Tenchu Z Hands-On

Ninjas will invade the Xbox 360 in From Software's latest stealth action game. We tried out a nearly localized build.

Some people may not remember that Tenchu helped start the stealth action craze back on the PlayStation. This took place even a few months before the seminal and more highly regarded Metal Gear Solid exploded onto the scene. The original Tenchu let you choose one of two master ninjas and then embark on a series of important secret missions throughout feudal Japan. In these missions, you used your stealth, guile, and bag of ninja tricks to assassinate important targets, sabotage enemy operations, and gather sensitive information. From Software is now finishing up a new entry in the Tenchu series for the Xbox 360, and we got to try out a nearly finished English version. Some of the particulars have changed in Tenchu Z, but the underlying formula in the series is definitely still here.

There seems to be less focus on the storyline in Z because you won't take control of past named main characters, such as Rikimaru. Instead, there's more emphasis on customization. You'll choose between a male or female lead ninja, whom you can then trick out with the usual custom-character assortment of faces, hairstyles, and types of ninja garb. More important than your appearance is the distribution of your various skills, which you'll tweak before you start the game itself. You'll have a fixed number of points to distribute to your movement speed, health bar, and attacking power, so you can influence your overall ninja ability to an extent. You'll then get to visually spec out and name a partner (whose gender seems by necessity to be the opposite of your own), but after playing a handful of missions, we didn't notice that our partner had an effect on anything but a few end-level cutscenes.

The branching mission structure will give you some freedom to visit new areas as you choose.

All that customization stuff is relatively new, but the action within the missions is classic Tenchu. You'll begin at a little hub camp in the forest where you can equip a set number of ninja goodies. These include throwing stars, smoke bombs, explosive darts, and so on. Then you'll talk to your master to receive your next mission (of which there are about 50 in total). The game's first few missions proceed in a linear fashion, but they'll soon branch out and allow you to skip around a little bit as you progress through the storyline, which seems fairly thin so far. Our objectives in the first few missions included killing a couple of high-profile bad guys, collecting a number of bombs that had been scattered around a village, and making our way across an occupied town to cross a bridge into enemy territory.

In practical terms, you'll accomplish all of those objectives by sneaking around and cutting throats a whole lot. This is how Z is closest to all the preceding Tenchu games: You've got the same color-based enemy-proximity indicator, along with a Splinter Cell-style meter indicating your relative visibility, to help you remain hidden from the numerous guards that you'll want to neutralize silently. Performing a stealth kill is as easy as getting behind an enemy and hitting the attack button. Additionally, if more than one enemy is nearby and none of them detect you, you can actually kill all of them in a combo kill if you have the right timing. However, we encountered some preternaturally observant enemies in our build, some of whom could see us in places where it seemed like we'd be safely hidden, so pulling off stealth kills will require a lot of patience and care.

Of course, if an enemy spots you, you'll have to fight him head-on, which seems a tad clunky right now but is mostly manageable. You can lock on to an enemy and circle around him or flip over him while throwing sword combos and the occasional ranged attack his way. Luckily, you can escape back into the shadows with relative ease because your character is a lot more nimble than your enemies. Plus, the trademark grappling hook in the series returns, which allows you to take to the rooftops in just a few seconds to evade pursuers.

Good performance is rewarded with more gold, which will in turn open up new items and abilities with which to ply your ninja trade.

But you'll suffer other penalties for repeatedly getting noticed because the game grades just about every aspect of your performance in a given mission. Everything from mission duration to number of stealth kills and number of times caught to the manner in which you killed the boss character will contribute to (or deduct from) your final score. Your final rating will be tallied and then converted into the amount of gold you'll receive, which you'll use to buy new ninja items, attack combos, special abilities, and so on. However, there are a lot of things that can heavily impact your income. For instance, getting spotted by a guard deducts a relatively huge amount from your final score. In another example, playing on the easy difficulty will only award you 90 percent of your original total. Before we got the hang of it, we actually managed to receive no money upon successfully completing several missions early in the game. But luckily, you can replay any mission over and over to earn extra gold, which will buff up your character something fierce.

Our build of Tenchu Z was still a little rough around the edges, with some localized text still in need of polish and various cinematic animations missing. But the fundamental gameplay seemed to be on the money for Tenchu fans (aside from a few stealth-related oddities). So the real question will have to do with the amount of variety and replayability that will or won't exist in the whole of the game's dozens of missions. We'll have the final word on that with our full review of the game in June.

