The rise and fall of Tenchu

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins on the PS1
The lamentable Tenchu Z
Though stealth games seem to be in a sort of decline of their own as the Metal Gear games add more action sequences and Splinter Cell moves in a direction more in-line with Assassin's Creed, tracing the path of Tenchu's decline from its humble beginnings on the PlayStation to the frustrating mess that was Tenchu Z on the 360 is a pretty sad endeavor.

Historically, video games have enjoyed a great wealth of titles starring ninjas, but most, like the Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi games, have relied on over-the-top action and martial arts combat. Released the same year as the original Metal Gear: Solid, but drawing heavily from gameplay developed in the 2D Metal Gear games, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was the first ninja game to allow players to feel like a true ninja assassin. Stealth gameplay has been featured in small doses in everything from Zelda games to survival horror, but Tenchu offered a quality of pure stealth gameplay that was second only to the MGS series and totally unique in its setting and atmosphere.

The series peaked with its third installment which was released on the PS2 as Wrath of Heaven and later on the XBOX as Return from Darkness. With the graphic power of the PS2, the game captured the essence of the PS1 games with tight controls, exciting stealth kills and a satisfying co-op mode.
Subsequent releases, including portable ones on the DS and PSP, have only served to disappoint fans of the originals with lazy programming, frustrating controls, pointless features like build-a-character and storylines that drift ever further away from the one established in the first 3 games.

In the time since Tenchu Z's release, franchise owner From Software has addressed the decline of the series and expressed a desire to put the game in the hands of different developers. This year, the release of Tenchu 4, developed for the Wii by Acquire, the company that delivered the original Japanese version of Stealth Assassins known as Dimensional Ninja Action Movie: Tenchu, will serve as the final test of whether this series, and possibly if pure stealth games as a whole, can survive in the current generation.
9 Comments
9 Comments
Posted by oraknabo
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins on the PS1
The lamentable Tenchu Z
Though stealth games seem to be in a sort of decline of their own as the Metal Gear games add more action sequences and Splinter Cell moves in a direction more in-line with Assassin's Creed, tracing the path of Tenchu's decline from its humble beginnings on the PlayStation to the frustrating mess that was Tenchu Z on the 360 is a pretty sad endeavor.

Historically, video games have enjoyed a great wealth of titles starring ninjas, but most, like the Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi games, have relied on over-the-top action and martial arts combat. Released the same year as the original Metal Gear: Solid, but drawing heavily from gameplay developed in the 2D Metal Gear games, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was the first ninja game to allow players to feel like a true ninja assassin. Stealth gameplay has been featured in small doses in everything from Zelda games to survival horror, but Tenchu offered a quality of pure stealth gameplay that was second only to the MGS series and totally unique in its setting and atmosphere.

The series peaked with its third installment which was released on the PS2 as Wrath of Heaven and later on the XBOX as Return from Darkness. With the graphic power of the PS2, the game captured the essence of the PS1 games with tight controls, exciting stealth kills and a satisfying co-op mode.
Subsequent releases, including portable ones on the DS and PSP, have only served to disappoint fans of the originals with lazy programming, frustrating controls, pointless features like build-a-character and storylines that drift ever further away from the one established in the first 3 games.

In the time since Tenchu Z's release, franchise owner From Software has addressed the decline of the series and expressed a desire to put the game in the hands of different developers. This year, the release of Tenchu 4, developed for the Wii by Acquire, the company that delivered the original Japanese version of Stealth Assassins known as Dimensional Ninja Action Movie: Tenchu, will serve as the final test of whether this series, and possibly if pure stealth games as a whole, can survive in the current generation.
Posted by brukaoru

Excellent write up! I really loved Tenchu on the PS1 and now it's just become a big mess. I hope in another developer's hands, it can become good again.

Posted by creamstatic

what the fu* happened to Tenchu *massive sigh*

Posted by oraknabo

What happened to Tenchu?

  • The first was published by Sony & Activision with Acquire developing
  • 2 was published by Activision with the same developers
  • by 3 Activision was still involved, but From Software took over the rights and K2 took over development
  • At that point Activision drops out of the picture and From licenses the franchise out to Sega (yes, the same people that ruined Sonic) for Fatal Shadows (still developed by K2) and the PSP version which From developed themselves. The DS one was licensed to Nintendo to publish and was also developed by From.
  • Z was licensed to Microsoft for publication and K2 returned to develop, but the drop in quality from their first installment and the next two they did must have something to do with Activision leaving.
  • Earlier this year, K2 got bought by Capcom, leading to speculation that they might have aquired the rights to the series and had plans to fix it, but From retained the rights and decided to hire Sony & Activision's original development team to fix the mess they and K2 had made out of the franchise.

Posted by SM2099

Dude yes!! After finishing Tenchu 3: Wrath of Heaven I felt honorable and anxious to see what would happened next because of the ending. Alas... after that game everything has gone down hill. How sad to see such a cool and deep game go deep into the trash.

Posted by Jayge_

I gotta agree with this one, although the one redeeming quality Z had was the character customization.

Posted by PureRok

I disagree. Tenchu Z is the best Tenchu yet, and the Tenchu franchise is the only stealth/ninja based franchise that is truly what it says it is.

Posted by oraknabo

I have a feeling Tenchu 4 will change your mind about Tenchu Z. Everything I've seen looks like a great update of the original title.

Posted by Rowr

hmm now that you mention it, i realise i generally think of shitty controls whenever i think of stealth games. Not to mention the camera.

Although i thought the controls in Assassins creed were pretty good also considering the new ground it broke in the mechanics of exploring. Though i dont really consider it a true stealth game. Too easy.