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
is a worthwhile stealthy action game.

my Steel Meatball of Death, lowly dog!”


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.

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

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.

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.

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

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
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.