next to the entrance of his tent and firing on it with Takuma the second you're able, which will immediately kill him and end the mission. There's a badge specifically for accomplishing this within 10 seconds of the cutscene preceding this segment.
    • In the final mission, the Big Bad periodically watches a group of soldiers practice with their guns. Tossing Aiko's sneezing powder at one of the soldiers (namely the one with a developer's name) right as they're ordered to fire will make him accidentally shoot and kill the Big Bad.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • Enemy samurai are very difficult to distract, see through Aiko's disguises, and the only quick ways to kill them are explosives, Mugen's sword or hand cannon. They can be stunned by gunfire and then melee-killed by other characters, but even this is challenging as the samurai retain a small view cone and will shoot while on their knees. Unless you shoot them from far enough with Takuma's rifle, or hide quickly enough (or queue up Aiko's sneezing powder in Shadow Mode) after a matchlock shot, they will alert other guards almost immediately after getting hit.
    • Straw hats, in a lesser measure. They're not harder to kill but they are much harder to distract, meaning they never leave their posts and noises distract them for like 1 second. It takes Aiko in disguise to fully divert their attention.
  • Everything Fades: Blood fades after about 15 seconds, and dead bodies disappear quickly if put into bushes. Your enemies won't notice the blood even before it fades anyway.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When the Shogun believes that the companions sneaked into his private tent to kill him - believing they also killed his son - he simply accepts it as fate and refuses to give them the indignity of pleas. Luckily for him, they are actually there to clear their names and save him.
  • Foreshadowing: While sword training with Ryūnosuke and Masaru, Mugen says to them, "I know the day will come when the two of you will force me to my knees." He's not wrong. Masaru's treachery and Ryūnosuke's death bring Mugen to his Despair Event Horizon.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Even in missions where your enemies are loyal Shogunate soldiers, your team will still be referred to derogatorily as Shogunate men if you're spotted by them, just like your real enemies who are employed by Kage-sama.
  • Genre Relaunch: For the stealth RTS genre. Its success led to the revival of the Desperados series with Desperados III (which was given to the same developers).
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: The main conceit of the plot is that stories such as those of the main characters are about the unsung heroes who have served Japan and kept the peace even though their names are lost to time and history.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Mugen throwing a living or dead body will stun all enemies in a small area (throwing anything else would kill them instead), very useful to knock out a group of enemy that contains at least one Samurai. Any other team member that can move a body is able to do this trick, provided they toss the body from a cliff above the enemy.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Yes and no.
    • They keep a good lookout for dead guards and are quick shots with their guns, but they are opposed to looking upward, don't spread out their search very far, and go back to what they were doing after about a minute.
    • In the Mount Tsuru mission, a guard is easily duped into opening Hayato's prison cell just by throwing a rock at him. On the other hand, as soon as there's any hint of a prison break, a patrolling samurai will immediately lock down the area.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: In Mission 12, the characters will frequently express their remorse whenever they kill a Shogunate soldier at your command.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: The Shogun puts a bounty on the whole crew after Noboru frames them for the murder of Ryūnosuke.
  • Honor Before Reason: Mugen commits suicide as a result of getting the Shogun's son killed in order to save his friends. However, this means he's not around to protect his master from the aftermath of that decision, and he doesn't even stay around long enough to help his companions finish escaping from their prison. This puts the burden on his friends to clean up his mess, and it makes fixing the problem far more difficult in-universe and in gameplay (since he is invaluable in taking down samurai and groups).
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A signature characteristic of Samurai and Straw Hats is how cannot be distracted for more than a moment. This is usually a problem for you to work around, but if you seek to kill other guards nearby them as well, this trait is self-defeating since it will let you freely distract and kill the other guards and then leave them vulnerable from a lack of back-up.
  • Interface Spoiler: Every mission displays which characters you'll be controlling before you start. Notably subverted in Mission 10. The mission leads to believe that all five characters will be involved, and even includes a few heavy objects that Mugen can presumably pick up and throw. It hides the fact that the Samurai commits seppuku once you catch up to him.
  • Insurmountable Waist-High Fence: No characters can simply climb over a wall's upraised section that's no higher than the rest of the wall by a foot and hardly lacking in graspable surfaces.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Yuki gets along very well with Mugen, who's old enough to be her father, and Takuma, who's old enough to be her grandfather. Likewise, Takuma is an old friend of Mugen and Aiko.
  • It's Personal:
    • Every one of the protagonists after Mugen's seppuku. The final mission has them declaring that they're doing this for Mugen or mentioning his spirit watching over them when ordered.
