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Tenchu: Shadow Assassins - PSP - Review

Fans of stealthy action games have been surprised and sometimes even disappointed with the PSP versions of games like the Metal Gear Solid series or even Splinter Cell. We loved seeing Solid Snake on the PSP’s widescreen and were very sad that Sam Fisher’s turn on the PSP wasn’t so hot. Adding to the pleasant surprise that was Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Tenchu: Shadow Assassins is a worthwhile stealthy action game.

 
“Taste my Steel Meatball of Death, lowly dog!”

Shadow Assassins continues the same stealthy ninja adventures of Rikimaru and his kenoichi pal Ayame as they work for Lord Goda Matsunoshin protecting the kingdom from its enemies as well as other unsavory people attempting to ruin the land with crime and corruption. One evening, the Lord’s only daughter (Princess Kiku) is abducted by a mysterious figure that had come into the palace posing as a fortune-teller. With Ayame hot in her trail, Lord Goda asks Rikimaru to look into other matters concerning the recent unrest in the kingdom.

While Ayame’s mission is the rescue of Princess Kiku, Rikimaru’s side of the mission has him taking out those involved in the unrest. His first mission, for example, his has attempting to eliminate an evil merchant who has taken a girl whose parents own money as well as the ringleader of a band of thieves. The game story mode follows Rikimaru’s path first while adding Ayame’s missions that bring her own style to the game.

Like most stealth action games, you can fight your way through the guards and enemies but that’s a quick way to be killed in Silent Assassin. Instead, the best strategy is to using your sneaking ability (called Hayate) and silent takedown techniques (called Hissatsu). Both Ayame and Rikimaru can use the cover of the darkness that is represented as a black mist and the Mind’s Eye feature allows them both to focus on any enemies that were hard to spot in the environment as well as their line-of-sight and even hints as to where to go next. You can even climb up walls or beams overhead as well as crawl under spaces below to avoid detection.

 
Leave it to Clumsy Ninja Ned to confuse smoke bombs with microwavable burritos.

The pair also has a number of weapons and tools at their disposal. Some weapons can even be used for something other than drawing your enemy’s blood. Sure, shuriken can be used to injure an enemy but it can also be used to knock out a candle from afar. The same can be said about a sword, which can be used to cut an enemy down as well as slice through a lock. You can even use a bamboo tube filled with water to put out fires as well as use a Shinobi Cat to scout ahead for you as well as pick up useful items.

For the most part, the stealthy action isn’t bad at all and there’s not only room for exploration but you can also carry out your mission anyway you see fit. There are different types of silent kills that are mapped to the analog stick and you can use the environment itself to conceal your position. There’s also combat in the game but the swordplay is handled in a first-person view. The first phase of combat is Defend where you move the analog stick in the direction the enemy is about to strike. Successfully deflect an enemy’s blows and the battle moves into the Attack phase where you can strike back with the Square button.

The level design makes each mission challenging and you’ll actually be receiving a rank at the end of each story mission or assignment. You’ll be thankful for the fact that you can select your equipment before heading out on your mission. For the most part, the controls make sneaking and fighting easy enough but sadly the analog stick can make things a tad awkward at times and the camera doesn’t always offer the best angles. In fact, the reason you’ll be caught by a guard often is that the camera doesn’t turn in time for you to get a look at them.

 
This is why they stopped selling Quentin Tarantino’s Easy-Bake Oven.

Shadow Assassins does impress when it comes to the graphics. The sharp backgrounds, character detail and effects look just as good as if this was a PlayStation 2 game. While the camera does obscure objects and people sometimes to the point that you’ll notice clipping, it’s hard to complain about the little things when the game looks this good. The sound in the game is also handled well and the voices and the soundtrack really come through nicely on the PSP’s speakers.

It isn’t easy bringing a stealth action game on the PSP but Tenchu: Shadow Assassins comes close to perfection despite a few hardware issues. That said, however, what the game does right adds to a satisfying and challenging game that makes this one of the more pleasing Tenchu games to come along in a long time. If you like a good stealthy action game for the PSP, give this game a try.

Review Scoring Details for Tenchu: Shadow Assassins

Gameplay: 7.5
Rikimaru and Ayame use their stealthy ninja skills of assassination and infiltration to rescue Princess Kiku and this means you’ll be using all the usual Tenchu equipment as well as pull off some awesome stealth kills. While the controls can be a bit rough in places, the level design and action makes for a great time.

Graphics: 8.5
The PSP is able to pull off some impressive and surprisingly well-detailed graphics and it shows in Shadow Assassins. Everything from the character models to the backgrounds looks just as good as it would if this were a good-looking PS2 game.

Sound: 8.0
The voice acting in the game is decent and the soundtrack gives the game a great samurai action flick feel. Even the sound effects, while minimal, is handled well in this game. Plus, the patrol guards always have something to say.

Difficulty: Medium
While the early levels are a bit challenging in places, it’s the later levels that will have you thinking of different ways of approaching a situation. While direct confrontations aren’t recommended, the real challenge is making use of your surroundings.

Concept: 8.0
Story mode offers an interesting number of situations that offer plenty of challenges whether you play as Ayame or Rikimaru. Sword combat is interesting and effective and the stealth action is enough to make Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher proud. It’s just too bad there’s no co-op fun via Ad Hoc.

Overall: 7.5
Shadow Assassins for the PSP is not only a good entry in the Tenchu series but it also does stealthy ninja action well enough on Sony’s handheld. While the hardware limitations make for some slightly awkward gameplay issues, it doesn’t take away from an overall fulfilling experience.

Good

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