Review by lastfirstborn

Reviewed: 06/14/07

Let your light shine, like the pale moonlight upon a placid lake.

Hello, fellow children of shadow. You're here because you're wondering how the latest installment in the Tenchu series is, yes? Read on, my good gamer, and see if this title is for you!

During a time, when some 360 titles have lost their polish, and some fun factor has died down, this game comes along to save us. I'm by no means bashing what's out there, it's great. In fact, I can think of at least five other 360 titles that may be "better" and much more different from this one. But, I've played them. I need something new. I need something that reminds me of the good ole days in gaming. Along came Tenchu Z, the fourth in the franchise (for consoles anyway). Tenchu came around and wowed me on the PSX(one) ages ago, as a first, or second quarter title. By today's standards it's more than dated, but the love of subject matter, and the awesome stealth gameplay shine on in this newest title in the series. Over the top, but cool bosses, large outdoor maps peppered with indoor environs to sneak into, loads of cool ninja gadgets and toys, and a beautiful stealth kills system are only a few of the many perks. They all take me back, but keep suprising me in new ways I'd never imagined back when the first title came out. If you get a chance to purchase all the old playstation (and xbox!) titles, do yourself a favor and snatch em up before someone else does.

Graphics - 8/10 I go with an 8, because I've seen the 360 churn out much smoother and more detailed graphics without a problem on a handful of titles. Does this mean the graphics are bad, or glitchy? NO. By NO means. They more than get the job done. They definately don't take you out of the game. You can clothe your character in a myriad of clothing types and accesories too, and the detail on this stuff is simply amazing, actually. The bad guys (and innocents) all start to look the same after around 35 missions of the 50 open to you, but that's also not a bad thing at all. The environments range from fairly small for the system it's running on, to very, very big, complete with indoor areas to explore as well as the large outdoor environs. There are temples, gambling dens, caves, forests, villages, municiple complexes, mansions, and much, much more. Everything is detailed and real enough looking to more than get you into the gameplay itself. Weapons are cool, and varied for both you and your enemies. Everything looks good in terms of dirt, water, blood, wood, stone, etc. Every character moves, for the most part, VERY realistically as well. Ocasionally there is a small graphical hiccup, which lowered my score in this catergory from a 9 to an 8. But mostly, nothing sticks out from walls (maybe a guy's shadow here and there, rarely), and no one glitches into objects or on top of them. Good stuff here, the overall is average, but the detail puts it above average to me.

Sound - 10/10 The sound is just fine. It sounds just like the other games in it's series, but better, naturally. It brings back memories. Swords clash, traps go off, bombs explode, matchlock guns fire in the night. Men and women speak to one another, themselves, you, and anyone else around. Animals sniff and bark and move about, crunching in the tall grass. Grass sways, water runs, caves echo. Your ninja shoes make little to no sound, like they should, and are realistic. You can also run full speed, jump around, and make all kinds of noise, and it makes sense how enemies respond to the sounds. Everything is good here. The only slight problem (which is an overall game problem and not a sound issue), is that some of the dialouge the guards display, and some of the sound effects, do become very monotonous. But you'll find that "problem" in many games out there, throughout time.

