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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 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 set in stone 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 manipulate the enemy's movements.
  • Mugen: Deuteragonist, Blood Knight, and honorable Samurai. Mugen lacks the agility of his comrades but is 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.
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  • Yuki: A young girl whom Hayato stumbles across as they both hunt rebel forces. Her difficult, isolated life has given her skills like 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.
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  • Takuma: An old man with unique skills, loyal to the Shogun. His advanced age and peg leg give him Mugen-like agility, 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 set in by the Shogun in the 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 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 the 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).
  • All Asians Wear Conical Straw Hats: Actually, only the mid-tier Mook Straw Hats wear them.
  • 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 due to wanting 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 same time.
    • 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 intractable in the environment, which is excellent for picking out enemies in a crowd or looking for hiding places.
    • In the few mission which require to snipe a target, Takuma keeps a single bullet for this purpose, preventing the mission to become Unwinnable by Mistake 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.
  • 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?
  • 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 dictate, they're easily distractable and quite easy to manipulate.
  • Badass Mustache: 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!
  • 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 on their separate ways and cease contact instead of returning to the Shogun, though Aiko still reports the mission's success.
  • 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.
  • 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 red, Yuki is yellow, Aiko is purple, and Takuma is green.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The whole crew. That's standard procedure for ninjas, but not even Mugen is above crawling around in bushes and attacking enemies from behind.
  • Crutch Character: In a sense, Mugen. He's the only character in the game who can kill Samurai with a single attack, 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. Including the last four.
  • Darkest Hour: Everything's fun and games until 2nd 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. For some time after, the characters' command acknowledgements are depressive, particularly Hayato the stone-cold mercenary.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: There's something very strange going on with everyone's armor and guns, to say the least. Mugen has more health than the rest of your team, which one would think comes from his armor, but he has the same amount of health whether he wears his armor or not. He gets taken prisoner in one mission and has to retrieve his gear, but doesn't have reduced health for it. Mugen also takes full damage from gunshots, but you try shooting enemy samurai with either pistols or Takuma's rifle and this only stuns them. Stranger still, in one mission you're called upon to kill enemy officers during a siege so the Shogunate army can advance, and in doing so you get at least one opportunity to see Shogunate riflemen blatantly one-shot enemy samurai.
  • 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.
  • Developers' 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.
  • Difficulty Spike: The third mission, Imai Town, represents a dramatic increase in difficulty. The map is much larger, there are more enemies than ever, Samurai make their first appearance (unless you somehow raised an alert in the mission preceding it which CAN spawn a samurai), and the footprints you leave in the snow can compromise your stealth.
  • 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 his soldiers 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 to 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.
  • 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 death of Ryūnosuke.
  • Honor Before Reason: Mugen commits suicide as a result of getting his master'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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. You can even do this to the Big Bad by way of sneezing powder on a conveniently-placed rifleman.
  • 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 11st mission, in which you only control Hayato and Aiko, while Mugen is dead since the previous level.
  • 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 the solution is 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.
  • Non-Lethal K.O.: 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, there's no real benefit to this.
  • 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.
  • Pacifist Run: Doable, but extremely hard due to nature of knocking enemies out. Guards will wake up after about a minute, take a look around, and return to their post. If someone sees an unconscious guard, it'll trigger an alert just the same as a dead guard would. There are awards if you complete some missions this way.
  • 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.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The rebellion led by Kage-sama is ruthless to its core, and its soldiers are frequently shown abusing if not outright murdering the people they conquer.
  • 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.
  • Save Scumming: Subtly encouraged. The game will time how long it's been since you last saved, 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: 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, her japanese voice actress 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.
    • The opening cutscene of Mission 8 is an obvious homage to the mission briefings of the first Commandos game.
  • 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 she said is his reply of "Ah, something ends, something begins. As it should be", implying that she is pregnant.
  • Speedrun: Each level has a challenge badge for completing the mission under a given time. The timers are pretty tight, but made even tougher by the mission timer continuing to run between quickloads.
  • Stealth Run: Encouraged with the ease by which a player can quicksave and quickload. Even a single alerted guard can result in additional patrols permanently added to the map, making further stealth even more difficult.
  • Storming the Castle: The first and ninth mission.
  • 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.
  • Take a Third Option: The game rewards you for not following the suggested ways to accomplish 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 completing the objective is to send Yuki poison his tea.
  • Tap on the Head: A possible move for all characters.
  • 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 Kagesama 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 to 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.

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