|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Microsoft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Greig McAllister
March 5, 2007 - Throughout the years, fans have been waiting for a Tenchu that they can enjoy as much as the original. So far, they have been disappointed in their dream, but come May 2007, Microsoft Game Studios hope to change that with Tenchu Z.
Tenchu Z brings us back to the beloved setting of ancient Japan where you will play as a custom made character, rather than Rikimaru as you have in the past. He will be your master as he guides you through over fifty missions throughout the story. You must use every tool at your disposal, such as grappling hooks and cloaking techniques, to eliminate the enemy. As you complete each mission, you will learn new techniques for the elimination of your adversary.
Unfortunately, your adversaries are shockingly dim-witted and immensely easy to eliminate even if they manage to glimpse you before you can kill them which takes away from the excitement and tension of sneaking around. One might even go so far as to say that you could probably run through the streets in a toga and nobody would so much as draw their sword at you. Equally disheartening is the shocking lack of actual hand-to-hand combat sword combos. After watching four different clips containing gameplay footage, I only saw one combo used in all four. Combine this with the fact that it takes a two button sequence to do something as simple as drawing your sword and you may have a problem.
On a positive note though, the graphics, while not entirely next-gen, have received a sizeable upgrade in regards to detail. Also, the cinematic sequences are stunning. It is unfortunate that the beautiful detail did not carry over into the gameplay. Although the game will be in HD, it has not yet been made known what resolutions will be supported.
As mentioned earlier, the controls, which have a notorious history, don't seem to have been improved by a noticeable margin. Based on hands-on demos, the controls only flow together once you have mastered them, which is quite difficult to do, and the camera controls seem pretty nonexistent as I stated before. There was one instance I remember where the player was standing on a wall and the camera was looking straight up, which is not good news considering the fact that your enemies are on the ground below you. Not to mention the very unpleasant experience of having the camera looking up the male character's robe. Not a pretty picture.
Also on the sketchy side of things was the sound. While I did enjoy the music in the cinematic sequences quite a bit, the actual sound effects were slightly repetitive and unimpressive. Sound effects include swords clashing together and grunting from the character as they execute the same combo over and over.
Now don't get me wrong, even with so many things up in the air, there were quite a few things that caught my attention in a good way while studying Tenchu Z. The kill moves are pretty awesome looking and there is quite an array available, although there was no information available to determine whether the player has any control over which one they use or if it is simply based on the character's position in relation to his enemy. Another thing that impressed me was the Create-a-Character feature. This feature allows the player to create their own character (there is of course a female model for the ladies of gaming out there), which they will use in the single player story mode. You have the option of customizing all of your character's attributes, from choosing the color of their hair to choosing how much agility they have.
So far, I have found no confirmation that there will be a multiplayer option, whether on Xbox Live or with your friends at home, but there is a cooperative option of up to four players in the Japanese version. This has led to speculation that there will also be a co-op option in the U.S. version although this has been neither confirmed nor denied by Microsoft Game Studios.
All things considered, I honestly believe that this game will likely only appeal to gamers that are already fans of the franchise and possibly may attract particularly curious gamers, but it does not seem to me that many new players will pick up copies of their own. In my opinion, it doesn't appear that Tenchu Z will actually be a bad game, but when compared to such heavy hitters in the Stealth genre as Splinter Cell: Double Agent and Assassin's Creed, it's likely that most casual gamers will simply not notice it on the shelf or may not be willing to part with their hard-earned cash when there are other options that appear much more enticing. Only time will tell if Tenchu Z will be a smashing hit in the franchise's next-gen debut, or if it will simply fly in under the radar and remain unknown to the casual gamer.
CCC Freelance Writer