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A.P.I Review: TENCHU
Developer: Sony Music Entertainment Inc. OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Activision 1 Player
Game Type: Action / Adventure Memory Card
Review Date: October 1998 Dual Shock Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

So, you think you got what it takes to become a Ninja eh?  Let's ya think you can blend in with your surroundings and become one
with the darkness?  How about stealth...ya think you can sneak up on and
surprise an opponent without detection and then disappear back into the
night?  Can ya stand the sight of blood...I mean blood pouring out of a
dead man's body like water out of a busted dam?  Really?  You think you
have all these skills???  Well this game may be just what you have been
looking for then.


Tenchu is primarily an action / adventure style of game with a nice dose
of strategy thrown in for good measure.


I suppose the first word that comes to mind when I think about the
graphics in Tenchu is "fluid".  The entire world and all of the
characters in it are composed of polygons that seem to flow and move
smooth as silk.  

I was also quite impressed with the texture mapping of the characters.
Close-up views yield things like facial features and fine clothing
details.  I suppose to get all of this detail, yet still keep the
framerate moving we would have to suffer somewhere and indeed we do.
All of the characters appear somewhat blocky due to what must be a
comparatively low polygon count per model.   Don't get me wrong, the
characters look fantastic but I would be shirking my duties here if I
didn't point out the flaws and blockiness is definitely one of them.

The background graphics are great, perfectly depicting feudal Japan in
all its glory.  I loved the way the environment is presented, right down
to the wonderfully detailed trees.  The proper feel of the game is set
by the graphics which just seem to mimic and depict the world so
effortlessly that you can't help but be drawn into the surroundings.

Sounds and Effects

The music is exceptional.  Composed and arranged by Noriyuki Asakura,
the wonderful score sets the tone appropriately for the environments
that you play in.  I found the music to be totally unobtrusive yet
compelling all at the same time.  It's one of those special times that
the music fits in with the gameplay seamlessly.

The sound effects are very good as well.  You get a real nice gory,
squishy sound for when blood is spilt (and there is a lot of it).  The
clashing of blades, footsteps on various terrain, weapons being used,
all issue completely realistic sound effects that match the action to a T.

Voice acting is also superb for the occasions that it is used.  The
English translations don't miss a beat and further immerse you into the


Playing Tenchu is all about learning patience and stealth.  Never before
has a game so perfectly blended these traits into an action/adventure

You have a choice at the beginning of the game to play as one of two
characters; Rikimaru is a master in Azuma Shinobi-ryu ninja techniques.
He is strong and deadly and uses a Katana as his weapon of choice.
Ayame is an orphan who has been trained since childhood as a ninja.  She
is extremely fast and versatile and uses a dual knife attack.

I tried the game extensively with both characters and found there to be
an even tradeoff between the two.  Rikimaru is strong but not nearly as
quick as Ayame.  Either character will suffice in the game, it's really
up to you.

Before jumping into the game you can go to the options menu where you
will find a lot of configuration stuff.  You can set up your controller,
set the sound effects and music volume, stereo/mono, Dual Shock on or
off, auto save to memory card, records for each character played and
finally the difficulty (normal or hard).

There is also a very nicely implemented training option, which I highly
recommend you try before jumping into the game!

Once you have set your configurations and selected a character you are
brought to the items screen.  It is here that you can select from
various weapons and items to carry with you on your mission.  The amount
of items that you can carry on each mission is limited and if you should
get killed during a mission the items in your possession are gone for
good.  You can choose from Shurikens (throwing start), Caltrops
(dropping spikes), poison rice, mines, multicolored rice (to use as a
marking trail), smoke bombs and healing potions.  You may also get
awarded special items for out-performing your role as a skilled ninja.

Each level is mission based, which means that before you complete that
level as a successful ninja, you will need to meet the requirements set
at the beginning of each round.  Most of the missions appear simple
enough on paper but trying the pull them off are the real challenge.
Control is dead on (thankfully) and the camera angles for the most part
do a great job tracking the character and action.

For the longest time I was totally unable to complete even the first
mission in this game.  I kept getting to the critical part of the level
and was repeatedly killed.   This happened over and over again until I
finally realized something...For all of my gameplaying life I have
conditioned myself to always taking the offensive.  Fighting games
require you to defeat your opponents and I was always very good at
rushing in there and pummeling them.  Using this strategy in Tenchu gets
you killed, plain and simple.  Don't get me wrong, the mechanics are
certainly in the game to rush in and attack, but the computer AI is
geared to defend against this tactic.  I was literally forced to
re-think the way I played videogames before I could really begin
progressing in this game.  Kill only when necessary and stay out of

Tenchu is all about stealth.  You are after all a trained ninja assassin
and ninja's are known for being sneaky little bastards.  The better you
become at stealth play, the further you will be able to progress in the
game.  Tenchu actually rewards you for being a superior ninja.  You are
able to actually sneak up on guards and other enemies and slit their
throats from behind.  This does several stops them from
alerting others (it's tough to yell with a gaping hole in your throat),
it kills them instantly and finally it eliminates the risk of taking
damage to yourself.  

The game does a wonderful job creating the illusion of playing as a
ninja.  You actually begin to find yourself getting totally immersed
into the elegance of this title.  There was one part where I was wading
silently through a canal stream and then slipping onto the dock and into
an open an unsuspecting enemy whose throat I neatly slit.
It was around this time that I found myself hopelessly drawn into this
game and it's style of play.

To help you along your way you are outfitted with a grappling hook.
This is used for getting you to the rooftops where you can silently
stalk your victims.  Just be careful not to drop down on them from too
high up or you will make too much noise and alert others.  You must also
be careful to not harm innocents.  You can easily become disgraced.  

The game continues to ramp up in difficulty as you progress, but the
nice part is, as you go along you are learning more skills and are
generally ready to meet the more challenging scenarios.  There is also a
nice assortment of rather bizarre and disturbing characters that you
will be running into...oops, I meant to say sneaking up on... The game
is hard, but only impossibly so if you refuse to adapt to the gameplay
style that it presents. 
In closing, Tenchu was a real chore for me to play at first.  It
presented me with a game style that was all but alien to the way I
normally go about playing.  At the point where I was so frustrated that
I almost packed it in, things started to click and fall into place.  At
that point I was hooked and just could not put down my controller.  This
is a wonderfully original title that will provide you with many hours of
enjoyment and challenge. Check it out!

Value for Money

While there are only 10 levels, they are rather huge and take you on a
wonderful journey across feudal Japan.  There is also the choice of
playing the game as one of two characters.  Both characters play very
differently and require special skills to become successful with each

The real value of this title though is the fact that you will probably
want to play it again and again...not only to improve and learn new
methods of killing, but because it is just so much fun to play. 
GRAPHICS: 17/20 For a fighting style game, this was easily one of the most unique and compelling titles that I have ever played. Tenchu is all about learning the ways of the ninja and becoming a successful assassin. The game rivets you to your seat with challenging gameplay, a thought provoking storyline and non-stop suspense as you sneak your way through level after level of action and intriguing twists.

If you are looking for something a bit different than you may be accustomed to playing or just enjoy a great challenge, I highly recommend you pick up Tenchu. So far, it's a one of a kind title that really delivers the goods!
SOUND: 9/10
VALUE: 18/20


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