Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Developer - Acquire
Publisher - Activision
Release date – August 31, 1998

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins is an action-adventure stealth game developed by Acquire and published by Sony Music Entertainment Japan in Japan and Activision worldwide for the PlayStation in 1998. Tenchu is known for its stealth gameplay and the eerie settings of feudal Japan. Tenchu was one of the first ninja games to incorporate stealth, a very crucial aspect of ninjutsu. However, aside from featuring traditional martial arts in battles, the game incorporates elements of historical fantasy and Japanese mythology.


The game takes place in feudal Japan, introducing a pair of ninja: Rikimaru (
力丸) and Ayame (彩女), members of the Azuma ninja clan since childhood. The two ninja serve the heroic Lord Gohda, and work for him as his secret spies to root out corruption and gather intelligence in his province. However, the evil demonic sorcerer Lord Mei-Oh seeks to destroy Lord Gohda, and using his demon warrior Onikage who wreaks havoc throughout Lord Gohda's province.


The game begins with the protagonists Rikimaru and Ayame training to reach an honourable rank. In the training missions the performance of the character determines their rank; ranging from Thug, Novice, Ninja, Master Ninja to Grand Master. Lord Gohda himself gives his feedback on Rikimaru's performance while his daughter Princess Kiku speaks to Ayame instead. The playable characters Rikimaru and Ayame are only selectable as singular players and their storylines vary considerably, yet they experience the same levels and missions. Rikimaru, the oldest of the two, is the primary character in the game. Armed with a single ninjato, he is stronger than Ayame but relatively slower. Ayame carries a pair of tantō (although she does carry dual wakizashi in the second game) and is faster and has more combos than Rikimaru, but is the weaker of the two.

The game features 10 levels which are introduced in increasing difficulty: Punish the Evil Merchant, Deliver the Secret Message, Rescue the Captive Ninja, Cross the Checkpoint, Execute the Corrupt Minister, Infiltrate the Manji Cult, Destroy the Foreign Pirate, Cure the Princess, Reclaim the Castle and Free the Princess. All of the levels take place at night to compensate for the technical limitations of the PlayStation; the game's high rate of redraw is reduced by setting events at night and reducing the distance the player can see. Both characters are armed with a grappling hook which allows them to zip up to the tops of buildings and move freely across rooftops, which gave the game a sense of verticality that was rare among most action/adventure games of the time. Many bosses react differently to the two ninja based on their genders, highlighting the social attitudes at the time.

All missions, including the initial training mission, can be replayed for an unlimited number of times, but Mission 2 and onwards cannot be accessed without the previous chapter being successfully completed. Three different layouts are used to distribute the enemies, obstacles and items spread on the levels' maps. On playing the training level, only several throwable deadly objects and a grappling hook are automatically selected as interactive objects. The weapon selection section contains throwing knives (kunai)/shuriken (depending on the game version), smoke bombs, caltrops, poison rice cakes, coloured rice, healing potions, grenades and mines. Advanced items on completing a mission with the rank Grand Master are known as: Super Shuriken/Kunai, Lightfoot Scroll, Fire Eater Scroll, Protections Amulet, Sleeping Gas, Ninja Armour, Shadow Decoy, Resurrection Leaf, Chameleon Spell, Dog Bone and Decoy Whistle. These are optional to use on missions but are limited to a number of objects overall. The Grappling Hook is permanently locked into the inventory and does not consume item space.

On failure, the character dies (sometimes being ridiculed by a boss) and the text "Mission Failed" appears on the screen in front of the grave of the respected character. All items that he/she acquires or takes with him/her are permanently lost until found in future missions, therefore the player should note a risk in selecting a large number of objects to use for the mission. If the character succeeds in their mission they will be scored and ranked while the player's time is recorded into the game's system. This score is compared to previous attempts and the scores of the partner to the current character if they have been played before. A cinematic scene happens at the end of each level revealing some of the character's personality to the player.

Mission 10 has a longer cutscene which leads to the ending of the game and credits. The player still has an option to complete the game as the alternative character as the attempts in playing each level are limitless. Some aspects can be unlocked by completing sections of the game, which can include alternative costumes for Rikimaru and Ayame. Cheats can also trigger unlockables.


A video of an early prototype build of the game was featured in Tenchu: Shinobi Hyakusen, showing a science-fiction type ninja game whose gameplay style was also very different from the one in the final version. Famous ninja-roles actor/martial artist Sho Kosugi and his son Kane were hired as motion capture actors for the game's combat moves.

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