Tenchu is one of the more original games released for the PlayStation this year. Why? Because, much like Metal Gear Solid, Tenchu is a spy simulator. Taking the role of either a male or female Ninja you must complete ten missions by sneaking, spying and ultimately killing your enemies- all without being seen. That's what sets Tenchu apart- the object is not to find the best weapon in the game and set your controller to autofire. In fact there are only a handful of weapons available to you along with numerous other items (poisoned rice, smoke bombs and colored rice for marking you trail) designed to help make the job of stealth assassin easier.
Graphically Tenchu is an appropriately dark game. All of the missions take place at night so your visibility is limited- usually only about three quarters of the screen is illuminated, the rest is eerie darkness. The parts that are visible however are filled really detailed textures- everything from the straw roofs to the ginko trees look realistic. The animations are also solid.
The controls of the game are going to be familiar to anyone that has played Tomb Raider. The Tenchu incarnation of this control scheme is adequate if a little on the stiff side. Learning to execute a jump or side roll when you want to will take a little practice (maybe that's why there1s a training mode), but once you get the hang of things you shouldn1t have any problems. Oddly the domestic release does not have analog control, something that the Japanese version of the game did have.
The only real problem with Tenchu is the camera. It's fairly easy to get disoriented when you get close to an enemy. But again this is something you can learn to compensate for fairly easily and in the long run it doesn't have much of a negative affect on the actually playing of the game.
Overall, Tenchu is the sort of game that PlayStation owners have come to expect- innovative, original, and a great deal of fun to play. There is something deeply satisfying about perching on a roof, watching a guard go by and then jumping down behind him and taking him out without so much as a whisper. Ninjaphiles will love this game, as will anyone else that is looking for a game that balances action and planning. Hell, at the very least Tenchu provides all you Metal Gear fans out there an opportunity to bone up on the fine arts sneaking and spying before Solid Snake lands on our shores at the end of October. Highly recommended.
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