|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: K2||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 12, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (Up to 4 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
June 20, 2007 - The Tenchu name is unmistakable. With a new ninja-flavored fury coming out almost every year with the Tenchu insignia, it's easy to get caught up in the nostalgia and history of the series. However, sometimes games aren't as good as they could be. Tenchu Z is an excellent example of a superb franchise that slowly slid backwards while no one was looking. Not to say it's descended into videogame Hades or anything, but it has definitely taken a hit in overall quality since it's heyday with Wrath of Heaven almost four years ago.
Once you finish the opening scene, the game throws you right into creating a character. You can choose male or female and different faces. I personally wanted to be a female, but all the faces they had looked just plain weird, so I backtracked a little and created the most bishie-like male I could. No small feat, I assure you, considering you don't really have much to choose from, but I digress.
Once you're done creating your ninja, you're thrown directly into an ultra-frustrating training mode. First things first, the training part comes in the form of little helpful hints at the top of the screen showing you what buttons to press and how to execute certain moves. Trouble is, these little hints only appear for a second or two, and then you'll have to do a little happy dance of confusion if you want them back. Another problem with the training mode is that it gives you completely misleading instructions. There's an inescapable water dungeon that I ended up in and got extremely frustrated with because I thought I had to escape. Turned out there was only some backtracking involved. But the map and the instructions that are given made it seem like there was some vital goal just ahead. Which brings me to my next gripe with the tutorial mode. It doesn't even tell you it's a tutorial mode! I spent so much time on this "level" and didn't even realize what it was until I exited.
But once you get past the tutorial mode (or you can escape from it at any time, it's completely unnecessary for you to move forward) You can start the 50-mission "story" mode. Now I use the term "story" here lightly because it's more like "disjointed missions which all have something to do with drug trafficking in your town." But we'll call it story mode for now. Anyways, you'll get your plot points in little digestible tidbits before and after most missions. At first, I was of the impression that there actually was no story, which I would have been fine with (nothing wrong with an arcade-style random-fest) but the disjointed mess that was expected to run smoothly and cohesively for the gamer really disappointed me.
But weak story aside, once you get into the missions, they're actually pretty fun. Sure, they all follow a similar format, and you can get through each one relatively easily, stealthily taking out enemies is just plain fun. Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I just never get tired of sneaking up on enemies and executing my honed skills. Of course, if you crave varied gameplay, this one definitely isn't for you; I will warn you now. But if you want a quick run-through of massacring foes while remaining undetected and hopping on rooftops, then you'll probably enjoy Tenchu Z's brand of ninja action.
Controls, once you pick them up, are pretty straightforward and don't require too much practice to master. However, as you progress in the game and unlock new abilities, the controls become more and more complex, and a little too much for the average gamer. But for the astute gamer, I suppose the increasingly complex control scheme won't be too much of a problem.
Visually, the game is satisfactory. It features some very nicely detailed cutscenes and environments, and looks beautiful if you're looking at it just by itself. But if you consider some of the other Xbox 360 games out there, you can quickly see the difference. Now I'm not one to really dwell on graphic specifics, but the claim has been made that the graphics on this title are extremely bad, and I just don't believe that. Sure they're not the best you've ever seen, but they get the job done, and they don't look bad, so that's all I really ask for.
Sound quality, however, was nearly spot-on in my opinion. The dialogue is completely in Japanese and I think that facet makes this game really cool. When you keep the original language of the game, you eliminate so many problems like weird dubbing and bad mouth timing, and I've always found that when you have the native language enabled on a game, it makes it a tad more credible. It could be just my opinion, though. The background music is very subtle, and that's probably the way it should be when you're playing a game centered around being silent and stealthy. Sound effects are a tad repetitive, and do tend to get annoying at times, however, and that's where the sound scheme really misses the mark.
Overall, I liked this game, but I feel like it could have been better than it was. The story was completely disjointed, and the graphics were only satisfactory, but the gameplay was really fun, and the soundtrack is good, so I'm not going to hate on this one too much. I just know that there's definitely some room for improvement, and I'm excited for the Tenchu series to really pick up the ball from this one when their inevitable follow up does come out!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer