Shadow Tactics: Aiko’s Choice is not a sequel nor is it a prequel, it’s basically a standalone expansion to the original game. Our five heroes gathered once again in their camp, toasted with a few glasses of sake, and then set out for the final confrontation. In Aiko’s Choice, however, something interferes – namely Lady Chiyo, Aiko’s former boss (though the employment relationship was obviously not ended on good terms) – with her small army.
Little has changed compared to the main game. We still play the motley crew of five heroes with completely different abilities – Mugen, Yuki, Hayato, Takuma and the eponymous Aiko. Mugen is a samurai and the leader of the troop, Hayato is a ninja, Yuki a thief, Takuma a sniper with a cute pet, and Aiko is a spy who can disguise herself as a geisha (and is also Mugen’s lover). The expansion mainly highlights Aiko’s backstory, but you also learn a lot about the other heroes.
Even though it is a standalone expansion that you can play without any prior knowledge of Blades of the Shogun, that makes little sense. Not only are you thrown into the middle of the story (after a brief introduction), but the difficulty level is not for beginners. Already in the first mission you are on the run in a Japanese village full of enemy soldiers looking for you. In addition to simple soldiers, there are also some heavily armored samurai that you can’t easily take out. So it starts off really difficult, not for beginners, even if short explanations of essential game mechanics are shown. However, since you have access to three heroes and their five special abilities right from the start, the help texts will only help you to a limited extent. In order to succeed, the special abilities should be used skillfully – at the right place and at the right time.
You’ll have innumerable options for action at any moment and can solve many problems in different ways, depending on how you use your heroes and their special abilities or the environment. LShift lets us freeze time and prepare chains of commands for all our characters, which are then executed simultaneously. The game environment offers many hotspots that can be manipulated or where you can perform an action. In addition, many of the enemies move all the time (albeit along the same patrol paths). So there’s a lot going on, which can completely overwhelm the beginner. For experienced players, however, it’s like paradise – how do I best eliminate this guard? Shuriken, sword, sniper rifle… or can I stage a little “work accident” here? What is the easiest way to get there? For every problem there are (usually) a lot of promising solutions.
Overall, Shadow Tactics Aiko’s Choice is a very well made standalone expansion to the original game. If you are looking for a completely different experience then you will be disappointed. However, if you are looking for more content for the original game then this will very much please you.