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Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief Review

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief is a long forgotten PlayStation 2-era game made by Acquire. This was from the minds of The Way of the Samurai and Tenchu games and a lot of what made those games enjoyable remains consistent. Features like the open-district hub areas, the branching story, and the equipment mechanics are suspiciously similar to past Acquire titles.

Don’t be fooled by the features carried over from Tenchu — Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief is not like any stealth game you have ever played. Everything you have come to know about furtive infiltration will be completely challenged – a lesson to learn if you want to enjoy your time.

Gamers expect stealth games to play a certain way. Way of the Thief says they don’t know shit about stealth. What have we been missing out on for 16 years? How does it hold up? Find out in our Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief review!

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief
Developer: ACQUIRE Corp.
Publisher: NIS America Inc.
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: August 31, 2006 / October 11, 2022
Players: 1
Price: $39.99 USD 

Everything about this game is very loud and in-your-face. The characters, the story, and even the comical techniques that Ebizo is endowed with have an aggrandized presence. The story revolves around a burglar who is out on his first big heist, only he ends up saving a little girl while his friends kill the lords of the estate.

Ebizo adopts Suzuna and tries to make an honest living as a carpenter and years go by as he matures into a man. As a teenager, Suzuna gets stricken with an illness and carpentry is not bringing in the money. Once again, Ebizo must take up thievery to make ends meet and earn money to buy the medicine to save his adopted daughter.

With a big sack and a goofy little hood, Ebizo sets out on an adventure where his past catches up with him, but he will do whatever it takes to protect Suzuna. It won’t be easy, especially since Kamiwaza does not always fully explain itself and the triggers for the branching story are vague and cryptic.

Most stealth games demand a certain level of finesse from gamers to get by guards and to quietly creep around environments to avoid detection. Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief is so bold to make a stealth game play differently with action game mechanics.

Ebizo does not have to play like Solid Snake or Sam Fisher, gamers are free to make as much noise as they want. Jumping on tables, smacking objects around, and rolling around on anything – the guards in the next room, behind paper walls, won’t care.

In Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief, players will be dodging cones of vision and “parrying” sightlines as if they were in direct combat. Notably, Ebizo has almost no means to engage in a real fight.

Every punch he throws is actually a frisk into the enemy’s pockets. The best he can do is temporarily knock out a guard; Ebizo is not Rikimaru. Also, getting “seen” is not an automatic alert.

Ebizo can “parry” getting caught and will do a daring maneuver to evade detection. This mechanic is also applied to getting behind guards and dashing past them, while stripping them of all their valuables.

This kind of gameplay is very fast paced and is refreshing in a genre that is traditionally thought of as being methodical. Once gamers get used to the idea of being fast and loose with stealth, Ebizo becomes a master thief.

There are other aspects to manage on top of avoiding detection. Ebizo can only carry so much loot in his sack and as players stuff it full of items- it grows to absurd proportions.

In Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief, Ebizo’s sack is everything. He can use it to reach high places, can kick it like a soccer ball and knock out guards, and he can’t leave a mission without it.

One of the issues in Kamiwaza is how it does not fully explain itself. The beginning hours don’t make things clear- like how to empty and sell the items from the sack or how the mask system works with the notoriety.

Walking around town as a thief is tricky. Masking up is a good way to avoid wanted posters from closely matching Ebizo’s description, but wearing a mask while doing good things also prevents the townies from remembering when he did something good too.

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief is a game designed around replayability. The path to the various endings are tricky and not easy to follow, especially on the first run.

A first playthrough is guaranteed (Editor’s Note: SPOILERS) to get a bad ending no matter how much medicine is acquired for Suzuna. The new game plus mode is also questionably executed. All of Ebizo’s moves get unlearned and the player starts fresh.

For a PlayStation 2 game from 2006, Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief won’t impress with visuals. It resembles a PSP game more than anything seen on consoles at the time. Character models are simple and have some rough looking textures that make them look like crudely painted papercraft figures.

This remaster makes all the seams of the visuals more apparent. Character faces are also weirdly exaggerated like a strange manga. The over the top dialogue and boisterous Japanese voice acting helps bring to life the limited visuals.

Thankfully, Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief in 2022 does not run like a PlayStation 2 game. This conversion has a very high and stable 60 frames per second. Load times are also brief when moving between areas and the developers also added some post processing effects to punch up the image quality.

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief is overpriced for what you’re getting. This is a PlayStation 2 game with no new 3D models, no new animation, and no English audio. It’s the same old PlayStation 2 jank and no new content or improved control options. If this was $19.99, it would be a must-buy. There is just not enough here to justify $39.99.

Anyone who acquires Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief on a sale or a splurge is going to have an initially confusing time. You must cut it some slack for being a mid-level developed PlayStation 2 games from 2006. With a little patience and understanding its focus on style over stealth- gamers will find that Way of the Thief was a lost classic that the west missed out on.

Fans of the Yakuza series will find something to like about Kamiwaza. It has a lot of the absurd and over-the-top humor and bouts of intense drama seen in those games. Gamers who grew up playing Tenchu or the Way of the Samurai games will especially adore Way of the Thief.

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by NIS America. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

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The Verdict: 7

The Good

  • Innovative and refreshing take on stealth genre
  • Fleshed out hub towns to explore
  • Genuinely compelling drama
  • Deep customization options and a variety of thief tools
  • Witty dialogue and over-the-top animation for maximum entertainment value

The Bad

  • Dreadful new game plus execution
  • Absurdly overpriced
  • Underwhelming visuals, even for a 2006 PlayStation 2 game
  • Poorly explained tutorials and no manual to further flesh out gameplay details
  • Ebizo's turning is very wide

About

A youth destined for damnation.


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