Game Review - by Jeremiah Pratt
As many can claim, the mystic of the ninja stands to this day. No one knows if they existed. Or maybe they were so stealthy no one knew of their presence. The arts of the ninja stay secret to this day. They were in fact the middle age version of Special Ops. Well Activision does there best to simulate or portray these stealth assassins. Unfortunately they did a half-baked job at it. Leaving us wanting more from this promising game. I mean how can you go wrong it mixes the elements of such winners Tomb Raider and Samurai Showdown.
The Story is based during a time of great turmoil. Bitter wars raged as those in power sought yet more power, but only chaos prevailed. There was but one beacon of hope shining amidst the madness-Matsunoshin Gohda who ruled his people with wisdom, compassion, and justice. Behind the great man were two ninjas who were sworn to serve and protect their master to the death. Rikimaru, a leader of the Azuma Shinobi-ryu ninja sect, and Ayame, a young female ninja, sully their hands with the blood of the wicked and unjust far from the public's eye. This is the tale of two shadows of justice born unto darkness and destined to die in darkness…
The Features lack in some basic fundamentals. Although you have analog force/vibration control, you don't have choice of controls. You must select from a list…sigh. Also there is a much needed pause inventory screen. What you do is get an on screen inventory, where you must select on the fly. I admit when getting shot at, the on the fly system works. But you must be on your toes at all times. Requiring massive concentration, and strategy.
The Graphics are how do you say O.K. Yeah that's it O.K. most of the stages take place at night. This leaves you with dull bland colors. Now of course we are staying less bias by not comparing to the PC capabilities. But still they are bland and not finished to satisfactory. What I mean by the last statement, the stage boundaries are not defined. Now you think great I can run into the vast void. Which is exactly what you will encounter. Sometimes finding you're characters running against this void. Or worse yet clipping through a wall. The Character Bodies are somewhat blocky; not that well defined either. More cartoonish I would say. There is a bright side; the characters sport some rocking animation. Especially, ensuing a stealth kill. Now warn your kids these animations are not for the faint of heart.
The sound effects took a nosedive. Your characters only speak during cut scenes. Then again I forgot they are ninja, whoops never mind then. I can gripe about the NPC's (non-player character), they only cry out a few phrases. The coolest thing done in the name of ambient sounds, for instance when your heart beat increases while you are spotted. The Musical Score thank goodness is good. I really enjoyed the piano tunes, and when the Asian singers kick in, oh boy. I was extremely delighted with the music, kept me awake too. All that sneaking around makes me tired.
The Gameplay is a mixed bag of goodies. The most innovative feature is the KI meter. In short this is your ninja radar or sixth sense. Your stealthy assassin can even sense the distance of a guard or animal. Actually whatever moves your trusty ninja can sense it. More on the KI meter, which is capable of even detecting the alertness of the enemy. Now while learning the ropes of your KI meter. You may wish to learn the fine art of the grappling hook. This baby is essential to your stealthy cause. I had so much fun I got carried away imitating Tarzan. Among other things, you have a plethora of cool items to use. The tough part is choosing which ones to take for the mission. This is what makes the game quite interesting actually using these items. For instance the smoke bomb is used to escape. Another example being poison rice which temporally disables your foe. And I can't forget the ninja stars; man those things are fun. Now there is an issue on the number of items you can carry. Being able to pick up your missing items solves this problem.
This game does the feared, which is not live up to its potential. Tenchu crashes down in the fundamentals. The Graphics and ambient sounds took the day off. The gameplay is well thought out but gets tedious and difficult. The game AI is really jacked up, making it hard even on the easiest setting. You must remember though this game requires patience, thought, and of course stealth. Don't go Rambo, it only alerts every guard in the game. I'd have to say more should have been done graphically. Some things left you feeling, "man this is not done right". What we fear the most, are the small graphic errors, and certain gameplay factors. Which do effect the game, leaving it with a "half-baked" aura.