Review by sonofkorol
"Smoke, shadows, blood, and a side order of shuriken"
The shadows are your friend!
Striking from the shadows on a portable system? Time to bust out my ninja mask and my shurikens and have myself some fun. I must say I was fairly sceptical of a handheld Tenchu game, so I was really expecting disappointment. One of the things that really worried me was the new combat system, featuring a somewhat God of War style input system and *gasp* no grappling hooks.
I suppose the thought of not being able to just grapple onto anything and pull myself out of harm in order to lose pursuing guards. Little did I know that new features would make the game even better.
So let's look into Tenchu: Shadow Assassins to see what makes this game so amazing.
The game takes place one year after Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven. After defeating an evil sorcerer who threatened his kingdom, Lord Goda enjoyed relative peace in his lands until an unknown force threatens to start a war in Lord Goda's realm. Rikimaru sets off to stave off the outbreak of war as fellow ninja assassin Ayame tries to rescue a friend from her kidnappers. Plot twists keep you guessing as you get thrown into feudal Japan.
All fears of ruining a Tenchu game are quickly extinguished as you delve into the innovative gameplay system. First of all, the game is based around hiding in the shadows, using a wonderful system of extinguishing flames with water or simply blowing them out to make your own shadows. You can hide in rafters or duck under tables. But what about when you're spotted? Instead of using a tedious 3rd person combat system, Shadow Assassins features a 1st person mini-game style when a guard spots you.
When you are spotted you can try and quickly roll into shadows to hide, but if you are spotted the first person game gets activated, that is, so long as you have a sword, otherwise you disappear into smoke and go to the start of the area again. If you do have a sword you start out in the defence phase, where arrows show up on the screen showing you where the attack will come from. To block you have to move the analog stick in the direction of the arrow. This fills the Tenchu meter and then you get to attack. Tiny blue arrows appear showing you where to attack, and you start prodding him, when it gets nice and low you can annihilate him. As usual, if you surprise a guard you get to hit the square button and stealth kill him, moving the analog stick in a direction to initiate a different kill animation.
The game also has useful items such as the bamboo tube for spraying out torches, shurikens to blow up ammo boxes or stealth kill precariously positioned guards (including knocking them down a well or into a fire, featuring wonderful animations), smoke bombs to blind enemies, and of course your sword to allow the 1st person mini-game to take place if you are spotted.
Though the actual story is fairly short, the replay value is great, from trying to collect hidden map pieces to redoing missions for the coveted Grand Master rank, to doing the agonizingly difficult side missions, you really don't get tired of sneaking around stabbing people.
Oh and I forgot to mention, since there is no grappling hooks, there are no painfully hidden pits to fall down. SCORE!
And the Ninja-eye-view using the triangle button means that you can view where enemies are looking, where there's cover, where there are objects to move, or there is a torch to blow out.
Amazingly done gameplay, especially for a portable system.
The L button allows you to strafe around and run, while the R button allows you to roll to stealth cover in the shadows. The X button helps you blow out candles, open doors, or use items. The side control pad buttons let you scroll through your items. The triangle button let's you, as mentioned above, see the vision of enemies, spot movable objects and torches you can put out, as well as seeing key shadows to hide in. The analog stick is used, obviously, for movement, as well as controlling sword defence and attack in the 1st person mini-game. The square button is your friend though, initiating a stealth insta-kill from the shadows on an enemy, using the analog stick pick which insta-kill you want to use. Circle button let's you jump, and using the L button run you can do a super long jump. Some extra controls get introduced but I'll leave you to figure them out.
Wow. For a PSP game the graphics are stunning. The cinematics look much like the graphics from Crisis Core, and the main gameplay graphics are fantastic, from rain to shadows to the stunning stealth-kill animations. The ninja-eye view is perfect, highlighting movable objects and a red laser-sight style line showing where an enemy is looking. The lighting in the game is perfect, really portraying the stealth nature of the game. All in all it looks stunning, as good if not better than the PS2 Tenchu games.
As in most Tenchu games, the sound is fantastic. The classic orchestra background music is much like the older Tenchu games, setting the mood from sneaking in the shadows to the frantic music when you're spotted. The sound effects are brilliant, from sword slashing noises to footsteps to thunder to the sultry sounds of a neck being cut. The voice acting is much to be expected, from humorous comments of there "obviously being no ninjas around" to the conversations of Rikimaru and various characters. Not to mention the story finally being told through cinematics and not by a narrator. All in all the sound rounds out a perfect portable game with a perfect atmosphere.
If you like creeping in shadows and cutting people up, this game is for you. All in all this game features fantastic graphics, gameplay, and sound. This innovative game is true to the Tenchu series, revolutionizing the series and making it all the more playable. Simply put, if you love a ninja game and own a PSP, get this game. It is the perfect game for your collection, so long as you have the patience and bloodlust to play a Tenchu game. Pass the ninjato and call me a ninja, I want a sequel!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/06/09
Game Release: Tenchu: Shadow Assassins (US, 03/24/09)
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