Tenchu: Shadow Assassins PSP Review

From its debut on the PlayStation over a decade ago to its current state, Tenchu somehow got lost. The sheer joy of being a sneaky ninja evaporated, thanks to the more realistic approach. That may explain why the franchise bounced around over the years, from Activision to Sega to its current publisher, Ubisoft. Tenchu: Shadow Assassins is yet another entry that goes for the gold but barely qualifies for the bronze.

You play Rikimaru, a dedicated ninja true to his craft. There are several evil people lurking around villages bullying townsfolk. Rather than just run in and get into a massive swordfight, he prefers the old-school method of sneaking up on these predators and silently dispatching them. Along the way, the old ninja receives help from the sexy Ayame, a fellow warrior with several killing techniques of her own.

The game has numerous missions to complete and an array of ninja abilities. Some are simple, such as a bamboo straw that lets you spit water on lit torches to douse them or cool shinobi cats. Others are a little more complex, such as the hayate and the poison that you use on unsuspecting foes eating dinner. Your biggest gift of all, however, is your ability to embrace cover and darkness. You can hide in shrubs, along dark walls and in pitch-black spots waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.

Unfortunately, Shadow Assassins isn't fun. The idea of playing as a super-sneaky ninja sounds cool, but the gameplay is tedious and frustrating. You have to sneak up on a guard to kill them, but if you're noticed, there's no opportunity to fight back. You either use ninjitsu to vanish quickly or die. Furthermore, some missing tools make missions harder to complete. Why From Software chose to get rid of the grappling hook is beyond us. That could've been used not only to reach higher ground, but to also strangle someone from a distance.

In addition, the stage design gets old. You make your way through the same old villages, along the same old walls and through the same old dwellings. Otherwise, the graphics look good, with plenty of bloody kill animations and a decent camera that doesn't irritate nearly as much as the gameplay. It's a shame the voicework couldn't be on the same level. The narrator sounds like he's reading from a children's book while the guards sound awful. "Yeah, you BETTER run!"

If you somehow build up the patience to work through Shadow Assassins, the game has several bonus items and goodies to unlock, as well as extra missions that'll test your ninja skills.

Shadow Assassins could've been a great game had some things been changed or revamped. Instead, only the truly dedicated will see it through to the end, and even they may opt for the original PSOne game instead.

What's Hot: Solid presentation, plenty of chances to perform sneaky and bloody kills, Ayame is the hotness, decent unlockables.

What's Not: Reliance on stealth makes this frustratingly difficult, lots of missing items, story mode ends way too soon, lame voicework.

2/5