The main source of change from mission to mission--aside from rotating objectives--is the enemy placement. Unfortunately, standing in different places doesn't make these fools any smarter. Standard guards of every faction have a strict viewing radius, so if you walk up to them from the side, they won't see you and you can execute a stealth kill with the press of a button. Dropping from rooftops, climbing up next to them, and even knocking boxes over behind them consistently fail to alert them to your presence. This robotic adherence to surveillance parameters wouldn't be so onerous if the level design forced you to be clever, but the wide open areas offer a variety of easy approaches. It almost makes you sorry for taking so many virtual lives, and at the very least, you don't feel like much of a ninja when doing so. On top of all that, there are icons that alert you to their presence before you can see them, giving you even more of an advantage.
Certain enemies are not so easily slaughtered, and you have to be more careful when approaching them because they can hear well and possibly resist your stealth kill. Using your instant kill ability to off them from a distance is a safe bet, provided you've leveled up your meter enough and can nail the simple quick-time event. Or you can strike down from above if you reach an elevated position. Your grappling hook is handy for setting up kills and escaping alerted guards, and the rear touch pad can help you aim it more precisely. Later in the game, you unlock a wingsuit that lets you glide through the air for as long as you've got space, and swooping down on an unsuspecting foe is one of the bright spots in Shinobido 2's action.
No one ever looks up at ledges.
If you undertake certain missions or choose not to flee alerted guards, you drop all pretensions of stealth and engage in combat. Slashing with your sword and blocking or dodging an enemy's attacks are all that you need to win, but often it's easier said than done. Though you generally move with a ninja's agility, getting hit can send you tumbling lazily across the ground as gravity seems to temporarily loosen its hold on you. This allows your quick foes to pile on the damage, and it's often difficult to regain your footing. Being helpless isn't fun, but even when you're in control, hacking away with your sword just feels like a desperate last resort that you'd rather not endure.
You can try to streamline these encounters by using items from your vast arsenal, which includes explosives, projectiles, and poisons. Unfortunately, all thrown items are subject to the same floaty gravity as your injured body, so accurate throws are a bit tricky, even with the lock-on mechanic. Still, many of these items are effective, and you can gain more of them through the alchemy system that is laboriously explained throughout seven pages of text and diagrams. While far from engaging, alchemy can generate some helpful potions and bombs to help you get through tough missions, notably the melee-heavy oxcart defenses that bring the finicky physics of open combat to the forefront with disastrous results.
There is certainly some satisfaction to be had in stealthily eliminating a whole camp of enemies, but Shinobido 2 delivers very little of it. Instead, it favors quantity over quality. The reuse of environments and introduction of a second playable character (complete with her own slow-to-improve attributes) can add hours to your play time, but the poor AI and clunky combat will likely turn you off long before then. The appeal of being a ninja is all about vanquishing your foes through superior skills, but when your enemies are this dumb, you just feel like a bully.