From Shinobi to Ninja Gaiden, gamers have loved immersing themselves in the dark underworld where these deadly killers operate. However this isnít your older brotherís ninja game from yester-year. This is a beautifully realized 3D world where stealth is as big as a weapon as your sword.
If you are a fan of the aforementioned Ninja games of old, then you had better get down to your local vid store because your ship has come in! This game finally offers gamers the chance to experience what being a Ninja would have been like. Choose from either a male or female ninja and dish out your own brand of justice in feudal Japan over some large 3D landscapes that include, towns, forests, caverns, ships and castles.
Tenchu sports some fine graphics, although donít be expecting Metal Gear Solid. The environments are dark (of course Ninjaís tend to work at night) but sometimes they are too dark. Generally though, if you need to something, youíll see it.
Controlling your Ninja is a dream, even with the digital controller (oddly enough there is no analog control for this game). Your main source of fighting is done with your sword, but you can also choose some extra weapons to help out. Of course, Shurikens top the list, but you will find many others that are just as useful, such as the smoke bombs, grenades and a potion that speeds up your movement. One of the best tools is the grappling hook, which no Ninja should leave home without. You can use this handy item to reach the rooftops in an instant, or to cross a dangerous chasm. It is always at your disposal and is great for taking to the skies when things heat up on the ground.
As I mentioned, stealth plays a big part in this game. Your Ki power, acts as your sixth sense and will inform you when an enemy knows or suspects of your presence. Your Ki meter is always on screen and alerts you with handy "?" or "!!" symbols when an enemy is nearby. If you can get the drop on an unsuspecting enemy, you can take him/her out with a speedy decapitation or disembowelment. I told you it was violent.
Musically this game really shines. The music is a hybrid of Japanese music and funky 90ís sounds. It works really well and I must say that it captured the atmosphere of the game 100%. Some of the offkey piano riffs later in the game, really set my nerves on edge.
The voice acting is a bone of contention with me. Well, not so much the acting as the scripting. Ayame (the female) is a wise cracking, trash talking Ninja. Come on, this game has so much class that we donít need to cheapen it with this Generation X garbage. I havenít played the original Japanese game, but Iíd bet she behaves much differently. I guess Sony thinks that North Americanís wonít understand the characters unless they are dripping with Ďtude.í Ughhhh.
Besides the scripting, itís the 3D camera that is Tenchuís biggest enemy. It puts you into some frustrating positions that if you donít rectify it toots sweet, youíre dead meat. And with only one life, large intricate levels and the save points found at the completion of the level, your blood pressure will go up. This is one tough game, and itís pretty unforgivable to die because you canít see your character. However, there is so much to like in this game, that I will overlook that, and see it as a real challenge.
If you think of this game as Metal Gear Solid lite, youíd be pretty close. It features a lot of gameplay mechanics that are reminiscent of the Metal Gear Demo that I played. Itís a generation above Nightmare Creatures and a half generation below MGS. Above all, itís a helluva lot of fun. Itís sure to keep you good and occupied until Solid Snake shows up and kicks your ass. My recommendation? Buy it right now!