Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

a game by Activision, and Acquire Corp.
Platforms: Playstation PSX
Genre: Action
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 4 reviews
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See also: Ninja Games
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

Throat-slitting, decapitation, small, sharp pieces of metal thrown into people's faces, smoke bombs, blood, goo, magic, heroism, grappling hooks, cherry blossom, small dogs...just some of things that you'll come across within a few minutes of playing Tenchu. So what kind of a game is it?

If you don't have any idea what to expect think of a kind of Tomb Raider-ish engine with a bit of Bushido Blade thrown in, and then throw in an awful lot of sneaking around and hiding.

The basic premise here is this; you are a ninja (one of two characters--big, mean-looking chap called Rikimaru--big sword, big flappy trousers, or a petite cheeky-looking girl called Ayame--two small swords, penchant for slitting throats) who has to pop into various feudal situations and complete certain missions. More often than not these involve bumping off some kind of bad guy as quietly as possible. As the adventure unfolds you will have to make use of more and more advanced ninja techniques.

The key here is stealth. And lots of it. The game is full of helpful ninja-ly advice like "never let your enemy see your face" and from spending some time with a near complete version it would appear to reward you for keeping quiet. Movement around the levels is best made up on the rooftops where no one can see you. Getting there is easy--as you always have a seriously groovy grappling hook at your disposal which you simply aim and fire to get airborne. Once you find a target to kill, drop to the floor, sneak up behind him and let rip. If he doesn't see you, more often than not he goes down--if they spot you though, the action turns into a hack-and-siash fest with lots of blood.

Already a fairly significant success in Japan, this "Ninja Metal Gear" is almost ready for release in the United States thanks to the capable efforts of Activision. Unlike many Japanese ports, this is actually something of an enhancement to the original game. When released this fall it will take the original action/adventure game with all of its murderous, stealthy, seriously tooled-up features and add two complete new missions (making the U.S. game 20 percent larger than the Japanese), more blood and gore, seriously enhanced enemy Al with bad guys that respond to sound, new magic items, an enhanced camera engine and new controls.

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Game Reviews

Enter the world of feudal Japan where your only friends are your sword and the cover of night. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins has creeped up on your PlayStation, offering a Tomb Raider-like experience that mixes action and stealth into an excellent, well-rounded adventure.

Tenchu's gameplay is deliberately paced, thrusting you into hostile, environments, such as forests, towns, and caves, through 10 missions. In each, you must complete certain objectives-- invasions, assassinations, and so on--which all require stealth and cunning instead of running and gunning. To aid you in your quest, Tenchu features a Ki meter (your sixth sense), which lets you know if you're near an enemy and if they've seen you. It's especially useful when you're setting up for a gruesomely delightful stealth kill. In addition to your sword, you'll be able to use other weapons, like shurikens, caltrops, poisoned rice, and smoke bombs.

If you're a gamer who isn't into twitch action, but you want something a little more intense than an RPG, step into Tenchu's dojo. The only thing at stake is your honor.

ProTips:

  • Even if you're spotted by an enemy, you can still hide in the shadows to set up for a stealth kill.
  • If you're attacked by two enemies at once, position yourself so one Is In front of the other and takes the punishment meant for you.
  • In Mission 3, stay close to the perimeter wall and avoid straying toward the center where you'll be spotted.
  • To help you defeat the last boss in Mission 4, add a grenade to your Inventory and toss It before using your sword.

Graphics

Tenchu features nicely-animated characters and some of the goriest battles around. However, there's a lot of pixelization and clipping in the backgrounds (much like the first Tomb Raider). But because your adventure takes place at night, the game's draw-in problems actually add to the atmosphere.

Control

Tenchu is plagued with frustrating camera angles, so you'll find yourself getting turned around in the heat of battle more than you'd like. However, if you have the patience of a ninja and utilize the Practice mode, you'll master your character's controls after a few hours of play.

