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Action / Stealth









M (Mature)



Q1 2004



- Controlling a ninja is still one of the coolest things video games allow you to do.
- Replay value, with online mode and additional level layouts, is very high



- Really, really poorly implemented camera
- Remarkably stupid enemy A.I.
- Really adds nothing new to the genre



Review: Tenchu - Wrath of Heaven (PS2)

Review: Splinter Cell (XB)

Review: Ninja Gaiden (XB)

Review: Otogi - Myth of Demons (XB)



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Tenchu: Return from Darkness

Score: 7.0 / 10


tenchu return from darkness review         tenchu return from darkness review


The original Tenchu for the Playstation is my favorite stealth adventure game of all time. While many (read most) people were instantly elevating Metal Gear Solid to king of the hill status, I was still trumpeting the awesome stealth element of Tenchu. Unfortunately, unlike the Metal Gear series, Tenchu’s sequels didn’t really build on the success of the original—in fact, they backslid into mediocrity. Because of this, I didn’t bother playing the first next-generation Tenchu game, Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven, when it was released on the PS2. Still, despite the weak sequels, I was excited to have a chance to review the re-vamped Xbox version just to see if




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- Games Published by Activision

Activision and K2 had got it right this time. The answer is “yes” and “no”. Though Tenchu: Return From Darkness (T:RFD) at moments reminded me just why I loved the original so much, mostly it felt like a further re-hashing of game play elements that have since grown tiresome. Worse, T:RFD features the worst camera in the series, which makes playing the game really frustrating at times.

T:RFD, like the original, puts players in the


shoes of a ninja intent on ending the evil reign of various thugs. To do this, players take on the role of either Rikimaru or Ayame and lead them through both indoor and outdoor levels. Gameplay mostly consists of methodically working through a level eliminating enemy guards until the level boss is reached. The outdoor parts of each level are straightforward and easy to navigate, but the indoor sections are maze-like and confusing and so separated from any sense of a real living space that they are almost surreal. It wasn't long before I tired of constantly climbing up into attic spaces and through holes in walls in order to find the room where an item or level boss were hiding.

I'm a huge fan of stealth game play, and T:RFD puts a premium on stealth kills. By performing ten such kills in an area, players open up otherwise unavailable bonus items. On the first level, I thought that was a great feature, but by half way through the second level, I realized that it required absolutely no skill to pull off stealth kills. The enemy A.I. is simply atrocious. All that is required to make a stealth kill is to hang around until an enemy turns his back and then quickly run toward him and hit the attack button. This will cause the character to perform a cool looking stealth kill, but it is hard to take much satisfaction from the performance.


tenchu return from darkness review         tenchu return from darkness review

Other than stealth kill, I really love trying to make it through levels of stealth games without being spotted. I'm willing to spend hours replaying a level in order to make it through cleanly. With T:RFD, this is nearly (or perhaps completely) impossible because of the flighty camera. It is so difficult to look around corners or even to depend on the camera to follow the character consistently that I was always sticking my body out just a little too far and getting detected. Difficulty in a game is great when it is earned, but when difficulty is added by crappy execution, I have a hard time maintaining my enthusiasm.

Still, despite the easy kills and crappy camera, I did enjoy T:RFD at times. Some sections of levels played just as they should, without the camera getting in the way and with some legitimate challenges, and those levels are enough fun that I can't completely trash the game. As it is, I'd say the game is about average for a stealth-action game, but that is something we shouldn't have to experience from a series that started out with such a brilliant, original game.

A note on replay value — T:RFD features a decent online feature list that includes both co-op and deathmatch play. The fighting engine is rather lame, so deathmatch isn't great, but online co-op is fun. Also, once a level is beaten (offline or on), players have the option to replay the level with items, maps, and enemies shuffled around. There are three total set ups for each level. Overall, if a player enjoys the basic game, T:RFD is a solid value. Of course, if, like me, they find the game unoriginal and uninspiring, then the bonus features for this Xbox version aren't going to change that.

- Tolen Dante
(May 30, 2004)


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