"Tenchu Z Pleases Me!"

I must open by stating that I am a Tenchu Veteran (Haven't played Fatal Shadows), who enjoys a wide variety of games, but stealth is probably my favorite (Hitman, Splinter Cell, Thief). Tenchu Z has brought forth a glimmer of hope that the developers are working to improve the series, but it seems like they're not quite sure as to what they need to do. Tenchu Z shows us that they're heading in the right direction!

As far as graphics go, yes... They're not DirectX 10, not even DX 9 from the looks of it. The shadows are somewhat blocky, and the NPCs look a bit like plastic. Does any of it matter? No. Games should not be judged by graphics alone, and they are not so ugly that you need to put a paper bag over every pixel in the game! They do look decent though... I would say more like Tenchu: Return From Darkness with a slight improvement.

The sound is pretty standard, nothing special as far as SFX go, but the music has stayed true to the series. I have personally loved the Japanese-style music that plays as you go. Nothing here will wow you, but the voices are crisp and not as fuzzy as previous games were. Again, nothing special to note here though.

The single-player gameplay is where the gold is for all Tenchu games. I will start by saying it is a little lame that they reuse the same levels repeatedly as you go through the game, but at least the enemy layout varies. Also, you won't play the same level too soon if you go in order of the missions. The combat system sucks, but fortunately you don't have to fight very often! This is a stealth game, people! If you want amazing ninja combat, go play Ninja Gaiden! This game is designed for you to kill unseen, and instantly. It's like the Hitman games... you can't expect to go through a mission blasting every person you see. It's just not how it's done. When you do get to certain key fights where you do need to use standard toe-to-toe combat, it just takes a little practice. It won't be fluid and intuitive like other games, but it's not so horrible you'll want to throw the controller across the room. They give you combat abilities to purchase for a reason. As far as completing missions, you can go straight to the objective quite easily, but it's not really intended for you to play that way. Personally, I like to kill every single enemy on the level before I complete it, which is how I believe the devs intended since the first game was released. You just have to have the right mindset and patience to play the game and enjoy it.

Multiplayer, I have no opinion on as of yet. Online co-op is something I've always wanted from stealth games, and the fact that Tenchu Z has it makes me happy. I wish I could write something about it!

Major improvements are the store/money system and customization of your character. No longer do you have to feel like a generic ninja, although I would have liked different weapon options. Being able to change practically every aspect of what your character looks like, their attributes, and even abilities is great. Make your ninja YOUR way!

My biggest complaint is the AI. It hasn't changed since the beginning of the series. I don't need them to have eagle-vision and detect every move I make, but I expect them to see me if I'm standing 30 feet away right next to a torch with a sword to their buddy's neck. But, it rarely bothers me! I just think about how I'm reducing the idiot population in the game's world!

In closing, if you have played Tenchu before and enjoyed it, this is definitely worth picking up. I can't wait to get started in multiplayer with some buddies, and finish buying all of the abilities/clothing options. The series hasn't aged very well, but they are making some progress. It's definitely not for everyone though, so the difference of opinion in official reviews and on message boards is natural. I truly feel that if the devs fail to make some major improvements soon, Tenchu will solidify itself as a "cult following" and may eventually die out.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/15/07

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