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Discussion

122 comments
pos3
pos3

Ha ! I told you the game sucks !

deadstar649
deadstar649

I do agree the graphics aren't that good but I have been enjoying the demo as long as it plays well I can live without great graphics.

pos3
pos3

Check the Reviews and see, Froza would be my choice...

Kno2morrow
Kno2morrow

Dude, public school. It's not expensive. Here's a free lesson: "Other THAN they should HAVE put more work into it." On topic: I'm not sure what to think of this game. My buddy wants me to buy it so he'll have someone to play coop with. But I think I'm going to go with Forza instead

pos3
pos3

Don't get me wrong, I like the game. It's just when it comes to hard earned cash for games I don't want to spend 60$ on a some what unfinished fan-boy title. Ya, the boss is pretty hard though. I love ninja stuff so I will probably buy this when the price lowers DRASTICALLY.

Deatonis
Deatonis

Pos youre too hard on the game, the truth is its fun but needs alot fo work like all from software games. The first level boss is insanely difficult. You just got lucky considering everything dies if it hits the water. They should of fixed alot of stuff the mechanics are pretty bad but it gets better as the game goes on. The main focus is the objectives and stealth kills. If you do those two things it gets alot easier. And alot better. But other then that not much i can say in either direction. Other then they should of put more work into it. Like i said tis worth close to 50 but not 60 dollars.

pos3
pos3

I guess it's ok...... MasterOfSpirites, the AI is abysmal. They run into walls and get suck on crates. I ran from a guy and hid in a corner like 5 feet away from him and he just sat there looking around for 15 seconds and walked away as if he never saw me. The fighting mechanics suck, the Graphics are hardly Next Gen, the game is way too easy. On the last boss of the demo, I went on the boat bridge and knocked him into the water and beat him ! "You just played the demo" you say. When a demo is released the same month as a game(hell like in the same 2 week duration), it's not going to change. But don't get me wrong, the game is pretty fun, just not very much work was put into it.

Deatonis
Deatonis

The games good, and it is scaled down for the demo. But the battle system is as antiqated as always and the lock on and camera are still bad. I suggest for co-op only. Good game and you get better sword attacks later but block, grappel and swing does not make a good game. Im buying this but its not worth 60. ita worth 48 dollars. Great game but like always. From software never learns to fix its problems.

JBiker51
JBiker51

MasterOfSprites, I totally agree with you. This game is so badass, I've been playing the demo nonstop...until today. Today is the day of the game!

MasterOfSprites
MasterOfSprites

Don't let people fool you in saying the game is bad. The game is actually very good. The AI is smart and the game play is fun. The story line is much different from other tenchu games. DIFFERENCE IS GOOD, embrace it people, it's not like they will get rid of your favorite characters forever, don't worry I am sure they will make a game with them also. The demo was only part of the game too; you have to realize that they gave you practically nothing in the demo because IT IS A DEMO!!! If they gave you the full real game then you would have nothing to buy. The real game should have around 50 accessories for your custom ninja, and you should advance in terms of fighting ability as the game goes on. If you don't get better combos, HEY, no big deal, you don't see splinter cell doing back flips and 130 hit combos either. It's a stealth game and a rather good one at that. Remember every one thought resident evil 4 was going to be bad for replacing the characters and the t-virus with a parasite, but it was a really good game, EMBRACE THE CHANGE. Once again, EMBRACE THE CHANGE, thank you and I hope you all have fun with the actual game, withier you buy it or not is up to you! -Multifire (One happy ninja)

sean87
sean87

I downloaded the demo not expecting much and that is what I got I have played all of the tenchu games and this is a total step backwards. Please whatever you do do not buy this game. I played overlord and I am thinking of getting it.

JBiker51
JBiker51

Badass demo, getting it tomorrow.

imperial_agent
imperial_agent

the demo was really, really bad. The sound effects were HORRENDOUS, and the animation is clunky and snappish. The camera doesn't help much too, and the icons are placed at the bottom of the screen, often covering your character. Why can't those stupid icons just be in the top corner or something so it's out of the way? this game sucks.