Gameplay - 9/10 Why a nine? Only for one reason really. It can get very repetative. There isn't much to change here. Read on, for the positives, though. There is *some* variety to the missions, enough to make me give the game a 9 and not a 7ish. Deliver a letter in the night, find packages (plot explains) all over villages, assassinate a VARIETY of targets, stalking, rescue, and general ninja activity. 98% of the time, you will be stalking foes, learning patterns (usually), positioning yourself throughout the level to get a good vantage point, and executing as many people as possible, unheard, unseen. See, to get the Ninja 5 Rank (best) in a level, you must be seen very little, the time "alert" mode is up needs to be VERY short second-wise, and you need as many stealth and special kills as you can pack in. You would think, for a ninja, especially one delievering a letter or reaching a checkpoint bridge FAST in the night, you'd want to not be seen, and not have any kills, actually. But no, not how it works here. Which is another reason I took off a single point in this catergory. There is a map, mission select screen, where you can usually choose from around 8 missions at a time to do. Storyline missions (to go ahead with the plot) are marked clearly, so it's up to you what kind of "bonus" missions you do for more money, clothing, objects, move sets, and skills. You use money earned from ninja missions to earn everything I just mentioned in the previous sentence. You will need it. You can also customize how strong, fast, and durable your ninja is. Male or female options are present, as well as tons of hair styles, acessories, and literally HUNDREDS of clothing types for upper and lower body, and everything in between. You'll spend many missions building up the storyline before you even encounter a single boss. To me, this is a blessing to the series. I used to love playing a level, and hate reaching a boss at the end, sort of took me out of the "stealth assassin" mode I was in. In this game, your hit, maybe considered a type of boss, can die like any other human being. You sneak up to them (hard to get to, sometimes, other times not at all), and if you are in stealth mode still, they die in one hit. But, don't mistake this for the game being easy. There ARE still "true" boss conflicts, and some of them are tough. It's frustrating to plan a level out, finally kill just about every armed guy off, reach a boss, and die, only to start over again. Luckily, when you restart the level, most are very easy to memorize, and the guard patterns won't have changed. There are repeats of some levels, but it isn't often, and usually it's different in that it's day or night. Also, enemy positions, and your overall goals will change. It makes sense, trust me. You have a Ki Meter, which is basically how you will track where living beings are around you, how close, what mood (mode of alert etc) they are in, and things like that. You can use a variety of items and your own environment to sneak up to or near potential prey or people you wish to knock out (removes them for around five minutes). The best and most classic approach, is to use your trustly, unlimited use, all purpose grappling hook. It can get you up fairly high, and you can survey your prey from this vantage, then drop down silently for the kill. You can also wall press and peek around corners, like many stealth games in the genre. Hitting the rooftops, dropping into high grass or bushes, and getting your kill silently, them rushing over to kill yet another bad guy, is a great feeling. The planning involved is often minimal, and it just feels great, like I said before. You have tons of items to poison, distract, and conceal, as well as capture, help you escape, and much more. From ninja stars, to spears, bow and arrow, to gas or smoke bombs, you'll find what you like here and more! There is also more to even the stages and bad guys, since there are animals guards too (even bears!), traps in some levels, and some stuff that just makes you smelly (for animals and even some people to track, like falling into the cess pit dug behind houses...yeah, it's that realistic!).

In the end, this game is marred by slightly unfair difficulty on Hard mode, and the repetative nature in general (found in most assassin missions). Other than those problems, which you'll hardly notice if you're a quick learner and love the subject matter (ninjas, stealth, or anything of that ilk), you'll find this game VERY exciting and fun to play. I personally, haven't tired of stalking and mercilessly slaying each enemy (armed male or ninja female) in a level for high rank and money, then acing the target like a pro, unseen. I've spent ten hours on it so far, getting Ninja 5 rank on every mission I can, and I'm only nearing the 20th mission, of 50! It's all how you play and what you put into it. Which brings me to...

Multiplayer - 10/10 It's come to my attention, on this title in particular, that everyone loves teamwork and team gameplay modes in this title. It delievers what it offers, no more, no less. Multiplayer online is hard to judge, so I'm scoring based simply on the gameplay. There are a variety of missions to undertake with up to four players. There are double stealth kills and things like this. There are items, baddies, and cool maps, just like in the single player or system link two play modes. But, some may find it hard to find players that are serious about the levels. Some may want to ruin others' good times, by just hacking and slashing through a level, with no stealth. Others may want to throw bombs at you, instead of your foes. This silly behavior will ruin your Ninja Ranking. Sadly, there isn't much to be done about this just yet, other than meeting good people in the (very cool!) lobby, and agreeing on a gameplan. If played correctly, however, I'd say, again, it brings what it promises. And that is, multiplayer stealth killing action! There isn't much like it out there honestly, especially anything new(er), so if you want to play with buddies online, you should be pretty happy here!

In closing, I give this title a 9/10 overall. Newcomers should catch on quick, and enjoy. Old schoolers to the series will find plenty new here to be in awe of, and still feel at home slitting up the baddies (and innocents, if you choose, you sickos). You'll really get into the ninja element, and probably enjoy dressing up your assassin as well, in true ninja fashion. Or bandit, or animal goes on and on. If you like ninjas, samurai, undead, stealth, assassins, or anything else of that ilk, you won't be dissapointed. I recommend a buy, if you want to perfect each mission, and you want to see all 50 plus. Also, if you dig multiplayer of a different variety, this will please you for quite a while, as the community, largely so far, is pretty cool. If, however, you're unsure about the genre, don't like the subject matter in the genre, or you absolutely NEED all your games looking like Gears of War, rent first, please. You can still play many of the missions, and gain some kill achievements and mission achievements just in the five day period, if you really rush through and play around 7 hours a day.

In the end, I give this one a buy. I sure did, and I'm loving it. Playing the missions, seeing old (and new) faces, hitting up multiplayer, becoming quickly addicted to buying the clothes and moves and's all very time consuming, and I feel, worth a 60 dollar price tag. If you love stalking your prey and assassinating them with a blade, you'll find it worth the price too.

Keep to the shadows friends,
~ lastfirstborn

Live GT: lastfirstborn

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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