Review by Sinister187

"Live By Honor. Kill By Stealth."

Everyone loves ninjas, it's a fact, ninjas are cool and they can kill you in the blink of an eye. This holds true in 'Tenchu Z', the latest installment in the long-running stealth series that originated on the PlayStation. This one being exclusive to the powerful, Xbox 360 console, the series is notorious for it's brutal stealth-kills and fun sneaking gameplay, to know more about the game, continue reading on...

Our story centers around...well your own created ninja, whether it be male or female, you have to prove yourself in order to enter the Azuma ninja clan. After all is said and done, you end up taking orders from master ninja, Rikimaru, whom fans of the series should know like the back of their hand by now. The story unfolds through fifty missions, which mainly consist of recovering bombs, assassinating people, rescuing villagers and fighting the occasional boss. All leading up to unraveling a plot to destroy the peaceful land that Lord Gohda has now established. The levels themselves are pretty fun, but the one drawback to this is that you will find yourself replaying the same levels over again, with the same enemy layout, just completing different assignments. The story overall is fairly good, nothing too special, but it will keep you interested.

Everyone seems to dislike the graphics, but I really didn't have a problem with them. Sure, it's not up to par with games like 'Gears Of War' or 'F.E.A.R.' but it still looks fine in it's own right. I thought the environments were clean and nice-looking, some good bump-mapping was in place also. The character models are neat, not super-fancy, with the exception of your created character. Which you can make look as extravagant as you want, mine looks like a full blown demon, the customizable options are nearly endless. I also liked the 'Kill Bill' style blood-sprays that the game utilized, whenever someone is slashed or stabbed with your sword, the blood sprays like a geyser as the lifeless body collapses to the ground. The draw-distance is excellent as well, you can see really far out into the levels without it being cloudy. Water and fire effects are stellar also, I just wish you could actually swim underwater instead of merely diving under with a straw to breathe-out from. One disappointment as I mentioned earlier above was the lack of difference in-between levels, sure the ones we are given are cool and all, but more variety would have been nice. A throwback to the snowy level in the original game would have been sweet. But overall, the game looks clear and good in my eyes.

If you have played any of the 'Tenchu' titles in the past, you can pretty-much know what to expect from this entry. You basically sneak around and stealth-kill enemies until your objective is complete. Or if your mission involves snatching up some documents or merely killing a corrupt person, you can just run through the level until you've reached the target-point. This however takes away from the enjoyment of performing your kills and will ultimately lower your grade at the end of the level. The gameplay is slow and requires patience, using rooftops and peeking around corners are the keys to your ultimate survival in this game. Rushing in 'Rambo' style will more than likely lead to your demise, the enemies must be stalked and murdered quietly. The stealth-kills in this entry are cool, but they don't have that 'epic' feel the ones prior gave you, check out 'Tenchu: Wrath Of Heaven' to see what I mean. Some involve gutting your victim, jumping on their shoulders and stabbing their neck, and the infamous throat-slice, but nothing incredible like Tesshu reaching in his victim's chest and pulling out his heart, with X-Ray shot included. Some new things have been implemented though that increase the coolness of the game, like being able to impale your enemy through doors, performing stealth-kills while hanging from ceilings, chain-linking stealth-kills (Fun stuff) and more. Enemies are still braindead however, they will follow you for a couple of seconds and search around for you after you've vanished and then go about as if nothing had happened. I see the developer's tried to incorporate some new features to make them a bit smarter, but it rarely works, for example, when engaged in combat, slashing your enemy will result in you getting drenched in their blood. After you've disposed of the enemy, if you are still covered in the blood, another enemy will smell you, as it still lingers from off you, but that's about it. They sniff around and continue to walk, sneaking around the areas has been improved a bit, you must watch how much noise you make now, or else you'll be spotted in a second, you have to crawl over small-puddles of water to avoid loud splashes and tip-toe over wooden-boards to avoid squeaks being emitted from them. Boss fights can be a pain unless the right tools are brought and your techniques are put to good-use, blocking and dishing out combos are essential if you want to win these battles. One of the really fun aspects of the game is being able to create your own ninja, yes Rikimaru and Ayame are not playable in this one, but you can still create them, the options are many, and you can always purchase new items, clothes or abilities for your character with the gold you've earned from beating missions. Online play is included as well, in which you can perform co-op missions with a friend, fun stuff.

The music in this entry is fair at best, nothing captivates you like the soundtrack did from the original game, which has the best soundtrack out of the series to this day. It mainly consists of soft rhythms and flutes, when spotted it changes to a more panic-induced beat. It's nothing bad, but certainly nothing great either. Basic sword clashes and blood-sprays occupy the game, as well as water splashes and flickers of flame. The voice-overs are all in Japanese dialogue, and they sound very cool, especially Rikimaru. I just wish more effort could have been put in the music department.

Controls are well done on the 360 controller, it's very easy to pick up and play, the camera has been worked a little better also, they are as follows. The LT button is used with other buttons while RT allows you to strafe, RB is to crouch and LB is to use your selected item. The Left-Trigger moves your character, it is also pressed to cling, the Back button brings up the map of the current level. The Directional-Pad selects items and the Right-Trigger looks around and when clicked enables First-Person View and to aim crosshairs. X is to attack when the sword is drawn and to grab when the sword is sheathed. Y is to reset view, B is to draw your sword as well as to sheath the weapon, A is to jump and finally the Start button is to pause the game.

Overall, 'Tenchu Z' is another awesome entry to a great series, it's pretty long, around fifteen to twenty-hours, if played using stealth. And the replay value is high, considering there is much to unlock as well as getting those beloved 'Achievements'. If you are a fan of the series, you will no doubt, love this one and people new to the series, if you like stealth-games, this one should be right up your alley. Check it out!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/20/07

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