    • In Aiko's Choice, the fact that Lady Chiyo is her old teacher makes the entire story arc very personal to Aiko, and she is visibly distraught at having to confront her past that the other characters notice her worriness.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: In the Epilogue of Aiko's Choice, Lady Chiyo - having faked her death at Hana Gakuen - reveals to Aiko that she is Good All Along. However, the way she went about her gambit exposes Aiko and her friends to various dangers and the fact that she knows about Aiko's pregnancy mean Aiko cannot fully trust her to be the teacher she once knew and won't come after the people she cares about later. Chiyo then presents her student the titular choice: either kill her right now or leave her alive and retire in peace. It's up to the player to decide the outcome.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Levels often start with your party divided across different parts of the map, with dialog indicating that they did this intentionally as part of a plan. It never makes things easier, and uniting your group as much as possible is usually one of the first things you have to do to proceed.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: Loading up a level can take such a long time, that the game has to provide a message telling you that it only looks like it's frozen. And that's not taking into account the amount of Save Scumming you're likely to employ, though it's much faster after the initial loading.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Accidental-looking deaths are advantageous since they won't cause guards to sound the alarm, though they will be alerted for a while. You can even do this to the main villain by way of sneezing powder on a specific rifleman.
  • Manly Facial Hair: Mugen is the most combat-capable character with his ability to kill multiple enemies in a single instance. And his mustache is long and magnificent!
  • Nature Tinkling: In at least two missions — Sunpu Castle in the man campaign and at the temple at Hana Gakuen in Aiko's Choice, at the temple where Lady Chiyo is giving instruction to future shrine maidens, one of the guards will occasionally slip off to go pee in what he believes to be a discreet manner.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The announcement trailer shows all five party members in a night town scenery. In the proper game, this setting is the 11th mission, in which you only control Hayato and Aiko, while Mugen is dead since the previous level.
  • Ninja: Hayato is our resident "Ninja Classic" we've all seen before - he wears black getup, he carries a Ninjato sword and shuriken as well as a grappling hook, and he excels at moving around while staying hidden and picking off single targets. Aiko is a kunoichi (a female ninja) and a more "realistic" take on the Ninja character, employing subterfuge (with disguises) more than stealth, isolating guards and attacking them with her hairpins (Truth in Television) or sneeze powder. Yuki, a teenage vagabond living as a trapper and thief, does employ many Ninja-like tools and abilities including a deadly spring-trap.
  • Nintendo Hard: Oh boy. There's a reason that the game tells you how long it's been since you last quicksaved. Be prepared to mess up and fail numerous times before a working solution can be found.
  • No-Gear Level: Mount Tsuru—the second time. You begin the map only with Hayato (who has only rocks), Yuki (who has nothing), and Takuma (who still has his rifle and Kuma, but no bullets). Aiko, Mugen, and the remainder of your gear are spread throughout the area. One of the challenge badges wants you to collect none of the confiscated gear.
  • No Name Given: The Shogun is only referred as "the Shogun". Several of his family members have a proper name, though.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Some voice actors in the English dub sound appreciably Japanese, but several others do not. The End Times: Vermintide players might notice that Dan Mersh (voice of Markus Kruber) voices generic enemy samurai in this game... and still sounds very British.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Both Kage-sama and his son Masaru express sexist viewpoints, particularly whenever they deal with Aiko. While their beliefs would certainly be in line with Japanese norms at the time, it's notable when they're the only characters who are shown to hold any disdain toward women in the game.
  • Pulling the Thread: When the Shogun is interrogating Masaru, he quickly unravels his lies.
  • Press X to Die: Only Mugen can defeat enemy samurai in fair hand-to-hand combat. Attempting it with anyone else will get them killed instantly.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Your team includes a boisterous samurai of common origins, a ninja of the fallen Iga clan, a loopy Street Urchin, a professional spy, an elder who just might be Japan's greatest gunsmith and marksman, and his well-trained pet tanuki.
  • Reed Snorkel: Hayato, Yuki, and Aiko can all swim underwater and stay hidden there indefinitely via these.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The rebellion led by Kage-sama is ruthless to its core (its purpose is to make Japan as tumultuous as the Sengoku period again), and its soldiers are frequently shown abusing if not outright murdering the people they conquer.
  • Rival Dojos: Hayato and Aiko initially do not get along due to belonging to different ninja schools and having different approaches to completing their missions.
  • Royal Brat: Masaru, the Shogun's nephew. He spends nearly all his screen time either bossing around or insulting people. Then he goes and murders the Shogun's son. Later, he indulges himself in a fancy bathhouse.
  • Sadistic Choice: In Mission 9, Mugen is forced by Kage-sama to either reveal the location of the Shogun's son, or let his friends be killed. Mugen chooses to save his friends, and commits seppuku for failing his lord.
