Tuesday, June 19 2007 @ 05:00 PM CDT
Everyone loves ninjas. The Xbox 360 has been out for quite some time now, though it still lacks some solid ninja game play on the 360. Sure you can fire up Ninja Gaiden and utilize some good old backwards compatibility, but we all want our 360ís to pump out current gen graphics. Enter Tenchu Z on the Xbox 360.
Activision dropped the franchise and fans that have followed the series over various platforms were left to wonder if their stealth days were numbered. K2 picked up the franchise and with the help of Microsoft Games we now have their take on the franchise.
Tenchu has always relied on keeping in the shadows and taking out the enemy by way of stealth combat. Tenchu Z doesnít stray far from the original vision of the series. Tenchu Z's story is told by cutscenes that take place before and after each one of its 50 missions. You can skip many missions and advance through the storyline in a flash though in doing so you will lose track of exactly what the story is. Basically you're a ninja trying to stop a bad guy who traffics an illegal drug and wants to take over your town.
The game starts with you picking your character's sex and then customizing his or her outfit. Donít expect to be able customize too much though, aside from a few faces and outfits the life of a Ninja doesnít involve much uniqueness. You also get to customize a second ninja, but other than watching them occasionally pop up in some cut scenes, you'll never get to see them and their presence is never explained.
Though the game does feature 50 levels of gameplay they all tend to feel semi redundant. Nearly every mission has you seeking out a specific person so that you may kill, talk to, or rescue them. Sometimes you'll have to kill everyone in a level, follow someone without getting detected, or acquire a specific item, but even these objectives don't feel vastly different from one another. Each level generally starts with you outside of a town or village. Your job is to avoid detection while you accomplish the level's objective.
If you decide to hack and slash your way through the levels though the games controls start to become clunky. While stealth kills feel far from featuring fluid controls, open area combat really shows the limitation of the games control mechanics. Targeting is accomplished by holding down the right trigger, while X will swing your sword. Half the time while fighting I found myself losing my target, swinging widly and having no idea if the guy I was attacking was dead or not. If you play the game as intended though and stick to the shadows killing is as easy and waiting for someone to turn their backs to you and tapping the X button once.
After playing the first few levels though graphically you have experienced the entire 50 levels. Tenchu Z doesnít seem to fully take advantage of the Xbox 360 hardware and only seems to feature a few textures. Faces on the enemy look as though they were ported directly from the PSOne and the level design feels very cookie cutter after only a few levels. The prerendered cutscenes look nice, but most cutscenes use the in-game engine and don't look very good at all.
After having a chance to play as a ninja in Tenchu Z I have to admit disappointment. Having been a long time fan of the franchise I was excited when I heard it would be coming to the Xbox 360. What I played though did little to advance the franchise into a true current generation ninja franchise for the Xbox 360. Tenchu Z is well worth a rental for fans of the series, but unlike past games in the franchise I donít see many replaying the 50 levels to master their stealth ninja skills.