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Reviewed: Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: March 25th, 2003
Page: 2

Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven puts the player in control of three characters (two regular, one secret). Each has strengths and weaknesses, and differing storylines to travel through. Rikkimaru, the main character, is the tried-and-true Ninja, coming back almost from the dead to serve his lord once more. Then there's Ayame, a girl ninja also in the lord's employ, who doesn't really trust Rikkimaru. Beat the game with both, and you get Tesshu, an assassin who isn't Ninja at all and whose play style is completely different.

The graphics in Tenchu are superb, some of the best the PS2 has ever put out, and really helps flesh out the game. Whether going through indoor environments or outdoor, woods and caves or villages and fortresses, the world seems to breathe around you. The sound is likewise well done, though it is far secondary to the visuals in its aid to gameplay.

The biggest point of the game is unlocking new moves, and the secondary is getting "Stealth" kills. Each enemy carries a meter of awareness; when the enemy is unaware of your presence, approaching and getting close enough will grant a cinematic one-shot kill, and if 9 haven't already been achieved, a kanji symbol. Acquire 9 kanji, and the level's secret move is revealed, as well as your attack power rising. Kill a noncombatant, and your kanji are taken away. 

Strategically, the game giveth and the game taketh away. It's possible to go through every mission and score nearly flawlessly with only a couple health items and some shuriken, but the game's complex scoring system awards nifty, wonderful items for players with the patience for getting high scores in each level. Normal kills are worth 5 points apiece, stealth kills worth 20. In addition, there are major penalties for killing civilians, and major penalties to a large degree for each time you're spotted. Attaining the highest rank of each level grants the ninja new items, such as disguises, bombs, poison traps, blowgun darts, and other interesting and fun ways to toy with the enemy.

Control-wise, Tenchu is brilliant; modes of movement switch seamlessly, the camera rarely fails the player, and after a bit of learning (play the first few levels a couple times through) the player will be thoroughly versed in all basic commands. The one downside is clipping issues that can make certain corners, designed in certain ways, very difficult to see around without exposing the character to a risk of being spotted. 

Replay value for Tenchu comes in its sheer number of levels; within the storylines of each character is a number of levels, each with multiple layouts of enemies. Beaten the game once? Play layout two, and layout three, and go for that high score in each to acquire the items you're looking for. The sense of accomplishment for finishing a mission without being spotted is really something.

In all truthfulness, Tenchu is a game that's awesome to play, but only for those players patient enough to attempt to master it.

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Added:  Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Score:
Page: 2/3

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