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Tenchu: Fatal Shadows (PlayStation 2)

63
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Pixelspeech (955)
Written on  :  Jun 03, 2013
Platform  :  PlayStation 2
Rating  :  1.86 Stars1.86 Stars1.86 Stars1.86 Stars1.86 Stars

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Summary

Hello there, glitch. Having a fine da-AAARGH!

The Good

Revenge story is simple, but pretty enjoyable.

Dialogue seems to be written for an anime, which I found to be entertaining.

Levels allow for some exploration and reward doing so with hidden items.

Pulling off fancy-looking assassinations is easy as long as you stay hidden.

The Bad

Glitches galore!

Controls feels very stiff and constricting, which leads to unfair situations.

Story never explains who anybody is and is too busy being pretentious to go into any depth.

Graphics are dull and unimaginative.

The Bottom Line

Recently my favorite game store closed, which meant I suddenly had to spend 53 euros of in-store credit. Since the store hadn't stocked up on new releases and most decent games were nowhere to be found, I had to spend all of that money on PS2 games, which I've since then being tearing a new asshole one by one. I used to play Tenchu as a kid, however, so I had assumed this one would at least be able to entertain me. I was wrong...

The story kicks off with Rin, a female ninja, discovering that some assholes burned down her village and killed everyone she knows. She instantly fights her way to the center of the village where we witness another ninja arriving at the scene to find the elder dead, unfortunately Rin arrives at that moment and blames her for the crime. Rin loses a battle against the ninja, known as Ayame, and then swears an oath of vengeance.

It's a very simple revenge plot, but I initially believed it had some great potential, as the game showed us that the person she chases is not responsible at all, and it was instead the doing of another organization. The plot however derailed very soon after, as it got stuck in various random side-missions instead of developing the cast of characters. Most of the people the game introduced in the first mission disappeared from the plot entirely and I learned pretty much nothing about the few that remained. Maybe the game assumes I have played some of the other Tenchu games, but upon picking this up at the store, I had assumed it was the first of the series or at the very least a self-contained story, as the title contained no numbers.

The story instead started to revolve more around Rin and Ayame doing various missions and occasionally meeting, which was a shame, since they were the only characters I couldn't stand; Rin due to the script and voice that made her sound like a 16 year old American girl demanding a new car from her father and Ayame because I had no idea what she was doing in the plot. Each mission also starts with a cut-scene that consists of concept art being flashed before a camera while a man dramatically narrates bits of lore with acoustic music in the background. Those cut-scenes got almost as annoying as the end-chapter preview clips in which a man screams dramatically about the events of the next chapter.

As for the sneaking in this game, it's actually not all that bad. You have a meter that displays how close enemies are to you and, if they have seen you at some point, how aware they are of your presence. As long as an enemy is not aware of you (green), you can instantly kill them with a simple tap of the square button, which will have Rin or Ayame doing a flashy assassination. These increase your score and give you scrolls, which unlock new abilities as you collect enough of them. Along with a wide arsenal of items that can help you out, this makes the sneaking a lot of fun.

The controls tend to be a little too stiff, though. Both Ayame and Rin control like tanks, with slow turns and limited view. I was at one point detected by an enemy, simply because the camera would not move in any direction and the position it was aimed at was a top-down view of Ayame and the floor. I've also used the term "sneaking" loosely, as you can't really move from a crouched position and have to either roll constantly or run, which sometimes alerts enemies instantly and sometimes doesn't; consistency is for losers, after all.

I think the controls are appropriate for the combat part of the game, since the stiffness makes it feel like a punishment for getting caught in the first place. This makes it kind of stupid that the game has forced boss battles, but we'll let that one slide, since staying hidden is a bigger issue from time to time. The AI is downright horrible and, again, inconsistent. Sometimes it would detect me from across a room and sometimes I could dance around it with no reaction at all. When it does detect you and you try to make an escape, all tension and immersion will be shattered when you witness the pathetic nature of the enemies. They barely chase you, but when they try, they generally get themselves stuck on scenery or endlessly fall off the same ledges. They also don't investigate anything; at one point there was an enemy almost in front of me, so I threw a knive at him; he became alerted, but didn't move from his spot, allowing me to easily kill him with my remaining knives.

Glitches also run rampant throughout the game and the most hilarious of them was an instance where I assassinated a guy, but the roles somehow got reversed and it showed him instantly killing Rin. It would have been more fun if it was more comically timed. I also witnessed the AI walking themselves into a torch at one point, which apparently made it realize I was somewhere close to him.

I do, however, appreciate the level-design, which is very open and allows for multiple different approaches. Most levels even advertised in the hints that there were many different ways to reach my target and I should just explore. Exploration is also nicely encouraged, as there are many items scattered around that can help you on your journey. It's a bit of a shame that the designers went with such a dull art-style, though, as the game would have benefited from more vibrant colors. Everything just tends to blend together in a brown and gray mess. It's also very difficult to figure out where the borders lie, which sometimes meant the game would prevent me from climbing a certain roof that would allow me to surprise a guard, forcing me instead to take a riskier route to appease the programmers.

At the end of the day, I am simply disappointed. The Playstation 2 was a very rich console with many different kind of games on it that you couldn't find anywhere else, but this also means it has more crap than any other system out there. Tenchu keeps putting itself in situations where, at the core, it is entertaining and functional, but everything simply falls apart as it goes on. The story is unfocused and messy, the controls are too stiff and the visuals ugly. Maybe I could have forgiven it if this really was the first installment and it just had trouble getting its ideas realized, but no, this was the sixth installment in the franchise and the second title specifically for the PS2.