Review – Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief

When I first set my eyes on Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief, my initial thought was “this is the dumbest stealth game I have ever seen”. I actually meant that in the best of ways. There was something drawing me towards it, all of its unfiltered stupidity. Looking into it, I didn’t realize that this is a localisation of an old game developed by the same studio behind Tenchu, of all games. Being the first time I heard of this, I was excited. Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief is certainly an interesting game that deserves to be looked at.

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief Ebizo

Am I shocked or is it just the mask I’m wearing?

Set in the Edo Period of Japan, you play as a young amateur thief known as Ebizo. After a mission gone wrong, that resulted in the death of innocents at the hands of his guild’s men, he decides to leave that life behind with his adoptive daughter; one of the only survivors of that incident. However, years later she becomes ill and the medicine prices are too high, forcing Ebizo to return to the thieving life.

To call Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief a pure stealth game would be a lie. This is closer in line with an action stealth game, where all your abilities are more about evasion instead of avoidance. Despite being developed by the same devs, this is definitely not Tenchu. If enemies start to detect you, you can perform a dodge move to move past them. Of course, you can creep around the map, but it’s not really an encouraging way to play the game. Stealing is also a big part of the game and there’s a lot of stuff not nailed down. Although, in a weird twist to stealth things you don’t simply pick them up, but attack the object instead until its health bar is depleted.

It’s an awkward system that takes some time to get used to, which is not helped by the poor controls and awful camera that feels like it’s aged much more than it really has. To effectively steal you will need to first dodge detection to allow you to instantly steal most objects. A little counterintuitive in a stealth game, I know, but it’s a part of the flow of this game.

As you steal more and more items, your backpack will get comically large. This can cause as a problem as it draws much more attention to you in the game’s hub. People will grow suspicious of your ridiculous loot grind and call guards on you, so make sure to visit the thieves’ hub often to drop your earnings off. When I say this game is dumb I really meant it, but this isn’t even scratching the surface of what Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief truly is.

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief Pickpocketing

I’d love to see Sam Fisher try this master thief move.

Not only is the backpack a weirdly neat indicator of how much you are carrying, providing a risk/reward gameplay loop, but it’s also a powerful weapon. You are able to perform attacks and even kick it at guards to knock them out. I mean all this in a positive way as well; this craziness clearly defines Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief‘s unique identity, and I’m all for it. It’s mocking the very stealth genre, whilst indulging in a more action-oriented version of it. As you progress you gain access to an increasing amount of moves to help you on your missions as well.

Much like Dead Rising, time is a major factor here. Each of the game’s jobs has a strict time limit and you can only take one at a time. It’s a daunting experience, but ultimately I am a huge fan of these limited-time experiences. It adds a real sense of urgency to the world; giving the day-night cycle a real purpose. This certainly won’t be to everyone’s liking and may actually be off-putting to some. Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief doesn’t really ease you into this and can contribute to some early-game frustration as you figure things out.

Remembering that this is actually a port of a very niche and old game, Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief really shows its age. Releasing originally on PlayStation 2 in 2006, it was arguably showing its age back then as well. Not much has been done to improve the looks. Character models are especially rough looking, with environments that are just lacking in detail and variety on top of that. On the Nintendo Switch it does look fine enough, especially in handheld mode, but it’s not going to blow you away.

Hug the Wall

When you take “hug the wall” literally.

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief is a game that shows its age in a ton of different ways: from its rough graphics, janky controls, and bizarre structure. However, it’s a game with charm and it provides a gameplay experience that I don’t think I have ever seen before. It combines action game genres into a fast-paced, janky stealth experience. If you can overlook a lot of its flaws, then I would actually recommend checking it out if it goes on sale.


Graphics: 4.0

 Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief looks dated even from the time it came out so don’t be expecting this straightforward port to give the graphics much of a bump.

Gameplay: 6.5

I’ve never played anything quite like this before. A stealth game that encourages being seen with a scoring system. It’s a shame it just feels too dated.

Sound: 6.0

Sound design isn’t memorable, but not exactly bad either.

Fun Factor: 6.5

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief is a charming and fun action stealth game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. As such there is some fun to be had here. Just expect a lot of jank. And dated mechanics.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief is available now on PC, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief was provided by the publisher.