Haven't you ever wanted to be a ninja, to be able to sneak silently up on foes and demolish them in a quick even stroke? Maybe you want to be able to climb up on buildings, run alongside a wall of a building and then jump to another wall, or cling to a ceiling as an unsuspecting foe below has no idea? If so, Tenchu-Z for the Xbox 360 is the game for you. Taking advantage of your ninja abilities you will jump, climb, crawl, roll and then slice your way to overall victory.
You are able to create your own ninja, choosing a male or female and choose between a variety of different clothing and other looks, as the game goes on, more options become available. Also, you are able to choose the various skill levels of your ninja, choose to be stronger so your swordfighting abilities are better, or opt to be more agile and move faster or give yourself some more vitality so your health is higher and you can carry more items. The choices are yours and can be constantly changed throughout the game.
The story of the game is that you are a ninja who lives in a small region known as Goda, the nearby Ogawaru nation is looking to attack your people soon and it is your responsibility to do everything possible to slow them down and hurt them. Overall, the story is merely adequate, it neither adds too much to the game nor slows it down. The game gives you the story before each new level which is fine because at the same time it loads the level, finished giving you the background for the mission, the game is ready to go with no further load times.
Using the Ki meter, which alerts you to when enemies are nearby, or are alerted to your presence in some manner will help you stay hidden and let you know when foes are close. The key to Tenchu-Z is stealth, run-and-gunners can certainly choose to play that manner but will find the game significantly more difficult. Besides, what is more fun than sneaking up slowly on some unsuspecting goon, doing a double somersault flip off a roof, landing noiselessly and then destroying said goon with a quick, silent strike of a katana.
A sword is not the only weapon available to ninjas though. A variety of items, from shurikens (ninja stars), blowguns and smoke bombs, to poison cookies and fireworks all can be used to aid you in your quest for stealth and to stop the Ogawaru.
Over 50 different missions, with a variety of different goals give you the chance to hone your skills and become truly undetectable. The biggest downside of the game is that while there are so many missions, there are not as many different boards. This makes the game a little repetitive because the same 10 levels keep popping up. The main difference as the game advances is the location where the game starts you and the amount of enemies on any given level. As you go through the game, each board becomes teeming with foes and the difficulty level gets ratcheted with detection always more possible. That's where strategy plays into the game, picking up and hiding enemies is always a helpful tool, although be careful not to be spotted while doing so.
Detection leads to all nearby enemies attacking you straight on, and could lead to being forced to fight your way out even while surrounded. Fortunately, the enemies are rarely as athletically gifted as your ninja and you can often escape by climbing and running away. As a ninja, silence is more appreciated than battling 15 guards at once.
The stealth kill system is phenomenal. Using skills you can acquire through the game you can sneak attack opponents from under a floor, through a doorway or even while hanging from the ceiling. If two enemies are very nearby, you can even execute the double kill maneuver without sacrificing any of your stealth. This is why the game is so entertaining, the various different stealth kills--based upon the angle you set upon an opponent, the height you come down on them from and whether or not your sword is drawn--provide some variety through the otherwise mildly monotonous game.
That should not be taken as a major problem with the game, with about 18-20 game hours, there is lots to do in Tenchu-Z, and the challenge of being totally silent never gets old. The first mission where you are completely undetected will feel absolutely amazing.
There is a slight learning curve with the game, but there is a training round before the game really starts and that does a good job of at least giving you all the basics you will need to start, the rest comes with a couple missions completed under your belt. The controls are pretty easy to understand quickly and the camera control will become your best friend as you try to locate close by enemies. The shadow meter lets you know exactly how easily it is to see you and when you are completely invisible.
Using the Xbox's HD graphics, the game looks incredible. The detail in each board was masterfully executed, (which is why the few amount of different boards can be forgiven,) there are always any number of hiding places and shadows to keep you hidden and allow you to silently kill as you go. The sound of the game is also pretty decent, of course, since silence is the goal, that is prevalent, but especially the music at the end of the game and when you have been sighted is actually pretty exciting and matches perfectly with the game.
Another advantage to having this game be on the Xbox is that you can play online with two to four other players and play co-op, there are even special moves that are only available in the co-op play.
While purists may decry that this is not the greatest Tenchu game of all time, the latest Tenchu shows that the franchise is going strong and should only have even better things to come. Sneaking around, dropping down on unsuspecting enemies, killing them and then moving onto the next hapless victim is eminently entertaining. The biggest danger with Tenchu is that picking it up makes putting it down nearly impossible. From the moment the game gets unwrapped it takes a hold on you and you will not want to rest until you have dominated every level, so be warned.
Learning Curve: 15-20 minutes
Tenchu-Z is exclusively for the Xbox 360 and is available in stores now.