Sound

Tenchu features soothing background overtures that pace the action nicely, while the slicing of your sword and the startled grunts of your enemies will enhance your battle experience.

Fun Factor

While it doesn't have perfect graphics or control. Tenchu is still a blast to play--especially if you like strategic action with your adventure. If you're a fan of the Tomb Raider series, Tenchu is worthy of your time.

People say:

7

Long have I waited for a game to represent what my kind have specialized in ... fighting and lusting after busty women! Oh wait, I'm getting confused with Dead or Alive. What I meant was, Tenchu has ninjas acting in a more realistic way than any previous video game efforts, and that is through the use of stealth and assassination. It's bound to draw comparisons to Metal Gear, but Tenchu has a lot going for it besides the stealth stuff. The environment settings and music are just two of the things that give Tenchu a unique feel. These tunes mix traditional Japanese-sounding instruments and vocals with funky baselines and beats. Anyone familiar with the import version of Tenchu will notice that major flaws have been worked on, like the poor enemy Al, bad camera angles and virtual lack of difficulty. Unfortunately, it's still not perfect, as enemies still don't behave as they should and the camera angles render you helpless to attackers when you're cornered. I would also like to have seen a wider variety of missions which didn't allow you to resolve situations with your sword. The biggest sore point with me is that the U.S. voices are completely screwed up. They totally suck the drama out of tense confrontations and become a big distraction. Tenchu has its flaws, but it's still a very nice game.

8

Tenchu reminds me a lot of Metal Gear Solid, only with a ninja and some serious camera problems. Despite the faulty camera (which can get incredibly annoying in tight spots), the game is a lot of fun to play and has great atmosphere. It would've benefited majorly from analog control and perhaps a midstage save point here and there, but on the whole I still dig it. If you're into the whole stealth thing (I am!), check it out.

8

I'm really glad Activision picked up this title and jazzed it up with a host of improvements. Tenchu is a great stealthy adventure title that should tide you over until MGS comes out. The missions are challenging and the music fits the mood of the game perfectly. The enemy Al is spotty and the poor camera will cause more than its share of frustrating moments. These complaints aside, Tenchu is a refreshing, fun and challenging title.

7

I don't understand why Sushi is so down on the voices in Tenchu. Maybe it's just me, but I find them to be rather amusing. But enough about that, Tenchu has other problems. The camera gets to be so @&#$ing frustrating in tight spots that you'll want to throw your controller out the window. It's a bloody shame too, because aside from this and some questionable Al, Tenchu is actually a real solid game. Great atmosphere, too.

Overview

Do you remember, as well as I do, dressing up as a ninja for Halloween? The chance to sneak around and blend into shadows? The upset stomach from too much candy? Where the hell am I going with this, anyway? Oh yes, enter Tenchu: Stealth Assassins from Activision, the mystical realm of Chinese dynasties, and hired assassins known as ninjas. The ninja code and technique is passed down through many generations into your hands, and you must "live by honor, and kill by stealth" if the tradition is to be passed on.

You are to become one of two ninjas under the guidance and power of Master Gohda. Rikimaru is a leader of the Azuma [[Shinobi]]-Ryu ninja sect, and is graced with the swiftness you need as a ninja. Ayame is a young female ninja armed with two swords and a beautiful combo attack that will leave your enemies searching for blood donors. This is the tale of two shadows of justice born unto darkness and destined to die in darkness.... well, maybe.

Gameplay

Let's first of all give it up for Activision for not only making an espionage game, but for making it enjoyable for almost anyone. The patience for the right moment of attack is absolutely outstanding. In most games you go all-out shooting, slicing, and killing everything in sight, but Tenchu turns killing into an art form. This coming from a reviewer that is not into fatalities from Mortal Kombat, or blood-spewing zombies from Resident Evil. Tenchu provides a third-person perspective of what it must have been like to be an assassin before the invention of any guns, and making do with an oversized Ginsu knife and an arsenal of ninja tricks and weapons.

