Tenchu Z Xbox 360
Published by: From Software
Developed by: K2
Release Date: Out Now
I daresay if you are a fan of the Tenchu series then you've probably already looked at the many reviews of Tenchu Z that you can find on the Internet. Let's be honest here, most of the reviews have given this game a slating. Does it deserve such criticism though? Can a Tenchu game really be as poor as some of the reviews are making Tenchu Z out to be? Having played the game over the last two weeks it's fair to say that some of the criticisms levelled at the game are justified. However, Tenchu Z is one of those games that's more than a sum of its parts. Yes there are some aspects of the game that are disappointing but I've had fun playing the game and will continue to do so, even after this review has been completed.
Your first task in Tenchu Z will be to create your own ninja. You can choose to play as either a male or a female ninja. You can't create your own look for your character but you can choose from 22 different male and female character models with five different clothing styles for the male characters and 20 for female characters. You'll get 210 ability points to distribute between Vitality, Strength and Agility attributes. Finally you'll get to choose your partner character which will be the opposite sex to your main character. Once you're finished creating, you'll head off for a ninja training tutorial with Ninja Master Rikimaru. In addition to the single-player game you can also play co-operatively over Xbox Live and System Link with support for 2-4 players.
Once you've completed the tutorial you'll find yourself in Ninja Village. Here you can accept missions from Rikimaru, change your ninja's clothing and purchase items, skills and abilities with the gold you'll earn from a mission. Missions are scored, and gold is awarded, for stealth kills, normal kills, specials (which includes not being detected at all during the mission etc.) and not killing any innocents. You'll be penalised for killing innocent bystanders, being detected and for the time spent in alarm status which is to say the amount of time your enemies will actively search for you. Of course to get the maximum fun from the game you'll want to play through in as stealthy a fashion as possible. Stealth kills are the easiest way to deal with enemies but in order to get into position to carry out a stealth you'll have to be careful not to alert the enemy, keep out of sight, make as little noise as possible and avoid picking up an scent that might give your presence away. The game offers a range of weapons and items that will allow you to complete your assassination missions as effectively as possible.
So what are the game's main problems then? Well the AI of your enemies leaves a lot to be desired. They will occasionally walk past the corpses of their slain comrades without reacting. Throwing weapons such as a Shuriken at an enemy doesn't seem to alarm enemies that are close by and within sight of the injured comrade. When finishing an enemy off with your sword, during a stealth kill, you'll often see your ninja stab the floor instead of the enemy and yet the enemy will still die. It almost feels like you don't have to play the game in a stealthy fashion at times as it's possible to completely disregard your stealth abilities and simply head full steam into a confrontation. This is a shame because had the game been more restrictive in this way it would have made for a more challenging experience. There is a good incentive for playing the missions in as stealthy a fashion as possible though because, as we mentioned earlier, you are given gold for carrying out stealth kills and avoiding detection and the gold can be used to improve your character. You could also argue that the missions could do with more variety.
Many others have pointed out that Tenchu Z doesn't look anywhere near as good as it could have done on the Xbox 360 and I have to admit that it's not as visually pleasing as it could have been. In fact you could argue that the game looks like a high resolution Xbox game. There are clipping issues galore (you can walk straight through your slain enemies for instance) and the blood spurts from your defeated enemies as if it were a PlayStation title. Items also break very unrealistically. However, I have to admit to liking how your ninja animates and some of the stealth kills look particularly impressive. Load times are short and the frame rate is first rate (it would have criminal had it not been given the lack of visual quality on offer however). The HDTV resolutions supported are 720p and 1080i.
Stealth based titles can be tricky for deaf gamers but thankfully Tenchu Z is actually quite deaf gamer friendly. A Ki Meter changes colour to show you when an enemy has heard you, when you have entered an enemy's field of vision, when you have alerted an enemy, whether an alarm has been raised or whether you have detected an enemy but the enemy has not detected you. The Ki Meter will also show you whether the enemy has detected your smell and if you are giving off a strong odour you'll see vapours emanating from your ninja. A noise meter will show you how much noise you are making. A stealth kill light will let you know when an enemy has entered stealth kill range and a circle of symbols known as the Ninja Seal, will appear on an enemy when a stealth kill is possible. A stealth level indicator also shows how well you are hidden from your enemy's sight. The game is subtitled and the tutorial is given in text only. There is some enemy speech that isn't subtitled (usually a word or two, nothing important) but it's not really a problem thanks to the information the various gauges give you.
Tenchu Z isn't as good as it could have been and there are a few aspects of the game that are just plain sloppy. For all of its faults however, there is no denying that the game does have its moments and if you're a fan of the Tenchu series and stealth games in general (particularly ones featuring ninjas) then you'll certainly find some entertainment value here. Of course it's great being able to play a Tenchu game online too. For some though, the disappointing aspects of the game will be too much and those looking for a visually impressive Tenchu game (seeing as this is on the Xbox 360 after all) will also be disappointed with how the game looks. It's a rather odd thing to say but this is one of the more enjoyable disappointing titles that you'll see this year.
Some aspects of Tenchu Z are really disappointing but these disappointments, miraculously, don't manage to completely sink the game and for all of its faults it still manages to be a fairly enjoyable experience.