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May 24, 2005
Tenchu: Fatal Shadows - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
46KBDolby PLIIYesNoNoneNo

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Hiding around the corner.
Ninja based games aren't a rare thing in the games industry - not surprising given that most of the world's console developers are based in Japan where ninja's existed many years ago. One of the foremost game series' is Tenchu. After starting life on PSOne and being published by Activision the series has now moved to Sega, and the Playstation 2, with Tenchu: Fatal Shadows. Developers K2 were responsible for the previous PS2 game in the series, Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven - a good game but not brilliant but hopes were fairly high that the developers could expand on the franchise and provide and even better experience. Things start off fairly well with a solid storyline.

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A cut scene.
After the disappearance of Rikimura, the ninja Ayame began traveling the land in search of her mentor. Stumbling upon a burning village filled with the slain and dying, she quickly encounters the only survivor- another ninja named Rin. With years of training and hearts filled with revenge, the fierce warriors employ ancient skills--super vision, wall running, enemy freeze, and more--to determine who brought about this hideous crime. The story is told through some fairly nice cut- scenes scattered throughout the game.

Initial impressions of Tenchu Fatal Shadows are impressive. The game boots into a nice menu system and the initial story is briefly told with some wonderful Japanese artwork and some solid narration. After selecting a couple of items it was into the main game. The first level sees your character in a room filled with candles. Could be fun I thought so I started slashing away with my daggers. Strangely there seemed to be some sort of impenetrable force field around the candles. Never mind - most games are like that. Taking a dash outside I see a very nice waterfall in the distance, time for a dip then... I jump into the creek and head to the waterfall. Strangely it must be one of those glass ones - you see, my character couldn't even walk under the water. And the game continues...

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Hiding behind the wall.
After being impressed, then disappointed Tenchu: Fatal Shadows soon grows on you again. Set across 18 levels the game includes a tonne of unlockable content to keep you playing much longer then you initially think will be possible. In fact the Boss mode is certainly worth unlocking and using - quite entertaining. Gameplay is your fairly typical stealth action game with K2 adding one new feature called 'stealth kills' allowing you to take out two enemies at once. It's delightful when it happens - but there are so few places to do this that it seems like a wasted opportunity.

As you can tell from previous comments there is more then several shortcomings to this game. The collision detection is quite horrible in places as swords that obviously miss your character still inflict damage. I guess though this is balance as your sword misses often inflict damage themselves. Another issue is the enemy AI. To say they are stupid is a bit of an understatement. My biggest complaint about this game however is that is simply doesn't push any new boundaries. It's an action title with stealth elements - been there, done that. Finally there's no multi-player modes. Hell, I would have been happy with split-screen let alone online gameplay.

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Visuals are nothing special.
The visuals are yet another aspect where this game manages to be so middle of the road it's not funny. After the nice artwork from the intro the game seems to lose any uniqueness. The character models are fairly dull although the animation seems smooth enough and the texturing within the levels could certainly have been improved. The developers, however, have done just enough from keeping this from being an ugly title - it's just not one you'll show off to your friends. There's so many instances - such as the waterfall - where they could have show off some lovely effects but didn't bother, or didn't have time. Case in point: while the game has been optimised for 50Hz modes there is no 60Hz nor widescreen options. Progressive mode? Forget about it.

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Lots of blood, and an MA15+ rating.
Certainly the most disappointing aspect of Tenchu: Fatal Shadows is the sound - even with support for Dolby Pro Logic II (which was a surprise given the lack of graphical options!). While the games narrator is fine the general voice acting in the title is quite abysmal. Sound effects, typically so easy to get right these days are simply abysmal. I'm sure I heard much better way back in the 16-bit days, if I didn't I'm sure they weren't far off. Fortunately the music in the game is fairly good, quite oriental and atmospheric which never pains on the ears even after lengthy sessions with the game.

As much as I wanted to love Tenchu: Fatal Shadows it just lacked that spit and polish and that something special. Having said so much it's strange then that I still managed to like the title as much as I did. Fans of the Tenchu series, and indeed most stealth action titles, will enjoy much of this game and its one worth renting at the very least.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSVery poor graphics compared to the best on PS2. Disappointing.
SOUNDLame sound effects and poor speech as only lifted by the solid music.
GAMEPLAYEverything is in place, but it just seems so unoriginal or exciting.
VALUENo multi-player but quite a bit of extra content to unlock.
OVERALLIf you like previous Tenchu titles then this game will probably have you hooked. Casual gamers will get some value but ultimately be left a little flat by the lack of innovation in the title.

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