RyanCardillo
RyanCardillo

I liked it. I'm Still enjoying the demo. I'm playing it every day. I can't wait for the full game. I hope they fix the AI. But that's about it.

RyanCardillo
RyanCardillo

People you have to remember that this isn't the final version of the game.....IT'S A DEMO! This game could change (heres hoping it will) Just because you think the demo sucked doesn't mean the full game will

Cypher_2
Cypher_2

Wow, was the demo disappointing... I played the original on the playstation and loved it. I'm certainly not all about graphics; however, these were quite weak, slightly above the original Playstation... Whilst on a roof, your feet aren't even set properly. I'm not asking for perfection. It's a type of noticeable animation that distracts from the feel of the game. With the game play clunky, lack of storyline (depth), visibility issues with the AI and overall shallow feel of the game, I'm not too excited about this one anymore. It feels as if the game developers just threw something together, as if to make quota. If they still have a lot of time to work on it, then by all means, I'll check it out later. However, at the moment, I'll wipe the tears from my eyes j/k and wait for Assassin's Creed.

jayCLAYM0RE
jayCLAYM0RE

loved the 1st & 2nd Tenchu games. and this one is definitely a step and a half backwards. DEMO IS HORRIBLE, and i tried so hard to like it! glad to see i'm not alone

daxcVG
daxcVG

The game isnt based on graphics and thats what people base it on having good or bad graphics and people decide if its a good or bad game

volfye
volfye

This game is definitely horrible. Bad graphics, bad AI, repetitive game play, bad combat system, bad controls, glitches, etc. It's a real disappointment considering that the previous games weren't all that bad, but this is absolutely dreadful. Plus, not having any storyline whatsoever just kills any good thing that could've come out of it.

Hell-Fire21
Hell-Fire21

I'm not an 360 owner, but I'm interested in the game. When I first heard it was coming out...with no Rikimaru or Ayame as main characters, I knew it would kill the story. So far it's all about customization and doing good job during the mission to continue to update your character-- which isn't a bad concept, and so far the majority of people who played the demo like it for the better. I'm waiting for Gamespots' review as well, but I do have hopes for it. Not HIGH hopes. Hopes.

ctburesch
ctburesch

I played the game and I wasn't impressed. I thought it actually kind of sucked. I was really waiting for this one too. I am disappointed....

Rizer
Rizer

Ohhh...customization...I love customization.

terror_ninja
terror_ninja

awsum game any game with online and customization is good for me and especially ninjas

WGR_Darrin
WGR_Darrin

The review that the guys over at EGM gave it was pretty bad, but I'm reserving judgment until I either play the demo or get it from GameFly. Sometimes staff reviewers (for any site) tend to be skewed a bit.

Wryze
Wryze

I downloaded this game the other day, and like RyanCArdillo, I thought it looked good and played well. I will still wait for the review.

RyanCardillo
RyanCardillo

I played the demo. It's classic Tenchu. Sneak, kill, repeat. You don't have a lot of moves to kill people with. But it's a demo so i hope they fix it. It looks good, really good. I liked it. But i'm going to wait for the reviews from game spot before i buy it. To see if it's even worth buying. And DredWulf it's not a horrible game. You need to download it from xbox live. When i played the demo map i tried to go to my goal in many different ways. i'm happy to say that It's really cool. But the most easy way is most often hidden. (hint-try to swim) because, well for me anyway, I tend to over think things. The customization of your character is cool but they only let you go so far. It looks really shallow , i hope they change it for the better,

DredWulf
DredWulf

Fanboyism got no one anywhere....plus word is this game is horrible..I hope not though.

mike_gamer_24
mike_gamer_24

I am def getting this game and ps3 sucks by the way i had one got it on launch had it for two weeks decided it sucked a$$ and traded it in

podnicopete2006
podnicopete2006

Really looking forward to this one! The story was never what sold it for me anyway or the graphics. Its the gameplay that matters with this one, waiting in the shadows before jumping out and disemboweling your prey!

_synapsid_
_synapsid_

Yay! Its not another 360 FPS and its more stealthy Tenchu w/ customization...sweet!

mugugipan
mugugipan

Man I hope this game kicks ass. I never bought the original x box because it was plagued by fps everywhere and not too many other type of games. I bought the 360 Elite because I liked the games and the concept of playing online. I am just praying for a little bit of variability The only FPS I have liked was the rainbow 6 Las Vegas but that is more of a tactical shooter, and it switches from first person to third a whole lot. Luckily there are not as many fps on the 360. Lately however, previews are showing a disturbing trend of fps games coming to the 360. Please let this be a great game. Please, please, please, please ........

usemeup
usemeup

dizzy-p, does that mean you hate all the final fantasy games that aren't on nintendo?

