Pros: Everything you liked about Wraith of Heaven and more.
Cons: Uses the last Tenchu's graphic system and gameplay system.
Even though the last Playstation 2 Tenchu game, Wraith of Heaven, was a
worldwide hit Activision sold the Tenchu license to Japan's From
Software. From software did publish Tenchu: Return to Darkness for the
Xbox, but they are better known in Japan for their Armored Core mech
series. You can't help but wonder why Activision sold one of their core
licenses to a new Japanese developer. Thankfully, they just didn't sell
the rights to Tenchu. They included all of the code, character models
and charm of the original series.
The leap from Tenchu 2 on the PSX to
Tenchu: Wraith of Heaven was huge leap in terms of graphics, gameplay
and level size. If you're expecting that type of change in Kurenai,
you're going to be let down. Instead Kurenai takes everything that
Wraith of Heaven did right and add a few tweaks to the game. This makes
Tenchu Kurenai play more like an expansion pack of the Wraith of Heaven,
than a completely new game.
The story of Tenchu Kurenai takes place in between the second game
and Wraith of Heaven. Rikimaru, on of the stars of the series, has gone
missing. Ayane, another Tenchu star, goes out on a quest to find him. On
her way she enters a burning village where another ninja Rin is
returning home to. At first the two ninjas fight, but afterwards find
that they need to work together. Each of the characters has a different
style of fighting. Rin fights with hand to hand combos. She has a sword
that she uses to end combos and for a longer ranged jumping attack.
Ayane has her traditional double dagger combination. Ayane is faster
than Rin and can score more, but less damaging hits.
With both characters the emphasis isn't about face to face killing.
It's all about being stealthy. Your ninja training allows you to execute
instant kills if an enemy isn't looking straight at you. Performing
stealth kills not only guarantees you won't be attacked back by an enemy,
but you can also acquire new skill scrolls this way. Skill scrolls can
teach your characters new moves, which are important for fighting
bosses. The stealth kills aren't nearly as bloody as they were in Wraith
of Heaven, which isn't really a big deal. To help you identify far
assailants you have a type of "ninja sense" just like in Wraith of
Heaven. Different colored indicators tell you how close you are to
enemies and if you've been spotted. Players will have to rely on this
system as a makeshift radar early on in the game.
One thing that fans of the Tenchu series will enjoy is the enemies
have increased AI. You can't just hide in a bunch of bushes and be
"invisible" to enemies anymore. Enemy ninjas will chase you down for
long distances. They'll even call for backup if they spot you or a
lifeless corpse. Players will need to be extra careful since Ayane and
Rin aren't suited for up close fighting. If you encounter three or four
ninjas at once you're in trouble. Luckily you have a couple of new
stealthy abilities like hiding bodies. The levels in Tenchu Kurenai are
outdoors like in Wraith of Heaven, but are much larger. Larger levels
mean more areas to run through and more areas for enemies to hide in. It
may not be intentional, but the designers at From Software have the
ninjas with uniforms that blend in to the backgrounds really well.
Sometimes you'll be scanning for threats to find that you missed a ninja
right in front of you.
Using the same gameplay system is OK, since Tenchu: Wraith of Heaven
had good gameplay. Where the Playstation 2 Tenchu didn't shine was in
the graphics department. The character models were blocky and the areas
were devoid of detail. A year later and the same graphics engine, looks
even worse. Ayane has blocks of rectangular hair and Rin has a square
shaped dress. Even though the areas have gotten larger, they also
suffered from the lack of a graphical upgrade. Sometimes there are long
pixilated strands of grass and surrounded by cubes of wood. It's not that Tenchu 3 has "bad" graphics, its just they're
not up to par.
Even though it may not be the most visually appealing game, Tenchu
Kurenai has more of what Tenchu fans come to love. Fans of the series
and stealth games will get a kick out of a larger stages. From software
picked up where Activision left off, if this is any indication of how
well the next Tenchu game will turn out we're excited.
The all Japanese menus, use of ancient kanji and the artistic
water brush font will challenge even the most educated Japanese
linguists. With this level of a language barrier players won't be able
to complete the missions without a great deal of language ability.
Due to the popularity of the Tenchu series and From Software's good
relationship with Activision, we expect to see this game here.
Is more of a good game a bad thing? If we're talking about the
Tenchu series, defiantly not.