Tenchu 2 Hands-On: Rikimaru

Stealthy assasin Joe Fielder puts his hands on Tenchu 2: Stealth Assasins with a focus on Rikimaru. Learn all about the classy male ninja in this inside report.

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Rikimaru's adventure begins in the ninja village, where you can choose to practice your moves and skills in the field or take on the training mission that will signal the end of your apprenticeship, if you can complete it. During that stage, you'll notice a few new things about the series' level design. For instance, you'll come across a small sign that points upward to a shaft you would have walked by without noticing (a hint for things to watch out for later) had it not been for the sign. Another is the underwater aspect of the game. You'll have to learn how to correctly breathe through a reed in order to wait out guards on their rounds, as well as how to climb out of a pond without splashing so loudly that enemies will hear. Getting through the training mission is easy enough, but making it to the end without being seen at all is extremely challenging.

After that stage is completed, Rikimaru's path diverges from his fellow ninja Ayame's in both storyline and levels. While some stages contain the same level maps, your goals, the enemies, and the time of day may be different. For instance, in one level Rikimaru must sneak into a camp where thieves and bandits are dwelling. The thieves stay there during the day, while the bandits pillage the local area. As Rikimaru, you must go in during the day and take out the leader of the group. When playing as Ayame, you must enter the camp at night to track down the bandit lord, who is not in the same part of the camp as the leader. It may sound a bit cheap, but there are enough differences to make the level interesting both times.

Another level where Rikimaru's path is different from Ayame's is the one where Rikimaru has to come to the aid of Lord Gohda, whose uncle has initiated a bid for power and has laid siege to Gohda's home. As Rikimaru, you will fight Lord Gohda's uncle himself while as Ayame, you will fight one of the powerful underlings in a completely different area of the same castle.

Rikimaru's storyline also brings him into contact with a series of unique boss characters, of which there are many more than in the first game. One character who makes an appearance early on is a masked ninja who seems similar to the Crow-like sub-boss from Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. After you fight him for a while, he taunts you and then runs off, hinting that you'll encounter him again later in the game. Another boss is a tattooed Chinese martial artist who is responsible for kidnapping a boatload of Japanese peasants to serve as slaves. His punches and kicks can knock down your life bar so quickly that you'll be hard pressed to find enough time to drink your health potion. You'll see the masked ninja again about three-quarters of the way through the game, but you'll have to fight a comrade of his instead - a blonde female ninja dressed entirely in white who throws shuriken at you if you wander too far away from her and who is brutally swift once you are close in. All the bosses are more difficult than before, and learning how to master the block function is an absolute must if you want to see the end of the game. Tenchu 2 definitely isn't a game you can breeze through in a few hours like the original, though at this point in development, the bosses seem a little more powerful than they should be.

That's it for our report on Rikimaru. Tomorrow we'll look at Ayame's missions in the game.

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