Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Microsoft Tenchu Z
- Simple stealth play, ninjas in loin cloths
- Slow pacing, repetitive action, dull graphics
The Tenchu series has been flawed and pedestrian since way back in the PS1 days. Tenchu Z continues this slightly dubious tradition.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
Of the few things in this world that truly rule, super-sized dolphins with telepathic powers, donkeys that cast lightning bolts from their tails, and Ninjas top the list. Throw any of these things in the lead role of a video game and theoretically we've got the makings of a winner.
It seems that the guys at K2 and From Software knew this, but when they created Tenchu Z they forgot that putting a Ninja in a game is only one part of the equation for gaming greatness. It's still pretty damn sweet, but all of the other basic factors that make a game truly enjoyable have vanished from Tenchu Z in the quick flash of a ninja smoke bomb.
Real Ninjas Wear Cowboy Boots
The biggest problem with the game is that it has the depth of a muffin tin. The majority of the game has the player controlling their ninja and taking to the shadows to assassinate characters, collect items, or find people. The levels are simple and don't add up to more than a collection of buildings and rice fields set against the backdrop of a feudal Japan.
Do costumes like these make you want to keep playing?
Tenchu Z's gameplay depth fares even worse: despite being a stealth-action game, the game puts little emphasis on actually staying hidden. If I chose to, I could barrel through the level attracting as much attention as a dinosaur in the middle of Times Square until I found my target, then hide for a few seconds under a building while the dumber-than-a-fifth-grader AI forgets about me, and then complete the mission with ease. The only real incentive to complete a mission in full stealth is the money earned at the end. Yeah, this money can be spent buying new clothing, moves, and items, but at the end of the day, a new pair of cowboy boots doesn't make me want to sit and watch paint dry, and at times hiding in shadows feels just like this.
All the Amenities of a Chinese Buffet
Tenchu Z has the overall feeling of sitting in a bad Chinese buffet. The sounds are comprised of clicks and clacks, which feel authentic but mean little to the overall game. The grunts and swears of patrolling guards seem to be made by phantom guards from nowhere and often confused me. By the end of the game I was on edge from all of the seemingly random sound effects.
Visually the game lacks the sheen and polished look of new-gen games. If Tenchu Z were the only example of what is possible with a new-gen console, it would appear that multi-processors didn't exist at all. It looks nice enough--especially in a dimly lit room--but I'm again reminded of a cheap buffet that is trying to hide what's really in the sauce.
Once I got past all of the problems in the collision-detection and accepted the fact that as long as my ninja stabbed the floor within a three foot radius of a bad guy, it was a kill, I had a mild amount of fun. It may not be worth the $100 price tag, but if you're into ninjas, then a weekend rental will be a mild amount of fun.
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