Gorilla97
Gorilla97

a friend of mine is all about getting this game, so i'll wait and check out his copy before i decide to get my own. it's looking good, though.

gaeren
gaeren

with all the customization options this could be the best tenchu ever! i just hope it lets u create more than two ninjas for ur ttl.

_Shizuka_
_Shizuka_

Gamespot didn't really make this game sound too exciting in the preview, but I just know it's going to be awesome! All the Tenchu games (except the one on DS) are so good. Can't wait! Oh, I can wait... I don't even have a 360....... yet :(

M_H_3000
M_H_3000

I CAN"T FREAKING WAIT!!!!

Dizzy-P
Dizzy-P

PS made tenchu and xbox 360 is gunna spoil it. microsoft shud stick to what they do best, PCs they are no good in the world of consoles anywayz l8az xbox chumps im gunna go on ma PS3 online FOR FREE!

Virtual_Erkan
Virtual_Erkan

I am glad to have Xbox 360. I played Tenchu since 1998 on Play Station and I have played all of them. Having this latest game of Tenchu will be fantastic.

ps3killah
ps3killah

i hate ps3 good thing all good games always go to 360 like this one im a a big fan of ninjas i always wanted to be 1 when i was smaller

sam_genocide
sam_genocide

Tenchu is the best ninja game if you can find the older ones i think you should get it

theKSMM
theKSMM

I always thought Thief: The Dark Project started the stealth-action craze, but according to GameSpot's pages, Thief was released a few months after Tenchu. No doubt they were in development at the same time. I guess the great idea of the "sneaker shooter" was ready to be born in multiple places at the same time.

jake10846
jake10846

this game looks aamzing ill def get this

RyanCardillo
RyanCardillo

I agree with you Ramiiro. The PS3 is a flop. COME ONE PEOPLE! THE PS3 IS GETTING ITS ASS KICKED BY THE Wii ! I'm not saying that the Wii is a bad system.... I'm just saying Nintendo is Owning Sony in the Next- gen wars. But i'll stay with my 360 any day. any way back to the topic. I REALLY hope that this game is good.... I LOved all of the others! I"M A NINJA! NINJA!

Ramiiro
Ramiiro

i beg to differ you may think PS3 is better, but thats ok its your opinion,PS3 in my opinion is definately lacking in GOOD GAMES, its like having a system that you cant play, or with boring games atleast usually games start on other systems because they realize where the money is, 360 ! its a bad sign when all Sony's Franchises Are Ridin with another System it only means one thing lol but back to the topic the game looks pretty good hope its as good as it looks, and yes finally i think all games should follow what Saints Row Did and let you "Create" your own character, the games will definately sell alot more

Dizzy-P
Dizzy-P

Well i fink this game will be pretty gud and i like how u can finally create ur own ninja! But i hope it comes out for the ps3 seen as though it was PS that started tenchu off, it really pisses me off when they bring games out for other consoles but not the one that started it off, and its usually PS games that go to xbox even tho PS3 is better!

ihatespam04
ihatespam04

Sneak, Kill, repeat. The videos look like the computer enemies just stand around until you get too close to them, then they attack you with precision slices. I've owned most of the tenchu games and wish that they would branch out with the stories to make your ninja try to infiltrate areas desguised as a monk, or let you use more of an assortment of ninja weapons like the tekagis, kamas, kasuri-gama, and other less known lethal weapons. The tenchu games rely to much on the ninja to which was used more as a tool than as a weapon to fight with.

Wezker619
Wezker619

Lol there better be not a lag like the other Tenchu that came out on the Xbox that was like a big letdown for me on live. It was still kinda fun though.

Jewish_GameBoy
Jewish_GameBoy

I can't wait to be a Ninja! my dreams are coming true :)

RyanCardillo
RyanCardillo

Well the create your own ninja looks cool....( I'm GOING TO MAKE NARUTO! BELIEVE IT! ) ..We'll see how this game is when it comes out