Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice is a standalone expansion to Mimimi’s celebrated real-time tactics game, but unlike the original game this release isn’t coming to consoles. It’s exclusive to PCs, but that certainly didn’t stop us from checking it out.
Aiko’s Choice reintroduces us to Mimimi’s Shadow Tactics, which the developer followed up with the also excellent Desperados III. Because of those games, we had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but we enjoyed our time with Aiko’s choice nonetheless – though its short running time explains why they’re calling it a standalone expansion rather than a sequel or spinoff game.
The expansion only features three large levels, but they all come with Mimimi’s signature design philosophy that allows for multiple replays with several avenues of approach available to you. Taking place in the Edo era of ancient Japan (quite the change from the setting of Desperados), expect to infiltrate ancient military facilities and outposts in missions that were designed for those who’ve already completed the original game even though this one is standalone, offering plenty of challenge even to veterans.
With five different characters to take into battle, all with unique abilities, you’ll quickly sink back into a rhythm if you’ve already played Shadow Tactics – partly because the cast features returning characters. There is some creative level design at work though, organically locking some of the warriors in your party out of certain parts of the map at times while letting them join forces again moments later – though some challenges have to be tackled with a smaller group or even solo.
In addition to the three large missions, Aiko’s Choice also features playable interludes – which are much closer to what you get in the classic Commandos games, for instance. Unlike the main missions they don’t take hours to complete either, but can be wrapped up in about 15 minutes by experienced players. They often feature important story beats for the expansion’s narrative though, so they’re very worthwhile.
Although quite a bit shorter than the base game (our estimate is that it’s about 40% of that game’s length), this is a still a meaty expansion campaign thanks to Mimimi’s excellent design choices. Combine that with lovely audiovisual design that even includes audio dubs in both English and Japanese, and this is a must-play title for Shadow Tactics fans, and one that console players will be sad to miss out on.