Stealth, Japan, Shinobi. Each has its own special meaning and each has significance with a certain style. When I think about them, I think of them as art. The art of the style of stealth, the art of Japan is known for, and the art of the dedication of a Shinobi. Something about this time period has always interested me and has always made for some legendary stories. But does developer Endeavor One brings the art, style, and dedication? Let’s find out with Arashi: Castles of Sin for PlayStation VR.
In Arashi: Castles of Sin, you step into the shoes of deadly shinobi assassin Kenshiro in a story of betrayal and revenge as you become one with the shadows and embark on a quest for justice as the last surviving son of House Arashi. Vicious bandits known as the Six Oni of Iga have seized control of the castles across the country, carving a bloody path of terror in their wake. So before you go claiming your legacy in feudal Japan, there are a few things to understand. Remember, patience young grasshopper. For one, you need to decide if you would rather sit or stand. Either way works, so just get comfortable, plus it’s great to have a clear mind when in battle. Second, make sure both of your Move controllers are fully charged as you do not want to be in a battle where you are using your swords only to have the sword not move as you would want it because one did not make they were charged. Third, go into the settings and make you have everything to make your experience the best one it can be. And lastly, I was thinking about how I would do the review here. Could I show you all the levels? Yes. Would you want to see all the levels? Maybe. Should I show all the levels? No. Part of the enjoyment is the art in the mystery. Spoiling is never a good thing for anyone. With that said…let’s continue.
One of the things that you will notice when you start Arashi: Castles of Sin is right after you have confirmed the settings to make sure you have them the way you want, you will notice the speech is not in English. There are subtitles, but the voices are not in English. I think for one, that this adds to the authenticity of the era of the game. The second thing you will notice is the different art styles that are used from before the action plays out to we actually get into the action. I almost wish there was an option to choose which art style one would want to play in as it would look cool, but that is just one of those wishful things. Once we actually get into the game you are welcomed by your trusty wolf companion, Haru. Yes, in fact, all of Endeavor One’s projects from this day forward should somehow have Haru in the game in some form. Haru can do many things, play catch, a friend, and yes, can sniff out and attack. More on this in a few.
It’s when we meet Kenshiro’s cousin that we start to learn what has happened. We learn about the men, the Six Oni, who have taken over the castles. And this is where we really begin the tale of Kenshiro and Haru’s journey to reclaim the castles. I will say even though that some may think the graphics may be a little on the low resolution, it does work especially in the first level when it is darker at night. You can move by walking or by jumping by pressing the Move button on the right controller. This does come in handy when you need to jump in between the grass sections or even in and out of the shadows. Also, you do have the ability to climb which you use by holding down the trigger buttons on the Move controllers.
Of course, being a Shinobi, you do have weapons that you can use throughout the different levels. In the beginning, you have your trusty Katana blade which you will use to block and attack as well as a grappling hook when you need to get to higher ground or across wider areas. You also have an inventory system in which on the Right Move controller you use the Triangle button to cycle up and use the O button to cycle down. You also need to pay attention to your health and stamina. You check on this by looking down. Red = Health, Green = Stamina, and White = Ammunition. I know we should all pay attention to this and there were times in the action that I was just not looking down as I was trying to focus on the action around me. Maybe if there was an option for an indicator being in a different location, I might have checked on it more. Other weapons like the throwing stars and bow have a deadly accuracy that just feels awesome and almost feels like a better response vs when you are using your Katana in attacks.
Another skill that Kenshiro has is Jitsu. This technique raises your perception and allows you to sense the lifeforce of nearby enemies. This is activated by pressing the Square button on the left Move controller. When you do come up near enemies you can try to avoid the situation and use the shadows or attack. You will need to block the attacks with your blade, strike at the right time. But when the enemies can surprise you and come to help other enemies things can get tricky as you can sometimes have multiple enemies right in front of you or one could be in front and the other behind you. In situations like this, I find it a little more difficult with the Move controllers simply because there is no thumbsticks. So this is not the fault of the developer as they are just using what they have to work with. Not saying the Move controllers don’t work well, but sometimes having a thumbstick can make a sticky situation an easier one to get through.
Since you are supposed to use the shadows to your advantage, there are some things you can do to help you stay in the shadows. For one, crouch. The less of you there is, the less of a chance you are being detected. When you are completely hidden, your hands will turn into a shadow. So keep that in mind. Also, the state of your detection will appear as an emoji over the enemy’s head. So use that to your advantage. Also, pay attention to lanterns that are around. Too much light is not a good thing when you are trying to be all stealth-like, so hit the lanterns to knock out the light.
Earlier I mention your faithful companion, Haru. Haru can perform different commands such as an attack, dig, and root, and enemy. One thing I notice is that when Haru, which again is a wolf and near enemies that either is not attacking and a few times I found when I was trying to use the attack command, it didn’t always work on the first attempt, but when Haru is near enemies that are not being attacked, the enemies are just standing looking like nothing strange is or about to happen. I mean, if you are out and you see a wolf, would you either be scared or have some type of sense going off that something strange is about to happen? But it’s when Haru is attacking that something feels extremely satisfying as Haru will hold the enemy until you attack and then will howl at the victory. Good job Haru…good job.
When fighting the bosses, sometimes they felt like they were a little too overpowering while sometimes it felt like there were some inaccuracies when fighting them in the battles. This doesn’t ruin the fun at all, it just makes you have to think about things a little differently but in a good way. Maybe an update can fix this in the future to help improve on what is already here. But one of the main features in Arashi: Castles of Sin is stealth and when it comes to stealth and the different ways to go about it from hiding in the grass to reaching on rooftops to surprise the enemies, is where the game really shines.
Let’s talk about the graphics and sound. Looking at the graphics, for what it is, Endeavor One did a great job with everything from the setting of Japan to seeing the details of the building to just even the clouds in the sky as I moved along, the atmosphere that is presented is well thought out. Sound-wise, hearing the music to the enemies screaming as they attack to even Haru’s barking and biting all made my time with the game, quite enjoyable and added to the experience.
There are a few things that I hope get addressed and updated. For one, I think that if there was a PS4 PRO patch to upgrade the graphics, even more, would be quite beneficial and add to the beauty that is already here. And second, maybe an adjustment to the melee to make it feel even more real reliable detection with the impact of using the Katana blades.
Arashi: Castles of Sin gives us that art, style, and dedication of stealth action set in feudal Japan. It shows that there is beauty all around us and all we need to do is open our eyes to appreciate it. When it seems like we have more of darkness that blinds us on a daily basis, shouldn’t we take the time to appreciate what we have around us as well as within?
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy. Until next time, I have to get back to Haru.