Tenchu: Fatal Shadows Review
As if through stubborn adherence to tradition, Tenchu just hasn't evolved with the times. As a result, you'll need to keep a sharp lookout to spot this game's strong traits.
- Some cool-looking moves and characters
- Stealth kills can be fun to pull off
- Multiple level layouts and difficulty settings add replay value.
- Dumb enemy AI and antiquated stealth action formula
- Clunky combat
- Some frustrating level designs.
It's been a good couple of years since Tenchu's last (and first) outing on the PlayStation 2. Ready for more? This seminal stealth action series, whose publishing rights recently changed hands from Activision to Sega and From Software, actually hasn't changed much at all since its last jaunt. The latest installment, Tenchu: Fatal Shadows, offers an experience that's going to be very familiar to those acquainted with the series and its signature-style killing and grappling-hook swinging, despite an original story and a new playable character. As for those who've never played one of these ninja simulators before, at this point they're unlikely to get past the clunky controls, numbingly dumb enemies, and dated presentation to appreciate what Tenchu has to offer. Make no mistake: Everything that's ever been good about this series is pretty much intact in Fatal Shadows. But, as if through stubborn adherence to tradition, Tenchu just hasn't evolved with the times. As a result, you'll need to keep a sharp lookout to spot this game's strong traits.
Like its predecessors, Fatal Shadows takes place in medieval Japan and portrays ninjas in a relatively realistic light. These aren't the superhuman, ultrafast warriors like Ryu Hayabusa from last year's Ninja Gaiden. They're relatively fragile but versatile assassins whose greatest strengths lie in their abilities to both stay out of sight and quickly, cleanly kill anyone unaware of their collective presence. The story of Fatal Shadows doesn't assume your familiarity with previous Tenchu games, but those who've played one of the past installments will immediately recognize Ayame, one of the two main characters. This pretty ninja girl once might have seemed like a young and inexperienced killer, but in Fatal Shadows, that part goes to Rin...a young and inexperienced killer who crosses paths with Ayame when Ayame shows up to investigate a village that's been put to the torch. As one of the only survivors of this assault, Rin swears an oath of vengeance and sets off on a blood-soaked journey to slay her village's attackers. She'll join forces with Ayame during the course of Fatal Shadows' story, in which the two will follow through on their plans to seek retribution, one life at a time.
You'll alternate playing as Ayame and Rin, but they aren't drastically different characters. Ayame is a little older and a little wiser, and she uses two short blades to do her dirty work, whereas Rin sports one long, deadly sword that's strapped to her back. It's probably fitting that these two girls have a lot in common, since they play pretty much identically, too. Each one can execute different types of attack combos and stealth kills, but the way you execute these moves is the same in both cases. Neither character is particularly quick on her feet, but each can double-jump and use a grappling hook to latch onto ledges and rooftops and such. The grappling hook used to be one of Tenchu's unique gameplay conventions, but the mechanic really hasn't changed since it was introduced in 1998. Therefore it's not much of a novelty anymore. For that matter, it's harder than ever to make excuses for Tenchu's awkward camera and control issues. The camera will automatically shift as you approach ledges, which is great for when you're trying to get the drop on a foe beneath you but is not so great on most other occasions. Meanwhile, the same button used for crouching is used for flattening your back against walls, so you'll find yourself accidentally switching between these two postures frequently while in narrow corridors. It's certainly possible to compensate for these kinds of annoyances, but ideally you shouldn't have to.
Tenchu: Fatal Shadows consists of a series of linear missions that challenge you to sneak up on your enemies and then kill them. This is done simply by running up to a foe whose back is turned and pressing the attack button when in striking distance. You'll then be treated to a brief, fancy-looking stealth kill animation, which changes depending on your angle of approach. It's even possible to simultaneously stealth-kill two nearby foes this time, though circumstances rarely allow it. Anyway, all the stealth kills look pretty good, but they're relatively not as impressive or as shocking as they once seemed, so they're not the great reward they used to be. Of course, there's more to Fatal Shadows than nonstop backstabbing, though.
- Player Reviews: 37
- Game Universe:
- Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven (PS2, MOBILE),
- Tenchu Z (X360),
- Tenchu: Time of the Assassins (PSP),
- Tenchu: Fatal Shadows (PS2),
- Tenchu: Return From Darkness (XBOX),
- Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins (PS),
- Rittai Ninja Katsugeki Tenchu: Shinobi Hyakusen (PS),
- Rittai Ninja Katsugeki Tenchu: Shinobi Gaisen (PS),
- Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (PS),
- Tenchu (MOBILE)
- Number of Players: