Tenchu Z Review

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Graphics: 7.5
Sound : 6.5
Gameplay : 6.0
Multiplayer : 6.5
Overall : 6.7
Review by Andy Levine
It’s hard not to have high hopes knowing your about to delve into a world filled with ninjas and Asian drug lords, so needless to say Tenchu Z seemed like a great idea on paper. As a fully customizable assassin, you’ll have to take down Japanese kingpins and rescue hostages while remaining virtually undetected the whole time. Unfortunately, the AI is worthless, the level designs are repetitive, and there’s no motivation to use most of the features available. If you were expecting to play an immersive ninja title, Tenchu Z will only let you down.

To start off, the control scheme is far from intuitive. Basic commands, such as unsheathing your sword and attacking, can be completed by the press of a button. However, it’s relatively difficult to perform even the most simple stealth maneuvers. For instance, if you want to crawl through a small passage you need to hold down a combination of triggers and buttons, as well as move using the control stick, just to slide around on the floor. As a ninja, you’re capable of peeping through doors, creeping up against walls, and you even have a grapple hook at your disposal to fly across the world undetected. The only problem is that it’s so much easier to barge through doors and slash up everything in sight than to utilize stealth. More often than not you’ll give away your location by fumbling around with the controls when you really intended to remain hidden.

Even if you do manage to master the controls, you’ll only find that you’ve wasted your time doing so. Aside from the fact that you could potentially achieve a better mission ranking, no stealth is required at all to complete a mission. In the games fifty or so levels, most of the time you can hop from rooftop to rooftop until you find the bosses location, and then you can stab him a few times and be done. The AI opponents all have a serious case of ADD; you could be dueling with them one second, and if you just run around a wall for cover they immediately forget about you. Even on the hardest difficulty, jumping your way to cover is enough to get rid of swarms of rival ninjas.

As far as character progression goes, you start off with a barebones ninja and only move up from there. You can redistribute your skills in Strength, Vitality and Agility, but changing these attributes doesn’t have an incredibly noticeable impact (aside from vitality, which directly determines how much health you have). As you earn gold from missions, you’ll be able to buy special items, clothes, and new skills and abilities. The item selection is pretty extensive, including favorites like shurikens to traps and even a decoy cake that will poison anything that consumes it. New combos can be learned if you want to vary up the beatings you put down, but there’s no need for any of this. Any group of enemies you come across can easily be wiped out by repeatedly pressing ‘X’, making it really hard to get into any of the additional weaponry or moves available.

On Xbox Live, up to four people can work together on the same mission. Playing cooperatively, you can setup some gruesome traps, such as when a buddy grabs an enemy and you run your katana right through his stomach. Your objective while working together is to simply wipe out every foe in sight, but one bad player in a room can ruin it for everyone. If a fellow ninja dies the mission is over, and even if he doesn’t die one player is still capable of aggravating a hoard of baddies. In the ranked mode, you compete against others on the same mission to earn Shinobi points, which allow you to compare your rank internationally. There aren’t any head-to-head duels or anything of that nature, but considering how this game plays this isn’t a total loss.

The visuals in Tenchu are well done and the sound has its perks, but the presentation still didn’t live up to our expectations. Surprisingly enough, the environments were well detailed with brilliant lighting effects and great Asian architecture, but the animations are just horrid. Characters have choppy movements, which isn’t very ninja-like at all. The camera has a hard time following the action and gets lost on occasion, but even if you can view the action you won’t be in for a treat. It wasn’t uncommon for our sword to completely miss an enemy, only to have blood spurt from his stomach everywhere. The death animations are extremely repetitive, and the effects are poor at best. In regards to sound, the soundtrack is fitting, although not very diverse, and the sound effects will bother you after a while. Hearing the same grunts over and over again during each attack can be bothering, especially considering how everybody is yelling in a foreign language. As a whole though, the presentation is the least of this game’s worries.

In conclusion, Tenchu Z seemed like it had great potential at the start, but sadly the developers just couldn’t put it together. Instead of being immersed into the life of a ninja, Tenchu on the 360 feels just like any other button masher. It was a major letdown considering the extensive weaponry and ninja moves available, but in the end this game runs dry fast. It might be worth a rent if you’re looking for a change of pace, but otherwise you’re best off waiting for a more polished ninja action thriller.
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