Forget about the side-scrolling past ninja wannabes, and get ready for some arm-amputating, head-decapitating 3D action that will have you wanting a sequel. For starters, I would like to express the ease at which I picked up this game. Upon playing for the very first time, I pretty much was already a full-fledged warrior of darkness. I could control every slice, crouch, and wall-scale imaginable. I had a hard time imitating the double flip while running, but even that came easy with a couple of tries. Tenchu has a Practice Mode which allows entry ninjas to test their patience and the techniques that are clearly spelled out in the manual. The Practice Mode not only helps you sharpen your skills, but also grades you upon completion. The grades are as follows: Thug, Novice, Ninja, Master Ninja, and Grand Master. I have yet to obtain a Grand Master rating but feel you would have to be O.J. Simpson to achieve that. All jokes aside, the Practice Mode is a great tool in your growth into ninjahood (no pun intended).

A trained ninja has an array of weapons, but the game is lifelike and you can only carry so many items. Among these items are a grappling hook (which is not an option but a must), shuriken (Chinese star), Caltrops (multi-pronged spikes to deter followers), mines, grenades, and smoke bombs. Since on some levels there may be small animals that will give away your presence, Tenchu has an option to pick up poison rice. I also found that some of the guards in the game could have opted for a job in the Oval Office after a couple of them also ate the poison rice. While the standard equipment is more than enough to finish the game, you also have a chance to pick up some extra items if you complete a level with a high ninja rating.

Back then, there were no such electronic gadgets as infrared or binoculars, so the ninjas of long ago had to rely on what was referred to as their Ki. In layman's terms, the Ki was actually a supposed sixth sense that allowed them to detect danger and/or an oncoming enemy. The neat thing about the Ki meter is that it is displayed when you get near an enemy. The closer the enemy, the higher the meter reading, and you do not always have to see from your standpoint for the Ki meter to pick them up. Also, you have to worry about being seen by the opposition. Your Ki meter also registers with ?,; !!, !?, with ratings from "your presence has been detected but not pinpointed," right up to "you better get your butt in gear and hide." You will quickly understand how to read the Ki meter, and it will be very useful on your way to that Grand Master ninja rating.

Since this game has a third-person perspective, you have an excellent view of your ninja as you slice and dice your way through the 10 levels of action. Tenchu also allowed you to view from the eyes of your ninja by pressing and holding L1, which allowed full motion camera panning of your current position. When you spotted an enemy, your next objective was to sneak up behind them or wait until you had figured out their guarding procedures. This was the first game I have encountered that brought out the espionage factor in all of us. One complaint I had about Tenchu was the lack of different ways to kill an opponent. I mean you basically had the throat slash, and the decapitating throat slash, and if you're real lucky you get the finger-break into arm-break into neck-break combo. There are more than two ways to kill someone, especially if you are a trained ninja.

As a close to the gameplay section, I would have to say that I really enjoyed each and every level of Tenchu. The simplicity of the controller functions, along with a decent soundtrack, combine to make a great game for a low price. I also have to mention that the addiction and drive to complete a level without ever being seen is something that will keep me busy for a while.

Graphics

Awesome, awesome, awesome; what more can I say? They did a great job on the fluid motion with semi-polygon characters. The action and intensity of the game keep you interested and involved in this movie-like game. They did have the occasional glitches as with any game, but for the most part they helped you. For instance an archer would run from me and sometimes get stuck in a wall while I made chop suey out of his body. All in all, the graphics were good enough to say, "Hey, these graphics look pretty damn good!"

Bottom Line

I for one am proud to say I own this game, and would recommend it to anyone above the age of 14, due to the graphic nature of death (and the blood art you can paint on the wall with your victim's blood). It is a fast-paced game, but you really have to time your kills and sometimes even have to pass up some for the perfect level. It is a great game for the price, and I'm sure will make an exceptional stocking stuffer for the holidays.

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