  • Samurai in Ninja Town: Very downplayed. There's no more conflict between Hayato and Mugen's differences any more than Hayato sardonically commenting about samurai being eager to go off and get killed in battle while Mugen's out of earshot, they get along fine with pragmatically sneaking around to achieve their missions. Mugen admits he is not used to Hayato's tactics after they first meet and team up but clearly has no compulsions against them (indeed, the teaming up was at Mugen's own insistence).
  • Save Scumming: Subtly encouraged. The game will time how long it's been since you last saved (and the timer is Color-Coded for Your Convenience like a traffic light, starting out green, becoming yellow after two minutes, and going red after five minutes), and it even records how often you had to reload a level.
  • Seppuku: It's the Edo period of Japan, so expect to see this a fair bit from people who fail their lords. Including Mugen.
  • Ship Tease: There's a fair amount of flirting between Aiko and Mugen. In mission 10, she refers to him as "my love," confirming that they were indeed in a relationship.
  • Shoot the Dog: In order to expose Noboru's treachery, the protagonists are forced to kill dozens of Shogunate soldiers who have orders to kill them due to the bounty put on their heads. None of them are happy about it.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Two for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater:
      • In Mission 6, if you kill General Okkoto (despite this not being your objective), you will receive a game over because "You caused a time paradox", just like what happens if Snake kills Ocelot.
      • In Mission 10, if you shoot the fake Kage-sama with Takuma's rifle, you will earn an achievement 'The End', a shout-out to the old legendary sniper 'The End', of whom Takuma greatly resembles.
    • In Mission 12 there is a wall you can attack. When you do, the illusory wall will disappear and reveal two messages written in red on the ground and a bonfire you can light, upon which an achievement called "Praise the shogun" is unlocked, which all in all is a good shoutout to the Dark Souls series of games.
    • Rarely when Aiko in disguise distracts a guard, she says "Guten Tag" to initiate the conversation, which is German for "Good day", which is what the Spy from Commandos would say in disguise to initiate a conversation with a German guard. Likewise, Yuki will rarely say "cheers luv, the cavalry's here!" - the catchphrase of Tracer from Overwatch. Takuma will rarely say "death is whimsical today" upon being selected, either another Overwatch reference (to Zenyatta) or one to the movie about assassins that the line originally originally referenced.
    • The opening cutscene of Mission 8 is an obvious homage to the mission briefings of the first Commandos game.
    • In the first Aiko's Choice mission, after rescuing Yuki and escaping Nagoya without encountering an ambush, Aiko comments: "A surprise...but a welcome one.", just a few words omitted from one of the memetic quotes spoken by Chancellor Palpatine in The Phantom Menace.
  • Snow Means Death: The snow adds a notably somber tone to Mt. Tsuru, which is only fitting, for it's where Ryūnosuke and Mugen die.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: It's only implied, but Aiko whispers something to her love Mugen before he commits seppuku, and the only hint we have for what she said is his reply of "Ah, something ends, something begins. As it should be", implying that she is pregnant.
    • Outright confirmed in Aiko's Choice, where Lady Chiyo reveals that she figures out Aiko is pregnant by the time of their final confrontation, and Aiko has a choice of killing her for real to prevent the possibility of Chiyo coming after her and her baby in the future.
  • Stop Poking Me!: Repeatedly selecting a character will cause their responses to start breaking the fourth wall and making pop culture references. Among other things, Hayato quotes Metal Gear Solid, Yuki quotes Game of Thrones, Mugen quotes Starcraft and Warcraft, and Aiko quotes Memoirs of a Geisha.
    Hayato: This is Snake. Colonel, can you hear me?
    Yuki: Anyone can be killed.
    Mugen: My life for Aiur! My life for Ner'Zhul!
    Aiko: It is not for geisha to want. It is not for geisha to feel.
  • Storming the Castle: The first and ninth missions in Osaka and Kanagawa. Allied forces pin down the defenders while the team infiltrates and compromises the castle's defenses (blowing open the main gate in Mission 1, taking out flag officers and blowing up the supply depot before assassinating General Okkoto in Mission 9.
  • Swipe Your Blade Off: Done by a Samurai who just acted as an assistant to seppuku for an official of Lord Yabu after he is granted a request to perform seppuku after he brought news to Yabu that Takuma has escaped (which is to say, he just beheaded the official after the man knifed his own guts). Funnily, despite the official's blood from the seppuku and beheading coating the ground, the chiburui itself leaves nothing on it while blood can still be seen flying off the blade.
  • Sword and Gun: All Samurai carry a katana and flintlock pistol, making them deadly at any range. This also applies to Hayato and Mugen once Takuma fashions some firearms for them, the latter of whom is equipped with a Hand Cannon that will kill even Samurai immediately.
