reviews\ Jun 18, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Tenchu Z - 360 - Review

Since it’s inception on the original PlayStation, the Tenchu series has been providing ninja-stealth action to the masses, taking on ninja arts in a way that other ninja action games don’t. Relying more on deception and sticking to the shadows than stringing together fast combos with a katana sword. However, the series has been slowly going downhill over the years, not really growing much with each entry and losing footing to other prominent stealth franchises, like Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell. Even though it’s comparing apples to oranges in many regards, these series have shown what can be accomplished with AI and the basics mechanics of sneaking around in the dark.

The years have cumulated with Tenchu Z, the first next-gen entry of the series, and they have unfortunately not been kind. Tenchu Z suffers from stagnant gameplay, with bad controls, a lousy camera and awful AI. Tenchu Z is an insipid action game, and probably won’t hold your attention for long.

Tenchu Z Xbox 360 screenshots

Tenchu Z adds a new element to the series by letting you choose your character from either a female or male character, and then customize them as you see fit. This gives you more control over previous entries in the series, which previously had you playing as a set character through the game’s missions.

The mission structure is largely the same as previous Tenchus. Each of the game’s 50 quests have you charged with assassinating a certain person, meaning you’ll have to weave through their defenses and either dodge or depose their guards in order to make the final kill. You have a couple of ways to do this, using your ninja gadgetry or simply doing the best you can to avoid them altogether. The mission count is pretty impressive, but it’s moot considering how redundant they can be.

There’s a new feature that should ideally get your enemies onto your scent (literally). If you fall into a cesspool or get soaked in too much of your enemies’ blood, you’ll begin to smell, adding a new way for your enemies to find you in the darkness. In order to counter this, you’ll have to use special ninja cologne/perfume or jump into some clean water to wash off. Speaking of water, you can swim now, letting you avoid enemies by keeping your head underwater and breathing through a reed.

The problem is that the AI is so inept, that it really makes not much of a difference what you do to get to the end of the level. Enemies will walk set paths, and will quickly forget you even if you shoot a dart into their heads. They are very easy to lose once you make even the slightest effort to evade them. This means that even though the new features like the scent and swimming features are interesting, they are basically broken out of the box.

So, if running away from enemies is way too easy (or maybe it isn’t even your bag), then the combat system should be pretty solid right? Umm, no. Locking onto enemies is extremely haphazard, as you may think you’ll have a guy in your sights and then suddenly be swiping at nothing at all (hey, I thought I was the ninja here!).

However, it shouldn’t matter much, as the easiest way to go through the missions is simply motor from point A to point B and finishing off the main baddie. Avoiding guards is a snap, plus avoiding the lousy combat system is certainly for the best. However, is the game fun when you take this approach? No, not really.

Graphically, the game isn’t much better than the gameplay. The character models are very simplistic and not terribly well animated. The environments are kind of impressive at first, but quickly become bland and repetitive as the missions wear on. All in all, the aesthetic is not very impressive, looking more like an original Xbox game than a true next-gen game. The sound effects are adequate at best, with very sparse music and decent Japanese voice work (can’t really rate in on the quality of acting, since I don’t know Japanese).

Tenchu Z is a lousy action-stealth game, a weak entry to the series, and basically a waste of money. If you are looking for some hardcore stealth-assassination action on your 360, I’d suggest waiting for Assassin’s Creed, but avoid this one.

Review Scoring Details for Tenchu Z

Gameplay: 5.0
The combat is pretty unfun, and the AI is very buggy, more often than not acting like they’ve already got a kunai sticking out of their heads before you can provide one. The control scheme is also very lousy and frustrating, as is the awful camera.

Graphics: 6.5
Tenchu Z isn’t a terrible looking game, but certainly doesn’t showcase anything the Xbox 360 is capable of. The simplistic character models and bland environments make it look like an Xbox game in high-def.

Sound: 6.5
There’s not a lot of music in this game, but the Japanese voice acting sounds decent enough.

Difficulty: Easy
When the AI is this dumb, it’s not tough to breeze through the game.

Multiplayer: 6.0
Online co-op is usually a pretty cool feature, but not when it’s coupled with gameplay this lousy.

Concept: 5.5
The Tenchu series has been going on for a while now, and Z is proof positive that it’s really starting to show its seams.

Overall: 5.5
Tenchu Z is a pretty lousy entry to the series, and is one Xbox 360 title that doesn’t flex any next-gen muscle.


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