Review by Priss Asagiri
"A step in the right direction, or a swing and a miss?"
The original Tenchu, released for the Sony Playstation in 1998, was and still is a fan-favorite. Aside from one low-scoring review on this site, it's highly praised. The Tenchu series has had it's ups and downs over the years, and it's spawned two very different types of fans. I am the sort of Tenchu fan that feels that this is a niche type of game, it's just Tenchu and it is fine that way (sort of like the Warriors series, you always know what you're getting), where as most of the fans think that radical change to the formula was needed.
This is where I have my problems, more or less. When playing as Rikimaru, the game feels slow and clunky, it's almost indescribable. Your interactions with the environment and enemies (which include such things as blowing out flames to give you more hiding places, to sneaking up behind an enemy to silently dispatch him) are always surprising in their inconsistencies...you can be feet away from a lamp and blow it out, but you have to be RIGHT up to an enemy to kill him. Needless to say, there can be some very awkward moments with what you can and can't do, and it seems like it's random with what works and what doesn't.
Rikimaru's problems are a sharp contrast to Ayame, who plays like a dream. Your jumps feel just right, your speed is similar to the other Tenchu games, and her stealth kills have a good deal of variety. My main problems aren't with Rikimaru, rather the core of the game it's self. The wii-mote has always been iffy for me, so trying to operate a game that you feel like you should know with an unfamiliar input method is hectic. It seems like this game throws it's past into the wind and drops you into the fray, leaving players of the previous games at a disadvantage. Some enemies can not be snuck-up behind, and must be drawn to you using a baiting sort of method. I guess my real problem with the gameplay is that I was too used to previous Tenchu titles, and was slow to pick up on how this plays. Not to mention, I'm bad with a wii-mote.
With the release of Tenchu Z for the Xbox 360, things got a little strange. A lot of unanswered questions, like where the heck Ayame went and how Shigi seemed to know Rikimaru, came up. Sure, okay, that's confusing as it is, but it's even more confusing when that game seems to have not played any part in the real story of the series. Ever see AVGN's "Chronologically Confused About Zelda"? Yeah, it's like that.
Anyway, the plot is like this: one year after the original game, Lord Goda's kingdom is still in shambles. With rumors of a betrayal in the works, Rikimaru and Ayame are sent to gather information by Lord Goda. As fate would have it, Ayame witnesses Lord Goda's daughter, Princess Kiku, being kidnapped by a mysterious fortune teller and gives chase. The two characters stages are split between Rikimaru's information gathering and Ayame's attempted rescue of Princess Kiku. The story and stages feel right at home, it feels like a Tenchu game. Although it's not exactly a remarkable story, it advances the plot of the series.
Ah, I've been waiting to talk about this! While I am not very fond of the character designs of Rikimaru and Ayame, I really have to say that the graphics are quite good. Sure, there isn't a lot of variety in the enemies, but that has been true ever since the original game. Everything looks good, and I'm quite impressed.
As for the sound, that's another story! I own both the original Tenchu and Tenchu 2's soundtracks and listen to them quite often, I'm a big fan of Noriyuki Asakura's music. But the soundtrack for this game really feels out of place, and excuse my manners, but it really sounds bad. Each song in the previous games really fit the stages, and the music in this game was a let down. But hey, games in this day and age really can't have big points taken off for music, right? We don't rely on music in the same way that the PS1 era did.
Tenchu 4 is interesting in the sense that you really notice how gaming has advanced. And I really find myself torn between liking this game and disliking it. I bought this game because I wanted to play a new Tenchu game, and this doesn't follow the games as much as one would think. But is THIS Tenchu now? Nothing lasts forever, and change is a sure thing. Maybe it is both a step in the right direction and a swing and a miss, as my title asks. I'm sure that, in time, the formula will be perfected again and we will have a Tenchu game that all fans of both types can enjoy.
If you are a fan of the series, buy this game. If you aren't, rent it first. Who knows, you may like it! But I really have to say, this game was a let down. Maybe it's my inability with a wii-mote, maybe it's the sudden radical changes to the gameplay, or maybe this game really IS a bad game. All I can say is that I was disappointed, and share my opinion with you all.
OVER ALL: 5/10
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 05/07/09
Game Release: Tenchu: Shadow Assassins (US, 02/05/09)
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