Tenchu Z Review
Written : Saturday, November 17, 2007
By: Russ Bondi (GT: Tussell)
Tenchu Z is the first game from K2 to be released onto the Xbox 360 console and is the eighth game in the Tenchu series. What sets it apart from the prior entries in the series is that it will allow the player to choose their costume and select virtually every aspect of their character. Also, selection and build up of skills allows more freedom to create your ninja to suit your personal tastes whereas the previous games only allowed the player to choose from pre-made characters. K2 is definitely on their way to getting a better name out there for themselves if they keep it up.
Rather than dealing with fantasy and demons, Tenchu Z brings more realism to the franchise. The country of Gohda, home of the Azuma, is on the brink of war with its neighboring country, Ogawara. As a new part of the clan, the player is sent to assassinate those which are allies with Ogawara. Such victims include army officials as well as spies who have infiltrated Gohda. The player will also be sent to rescue prisoners that have been captured or recover items stolen by the enemy. Between main missions, the player will be given the opportunity to complete optional side missions which include tasks such as the elimination of merchants and bandits. There is no connection between the plot of Tenchu Z and the previous games in the series. The only returning characters are Rikimaru and Lord Gohda.
Hopskotching atop a wall wasn't the best plan Frank had.
The singleplayer campaign's length varies depending on the skill of the player and whether or not you choose to do the side missions. Difficulty level also plays quite a big role in the completion time for the game. On average it may take you anywhere from 10 – 20 hours to complete all the missions. Though Tenchu Z is somewhat short, character customization allows for a certain level of replayability. The character customization includes the clothing on his or her back, the items they bring with them through the missions, as well as the skills they possess. With the full arsenal of items and unlockable moves, it's nearly impossible to not find a different way of completing a mission.
The only large flaw besides the short campaign is the AI. Throughout the franchise, the AI has always been weak. Sadly, they have done very little to fix this. The items are nothing more than eye candy and don't upset the gameplay. This effects the realism, and is disappointing.
Tenchu Z is not much different from any other game in the stealth genre. You hide, you wait, you kill. This game brings forth a lot more fun to the kill, allowing for different ways to execute your enemy. The gameplay isn't much different from the the series; there's only one fighting style, but the way the missions are set up there's really no need for anything more complex. Enemies can now hear the player's footsteps if he or she runs too close to the enemy. The enemies will also hear the footsteps at a further distance due to the player running on certain surfaces such as puddles. Smell is also a factor in certain missions; coming from a cesspool will create a brown haze, telling the player that he can be detected through smell. Lighting is probably the largest factor, as standing or crouching in a dark area lowers the chance of being detected.
Every Wednesday night, we'd dress up and watch the old man undress.
The games controls aren't much out of the ordinary; within the first mission you'll be set to go as far as basic controls are concerned, with the exception of the skills and abilities you learn as you progress such as wall-climbing, which are controlled with a combination of LB and A for example. Execution of an enemy, no matter how it's done will generally be controlled by one button. Tenchu Z is a very user-friendly game in many aspects but I think that the controls are where it excels.
The graphics of Tenchu Z are far from cutting edge, but they're not as ugly as some of what we've already seen released for the next-gen consoles. The cut scenes introducing you to a mission often look better than the actual gameplay graphics themselves. The environments and buildings are nothing special, but don't look as much of a Playstation port attempt as the characters. The characters, when compared to the environment, are nothing more than mediocre although something that may be considered a pro is that the faces aren't visibly flat. It actually shows facial features, rather than a nose being thrown onto a face without dimension which we realise is something we take for granted nowadays but at least they've bothered with this. The biggest problem with the character graphics is the fact that they aren't smooth; they're very blocky... for example, the hair comes to square tip, rather than looking natural, and the same can be said about shadows. They're not natural and look as if the shadow is that of an irregular polygon rather than a person or object.
Though the graphics may not be capable of making the environment and atmosphere very realistic, Tenchu Z's use of music and sounds does. When combined with certain settings, the music makes the atmosphere and environment very believable. The game has an oriental origin, and the Japanese style music isn't surprising. The voice acting is bland; it's clear but isn't anything comical or worth mentioning. The use of special sound effects such as water, animals, etc. definitely adds to the feeling as well but is nothing to benchmark other games by. As for the general sound effects, they're nothing worth mentioning either... In some cases you'll find that they either don't match what's happening or aren't as striking as they should be. Since i can't really comprehend Japanese, the vocal work in the game may as well be reciting nursery rhymes for all I know, but it all adds to the atmosphere and works well. It may seem a bit of an obvious touch, but without it the game would seem a bit odd. As far as ninja games go, it does the job.
Using ninjistic stealth peek abilities, we could happily perv all night long.
The multiplayer in Tenchu Z is anything but impressive. It's virtually the single player campaign played with multiple people, without any extra love at all. Don't get me wrong, the campaign is fun, but when all you have to is walk to beat a mission, it's pointless as far as I'm concerned. It may add a bit of replay value if you're playing it with your friends, but when playing with strangers you'll find they rarely communicate, since there's really nothing to entice any real team work.
As far as the achievements go they're quite easy to attain. Most of them are just 'Kill ____ Number Of _____” or “_______ Number Of Kills”. None of the achievements other than perhaps the various difficulty-related ones are remotely troublesome. If you're playing simply for achievements, nearly all of them can be attained in one to two goes of the game, and with a game that doesn't take long to complete you'll get the achievements pretty fast.
Tenchu Z is far from flawless and nothing more than a mediocre release. Though the achievements are easy, that's not the only thing that will make a game enjoyable. The graphics are generally nothing more than a Playstation port and the single player campaign isn't of an enjoyable length. The user-friendly controls make it easy and the game is quite addictive at first, but once the addiction rubs off you'll find yourself wanting something more. The previous Tenchu games were great, but you would expect more from a next-gen release. If K2 keeps it up, they may be able to hit it off at some point, but until then, we're stuck with this.
The audio involved isn't anything extraordinary, but it does the job just fine. The music is in keeping with the oriental feel, and the lack of comedic remarks keeps the game serious and helps build the setting of feudal Japanese times.
Definitely not something to drool over. The lack of a natural look on almost everything brings down the rating; Tenchu Z was not given any loving in this department, or at least was in development so long it was surpassed by more recent titles. The only thing to really consider a positive, is the fact that things have a somewhat definitive dimension.
There's absolutely no learning involved. As I mentioned before, within the first level or two, you'll have down pretty much everything you need to know to complete the game. The only irritation lies with the camera.
With a major lack of multiplayer and quick single player, it's hard to say the game was outstanding. The multiplayer lacks most of what usually makes multiplayer games fun, due to people just rushing levels and no real teamwork being required.
The achievements are incredibly easy to attain when given the effort, and not much time is needed. Once you complete the game, you'll probably not feel even remotely enticed to play through it again to get the different difficulty related achievements, but should you decide you do it's really not that taxing at all.
Lacking most of what makes a game exciting, Tenchu Z still seems to hold your attention for the time it takes to complete the game. As for the multiplayer, it is virtually non-existent. This game could have been so much more but fails to impress on too many levels to warrant giving it any sympathy votes, and as such scores very low overall. Here's hoping K2 give us a far more polished sequel to rid the ugly taste from our mouths.