  • Take a Third Option: The game rewards you for not following the suggested ways to accomplish the mission objective, like neither sniping or poisoning the tea to kill Lord Yabu, or kidnapping Masaru without overheating bathwater or taking out his private masseur.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: In the "Assassinate Lord Yabu" mission, one of the ways to complete the objective is to send Yuki to poison his tea.
  • Tap on the Head: You can make your melee attacks non-lethal. Knocked-out enemies will wake up if found or after some time, but they won't raise the alarm if they can't find you. Outside of some badges and certain mission objectives that have to be kept alive, there's no real benefit to this.
  • Team Pet: Kuma, Takuma's talented pet Tanuki.
  • Technicolor Ninjas: Justified as they are Color-Coded for Your Convenience, but Hayato wears the standard black pajamas, and Aiko sports a flashy magenta outfit.
  • Temporal Paradox: If you somehow manage to kill General Okkoto in Hida village, the battle of Kanazawa will not happen and the trace to Kage-sama will be lost, screwing everything after mission 9. In fact, the Game Over will say "you created a time paradox!".
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: This is one tough game, and it will often take a lot of experimentation and planning to succeed in certain missions. Thankfully, the game's extensive quicksaving, quickloading, Shadow Mode, and highlighting systems make this kind gameplay less frustrating.
  • Variable Mix: The backing track for some missions is a quiet rhythm. Whenever one of your characters takes a significant action (using an ability, hiding in a bush), the game will add a snippet of that character's corresponding instrument to the music. Compare the music that plays while doing nothing to the music while having all of your characters step in and out of a bush, and you'll notice quite a difference. Other missions do not have this feature.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • Unless there's a badge for being a pacifist, there's no penalty at all for killing civilians or killing everyone on the map. Sometimes a badge objective is to kill everyone in a certain location (but at least they often deserve it).
    • You can continue punching any character who's already knocked out. It resets the time until they wake up, but can get just a tad gratuitous.
    • You can execute any character who's knocked out, complete with a unique animation for it. You can also toss them into rivers or off cliffs (which counts as killing them).
    • Once you reach the Big Bad, he sees he's out of time and intends to commit seppuku — but you still have control of your characters. One of the challenge badges wants you to drown him, which first involves knocking him out and throwing him down about five staggered rooftops before you can toss him into the ocean.
  • Violation of Common Sense: The wagon going up to the temple in Myogi Pass will get searched by a Samurai before it gets in, who will cause the deaths of any characters within the wagon. The best way to deal with this have a character get out of the wagon when it stops by the Straw Hat who talks to the wagon driver, and have this character shoot the inspecting Samurai before he can search it before going back in the wagon. This will not kill the Samurai and the wagon will continue on untouched rather than being halted as it logically would if something strange happened when it arrived, nor will this sound the alarm, only putting the guards on alert searching for you (despite the fact you shot one of them).
  • Wham Episode: Mission 9, Kage-sama's camp. The heroes have fallen into a trap set by Kage-sama, who reveals himself to be the Shogun's brother. To save his friends from being killed, Mugen is forced to reveal the location of the Shogun's son and heir. Ryunosuke is tracked down and murdered, which eventually leads a shamed Mugen to kill himself.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: While the characters aren't happy about it, you will probably have them kill lots of innocent guards loyal to the Shogun in mission 12, unless you manage an extremely difficult Pacifist Run. Regardless of how many guards they kill while trying to clear their names, they won't get in trouble for it afterwards.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Kage-sama pulls one off in the eighth and ninth missions. He sends the heroes into highly dangerous missions, first straight into a warzone and later into his own camp. Should they fail in either attempt, then he rids his enemy of those meddling interlopers who have been screwing up his rebellion the whole time. If they succeed, then he leads them into a trap where he can glean some useful information out of them and be rid of them anyway.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Mission nine's objective is to either kill or incapacitate Kage-Sama and bring him back to the Shogun. You don't really think it's that easy, do you? There are still four more missions left.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: Only the ladies are capable bending down and dragging bodies along the ground to try to avoid being seen while doing it — your physically-capable male assassins apparently will not stoop that low. Only Hayato can manage the esoteric feat of throwing rocks. Only Mugen can have the foresight to bring a bottle of sake to lure guards in with, et cetera...look, it wouldn't be very fun or interesting if all of the characters barely had any differences for you to work around.
    • At least some of these apparent lack of skills are lampshaded in the Aiko's Choice missions, where Hayato wonders why Aiko never learns how to use shurikens even though she was supposed to train in the art as a kunoichi. Aiko explains that she was quite clumsy when she practiced with shurikens, which is why she never took to using them in the present. Hayato then says that he was never really good with disguises either, which is why he couldn't disguise himself like Aiko could.