Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy
March 25th 2004

Introduction:Tenchu: Return from Darkness is based on the PS2 Tenchu title Wrath of Heaven. Wrath of Heaven was is the third installment for the popular series which has been held to high acclaim on the PS2. Activision has been busy preparing special version of Tenchu for us Xbox owners so we can share in the experience of sneaky ninja goodness.

The Game:Tenchu is a stealth based action game where you take on the role of three different ninjas in separate quests for justice. The setting is 16th century feudal Japan and you are Lord Gohda Mastsunoshin only salvation from the armies of Tenrai who looks to conquer the country.

For a large portion of the game you will be lurking around moving from objective to objective while taking out a guard or two on the way. It's not a huge jump in the Tenchu series of games, but it there is still enough to find this title satisfying. Tenchu was ironically released close to Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden revival and gamers have been confronted with two choices for Ninja action. For gamers looking for something more than flash and hack, Tenchu: From the Darkness is a more accurate portrayal of a true ninja. It's a hard pick, but both titles have there strong points.

The mission types are fairly generic and range from assignations and thievery to becoming a personal bodyguard of sorts. The game-play is balanced between two elements. One being stealth and the other combat. If you have played Metal Gear, Splinter Cell or any action game of late you will be familiar with stealth elements. The combat half is done with ancient weapons such as swords, staffs and bows. You will also get use some ninja standards like the shurikens, blow darts and smoke bombs for the extra punch. The combat is fairly standard, but takes a few moments to learn to balance attacking and defending especially against multi enemies. One great aspect to each level is that after completing a mission you can replay the quest in a 2 other level layouts. The end result will be the same, but they mix the items in the levels increasing the longevity of the title.

Tenchu rewards players who learn to master the Tenchu's trademark stealth kills. Taking on a horde of samurais won't do a thing for you ninja rating, but taking each one out individually in silence with speed and accuracy will. Each stealth kill goes into a brutal cut scene, where you slice through the opponents in the painful of ways. This is where the game gets it Mature rating. Stealth kills are simple to execute simple by pressing 'X' when laying undetected when close to the enemy, but the hard part is getting close undetected. Who ever said being a ninja was easy?

Like every game there is a downside and Tenchu has a few issues which have been returning problems in all versions of the game. The number one problem in Return from Darkness is the horrible camera positions which bring an underlining level of frustration to playing though the game. It's a noted issue in 3rd person games, but almost ever minute you will have a problem with the camera in Tenchu which is a bit much. Tenchu also is a little light on the enemy A. I. The problem isn't in the combat area it's in conjunction with the stealth aspects. For some reason a few seconds after you disappear from there sight they go back to there routine and totally forget your existence. Yes, strange! These two points are the main downsides, but overall the game is still enjoyable.

Graphics & Sound:The graphics of Tenchu:Return from Darkness looks how you would expect an upgraded playstation game to look. You can definitely tell that this wasn't engineered ground up for the Xbox. The graphics aren't dissatisfactory , but the textures aren't as vibrant as they could have been. The stealth kills as I mentioned above are the cream for the graphics displaying a fluid transition from cut scene to game. Overall it's not about the graphics, it's the game.

The sound is a few levels above the graphics in Tenchu. Of course when dealing with stealth orientated game sound becomes a vital ingredient. The effects and ambience is great and fits the atmosphere perfectly. You defiantly need to experience the game in a 5.1 setting to get the full effect.

Innovation:Since Return from Darkness is an upgrade from Wrath of Heaven there are a few new innovations for the Xbox version. The main improvement besides the graphics would be the ability to move dead bodies in the same vain as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. Although this feature was implemented, I rarely used it. I found even without hiding the recently dececed I could manage levels effortlessly.

Another feature to the Return from Darkness is Xbox Live capability. You can play through in a cooperative game mode (double stealth kills!), or play head to head in deathmatch versus style. Some other little addiditions are new items and the checkpoint continue feature, so you won't loose all those hours replaying a mission. It's a not a tone of new features to recommend buying both Xbox and PS2 versions, but its great for Tenchu newbies.

Mojo:Ninjas! Who doesn't love a ninja? Any game with a ninja in it is bound to have a good Mojo scoring with Downtown. Sneaking around in pajamas assassinating unespecting foes is a great way to pass the time. Tenchu puts a value on reality and tries to make the experience as realistic as it can. The stealth kills are great to watch and give a satisfying feeling to all the creeping around you has to do. Tenchu has the mojo, too bad Tenchu's camera doesn't.

Lowdown:Tenchu: Return from Darkness has finally arrived on the Xbox, if you never had the chance to experience a Tenchu game and are a fan of stealth games you should absolutely check out Return from Darkness. Despite the problems covered above, Tenchu is a great experience. It's good to see the series expand and hopefully there will be more Tenchu titles in the future.

Gameplay: 7, Graphics/Sound: 7, Innovation: 8, Mojo: 6. Final: 7

  • New Stealth Attacks and Improved Fighting Engine - Master combo attacks, including stealth moves and jumping attacks, played out in realistic detail via a robust fighting engine. Gamers take on the role of three characters, Rikimaru, Ayame and Tesshu, an unlockable assassin, utilizing over 20 authentic ninja weapons and tools and earning new abilities and combos by racking up stealth kills.
  • Exclusive Xbox Content and Enhancements - Tenchu: Return from Darkness features 11 single-player maps including two new levels that take players on a journey to a samurai mansion and deserted pagoda temple. Improved gameplay balance with re-tuned enemy intelligence and item placement force gamers to think on their feet.
  • Xbox Live and Multiplayer Action - The Xbox Live mode allows for two-player co-op missions through six levels, as well as online voice chat functionality. The multiplayer action offers six levels and two modes of play - co-operative team oriented missions and Hunter-Hunted death matches.
  • New Restart and Continue Functions - Tenchu: Return from Darkness features two exclusive new functions for both hardcore and novice players. The restart function allows them to restart a mission with all of the items previously collected. The continue function, designed for novice players, alleviates the frustration of dying early in pitfalls and having to start at the beginning of a mission.
  • Multiple Mission Paths - Fans can complete unique mission objectives including espionage, theft and assassination. Crafted levels allow players to determine the most efficient way to achieve mission goals. Multiple game endings based on earlier decisions in the game and enemy placements, keep players coming back for more.
  • Stunningly Realistic Graphics and Special Effects - Taking full advantage of the Xbox's graphical capabilities, Tenchu: Return from Darkness features 11 detailed levels with realistic lighting and weather effects, breakable items and authentic character animations.

Tenchu: Return
From Darkness

K2 Ltd.
March 2004