Tenchu 2: Birth of the Assassins Review
"It's awesome baby, it's awesome". Those are the words that describe Tenchu 2. The prequel to the 1998 smash hit title Tenchu, Tenchu 2: Birth of the Assassins is a prequel telling the tale of Rikimaru, Ayame and Tatsumaru. Tenchu was dubbed as Metal Gear with swords and they were basically right about that. Much like Metal Gear Solid, the point of Tenchu is stealth, you have the choice of being either Rikimaru or Ayame. You will creep around areas hiding and trying to keep yourself as hush-hush as possible. Getting yourself noticed will result in your enemy tracking you down and eventually engaging with you in a battle. The first Tenchu was an excellent game, excelling in many aspects, particularly in gameplay, but the one thing that the game had lacked was a deep story and this is where Tenchu 2 comes in. Tenchu 2 is a gap filler that brings you back in time as you learn about Rikimaru's and Ayame's past and witness plot twisting events that will surely grasp your attention. Originally believed to be released on the PS2, Tenchu 2 has arrived on the Playstation so see how it did.
The visuals have clearly been improved but not in a very dramatic state. The first Tenchu had great visuals but they weren't the best and couldn't compare to those in Metal Gear Solid or Crash Bandicoot: Warped even. Still Tenchu had desirable graphics that set the Ninja mood and made you feel as if you were an Azuma Ninja. Tenchu 2's visual improvement shows in the character detail as well as environmental detail, but lacks in the distance of view due to fog covered draw-in. All on-screen characters such as Rikimaru and Ayame look fantastic, the bodies are well sculpted and have very minor collision problems or in other words polygonal clipping. Everything flows smoothly most of the times, though on occasion some slowdown may occur when there is too much action on one screen, but that is a rare instance. Draw-in is an issue in Tenchu 2, it is exceptionally noticeable but it is covered up by a fog like effect. The draw-in is somewhat of a big 'drawback', since Tenchu 2 is based around stealth it may be hard for you to see your enemy from a farther distance and know when to be cautious, although thankfully there is a gauge (Ki meter) which displays a number (0-100) on how close you may be getting to an enemy. Going back to the brighter side of things, I can safely say that Tenchu 2 has wonderfully detailed environments, which like the first Tenchu brings out liveliness of the game. The little extras such as the realistic looking blood, water and lighting effects make Tenchu 2 a pleasing game to look at but at the same time due to the constraints of the draw-in a harder game to play. Overall great visuals, but a few setbacks.
Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to be a ninja more than anything in the world when you grew up, back then when ninjas were "cool"? Okay, so that may never happen but you can get close playing Tenchu 2, the sleek and stealthy gameplay not to mention that outrageous looking stealth kills, are about as close as you will to becoming a full fledged Ninja. For starters there are a variety of stealth kills to accomplish, we have the infamous neck slice, the sword body thrust and release, the neck slice and body thrust, bone breaker followed by a neck break, and on a count of that we also have the head chop which occurs once every blue moon (sarcastically speaking). Each kill has a level of point value, stealth kills reward you with 20 points, normal kills are 5 points, Not getting spotted by an enemy gives you 300 big ones, but getting spotted deducts 30 and murdering innocent villagers slashes 150 points from your final score. The stealth aspect in Tenchu 2 is every bit as important as the first ones, in-fact in order to survive without using any med-kits, you will always have to confront your enemy by surprise attacking him, that is the best method of collecting med-kits for the future.
Now let's talk about a brand new feature in Tenchu 2 and that is the mission editor. Like some of Activision's future titles (Mat Hoffman and Tony Hawk 2), Tenchu 2 also features a level editing feature which lets you set up to thirty enemies on one screen, ranging on appearance depending on which environment you chose. Planting an enemy down in your mission editor also requires you to set his/her footpath and where in the footpath they pause. Enemies aren't the only things that you set, but the terrain such as trees, rocks, waterfalls, slopes, grass, mud, water and watchtowers are a must if you are planning on creating a stealth mission. There is an assortment of missions to pick from, assassinate, to eliminate, and stealth. There are many things to do in the mission editor and I have only described about a quarter of it, I want to leave some excitement so I don't completely give it all away. Tenchu 2 is very story driven, unlike its predecessor. The game has an exceptional amount of plot twisting events (as I said before) that will surely grasp the gamer's attention. Tenchu 2's storyline is filled with revenge, love and betrayal; each of those categories plays a big role in the game. T2 also provides quite a challenge to any gamer, first of all the AI is pretty smart and if it ever comes down to being 3 on 1 they won't hold back, so you'd you better keep yourself on the down low.
Losing will require you to start the stage all over again, yep even if you lost to the boss that's just how it is. Just don't be discouraged, Tenchu 2 is an incredible game that is sure to be savored for quite sometime, just because it is challenging doesn't mean it's bad. In-fact it's a good aspect, challenge keeps that game fresh and on going so the replay value remains long. At times I found myself playing one stage for half an hour, when I was completing previous stages in about 15-20 minutes. Count that folks, that is 22 default stages for Rikimaru and Ayame, then we have 7 secret stages for the secret character (which I will not mention), that would equal to about 4 hours per default character (8 hours) and there is no telling how long the secret characters stages may be. Featuring three characters to choose from, over 25 missions, a mission editor and helpful gadgets/weapons like shurikens (star-shaped weapon), swords, knives, grenades, mines, smoke bombs, a grappling hook (to pull you up on very high places), colored rice (trail maker) and a medical-kit. Tenchu 2 is a sure fire winner as one of the most memorable PS titles to date, truly a long lasting experience.
Every cut scene in Tenchu 2 is full of cleverly timed voice acting that really generates and evaluates the feel of the experience and what is surrounding the characters as they speak. The exclamation and emphasis that the characters put into their dialogue make it almost seem as if they were cast members in a big budget movie directed by an 'A' class director say Steven Spielberg. The clarity and quality is truly a plus and hence Sony Music of Japan (developer) felt that there was no need to include the spoken dialogue in text. The environmental sound effects are really something soothing (depending on what stage you are in), they thoroughly re-create the mood that is set and almost make the gamer feel as if he was just pierced into a world of fire, revenge, swords, stealthy swimming and lots of blood, Tenchu 2 has without a doubt some of the best sound that has yet to grace a videogame.
If you are a Tenchu fan then you'll be happy to know that the control didn't change much. The square button unleashes the sword and tapping it again will make you swing it. Pressing O will make your desired character dash forwards and also pressing X during this event will cause the Ninja to thrust his sword forward (this is a good counter attack for an approaching enemy). I feel that the fault in controls lies within the games character movement, pressing UP will make my Ninja move forward, but pressing back will cause him to walk back (Note: not turning around), that is a tad annoying especially when you have been spotted and you need to make a run for it. Instead you are forced to hit either left or right (depending which direction you want to turn) turn around and then hit UP. By that time the enemy has had a chance to either catch up to you or to at least strike an arrow through your body, knocking of about 5/100 of your lives. Basically the character movement features somewhat of a resemblance to the Resident Evil configuration but not nearly as tough.
All in all Tenchu 2 is one game that everybody especially action and Metal Gear nuts have to pick up. Its remarkable stealth gameplay is bathed in honey sweet soap (umm. I guess), the visuals are quite impressive and last but not least the sound is breathtaking if not the best videogame sound thus far. Tenchu 2 is not without flaws though, the game has a few but they are minor and are forgotten overtime. If Tenchu 2 isn't in your hands by the time you're reading this, then I suggest calling your local game shop, and placing the game on hold, because this is some of the best 40 bucks you'll spend in a while.