Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
The story to Tenchu: Stealth Assassins centers around two ninjas: Rikimaru and Ayame. Both serve lord Gohda and fight corruption wherever it sets. It is later discovered that princess Kiku has been kidnapped by the evil Lord Mei-oh and his accomplice Onikage. Upon discovery, the two ninjas attempt to track down and rescue Kiku in order to prevent them from using her as leverage against Gohda. The story is told episodically. Players have the option to chose to play as either Rikimaru or Ayame. Both characters have their own backstory. Hence each part of the game is told through the perspective of whichever character one decides to play as. Each part starts off with narration where the background information is revealed. Only at certain points of the game do we get voice acting and cinematics. The story is pretty paper thin, but does become engaging as it progresses. Story 8/10.
The graphics look pretty decent for a 1998 PS1 title. They do look pixelated, but the environments are big and massive. One problem with the graphics is the draw distance. The character looks as if he/she can see only 20 feet. The animations to this game are also very well done. They have shown their age over time by appearing stiff and diametrically wide, but they are still quite satisfying. Especially since the characters are ninjas, they do a great job at realistically conveying the essence of a ninja. Graphics 7/10.
The gameplay in this game is very top-notch. As I stated, the environments are very massive. This makes room for a lot of interactivity and gives players many choices as to how they want to complete each mission. The main thing about this game is level of immersion. Tenchu plays like two games in one: a stealth game and a hack n' slash. Stealth is a key factor in the gameplay department. Each mission requires one not to be seen and each has a ranking system at the end of each level.
Ranking titles range from Novice to Grand Master. The player is rewarded not only for their performance, but also for the amount of stealth kills and time it takes to get to the end of the level. The higher the rank and score, the more items one receives to help benefit the later levels. Which will increase in difficulty as the game progresses.
As was stated, players have the choice to play as either Rikimaru or Ayame. Each has their own fighting abilities and their own sets of combo attacks. Rikimaru (being the guy) excels in strength and prowess, but is slow in attacks. Ayame (being the female) has more variety of combos and is quick, but lacks in strength. I say the game plays like a hack n' slash because the controls don't play like any other stealth game of this generation.
The players can not only sneak around and attack, but they can also pull off various movements that are controlled through pressing each button in a combo fashion. All of the moves feel satisfying and make the player feel like a ninja. When in combat, the square button is used to attack and the directional buttons are used to either block, or attack in a certain direction. Although, being a game where stealth is key factor combat is rather limited. Each move takes precise timing and one must have good reflexes. This feels frustrating at first, but once one gets the hang of the controls, it becomes simple.
On the topic of stealth, each level has its own pattern. Nothing in the game feels recycled. This game has some of the most variety that I've seen in any early 3D stealth action game. Enemies aren't stationary every time one starts the game. Each level has three different enemy layouts and three different scoring boards for each layout. This makes for a varying degree of challenge. Each time the player begins a level with a different layout, he/she is forced to use the environment to his/her advantage and proceed infinitesimally according to the layout. This makes not only for challenge, but also for a great sense of immersion. One really feels like a ninja due to this manner.
Another thing that is satisfying is pulling off stealth kills. Since characters have their own set of weapons, each stealth kill is performed at a varied and timed manner. One has to stand close to the patrolling guard at any different angle and strike at the time when he/she least expects.
The only problems I've encountered are that the camera can be very funny. Sometimes when one hugs the wall and has to peek around the corner, it can be stiffly fixated at a certain angle and only comply when the player reaches a certain point. Another problem is that during fights in closed areas, there have been times where it got stuck on some background structure and blocked my view of fighting until I reached a certain area within the part I was fighting.
Another problem is that there are no checkpoints in this game. Games like Syphon Filter had a checkpoint system within each level and Metal Gear Solid had a save feature one could utilize at point in the game. In Tenchu, the character is only given one life. If he/she dies, the player goes all the way back to the beginning. Another thing is that there is no way on can skip the cutscenes. If the player dies, the player is forced to watch each cutscene again with no way to skip them.
That being said, the gameplay is very solid. There are flaws in the department, but neither one detract from the game's playability. Everything is fun to watch and every dynamic does very great at providing immersion. Gameplay 9/10.
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins is one of the most immersive stealth games I've ever played. It may have aged the weakest of Syphon Filter and the classic Metal Gear Solid, but despite this it's very fun and engaging. That being said, I'm not saying Tenchu is a bad game. Nor am I trying to sound like a fanboy of MGS or Syphon Filter. Tenchu is the most immersive stealth games I've played and is worth checking out for any fan of the stealth action genre. The game is hard and one really has to think according to the layouts. But the amount of realism and depth to the game make it all the more worth checking out.