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July 12 2006
Tenchu: Time of the Assassins - PSP Review
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One of the cut-scenes.
Tenchu: Time of the Assassins is the sixth game in the series which has made its way from the Playstation, to Playstation 2 and now Playstation Portable. The last couple of games have been developed by K2 so hopes were high that this PSP version would provide a few thrills Ė how wrong we were.

Set in feudal Japan this series focus on ninjaís and their stealthy abilities and deadly skills. After selecting from five available ninjas itís into the game. Upon commencing each mission you select the items you want to take with you, be it weapons, or healing items, poison for enemies or similar.

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Textures can be pretty drab.
Unfortunately this game falls in a heap with its stealth elements. What should be the highlight of the game is so unwieldy that it ruins it. If you get a notification (via an icon) that an enemy is nearby by the time you hug against a wall or find somewhere to hide youíll probably have been spotted, if not then using the cameras becomes such an issue that you wonít be able to see them properly anyway. Itís not long before this game becomes more a hack and slash then ever intended, and on that front itís not that good either.

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Yawn, more average graphics.
The actual mechanics of battle are rather simple. One button for attack, another for defend, Left shoulder to lock onto enemies, x to jump and so on. Thereís nothing particularly complex, or revolutionary about the control scheme at all. Level design also needed much more work. Many are basic to the extreme, very angular, sparse in their detail and objects, and least impressively very short. Some literally take minutes to complete with few taking more then 15 minutes.

There are other complaints. The game includes pages upon pages of text to read, much of it probably translated well from their Japanese counterparts, but hardly riveting, and certainly an aspect we looked at skipping through within a couple of levels. The game includes a mission builder which, to be honest, is pretty robust but the problem is that you'll probably tire of the game well before you decide to look at this option, and the results, while good, certainly aren't as detailed, or enjoyable, as in many other PC titles.

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Time to kill him.
Graphically Tenchu: Time of the Assassins is one of the worst games seen to date on the PSP - for a number of reasons. Firstly while the cut scenes are nice enough, they are rather unexciting and with no effort put into lip-synching. Detail and texturing in the game world is minimal at best. Everything appears low resolution and quite often has a dreary grey look to it. Lighting is barely adequate but criminally there isn't a nice fade out into the distance, but rather a heavy fog (read: short draw in distance) which can really be a problem with enemies not appearing until almost right in front of you, making the act of being stealthy, and trying to avoid enemies a real issue. Finally the cameras are horrendous. These arenít just annoyingly placed but actually hinder your abilities during fights due to awkward placement and horrendously slow manual rotation Ė which is amplified when in the heat of battle. All-in-all it looks just like an early PSOne title - it's that poor.

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I promise, last screenshot.
If thereís one area where this game gets close to a passing grade, itís with the audio. The music is quite atmospheric in places with plenty of Japanese themed orchestral music. Unfortunately the speech is quite abysmal with terrible accents and phrases which certainly don't even sound like feudal Japan. Sound effects are also average, nothing more, nothing less.

Perhaps itís not surprising that this game is so far behind the other technically. You see Tenchu: Shinobi Taizen (as it is called in Japan) was released in July 2005 Ė an entire generation of software prior to todayís efforts. That still doesnít mean it was good back then either and the end result is a game much better left on the shelves. Tenchu Time of the Assassins is step backwards for the series.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSTerrible camera work, terrible world detail, terrible, well, everything.
SOUNDThe music is quite ok, the speech and effects are just very average.
GAMEPLAYThe camera and short draw distance kills the gameplay experience.
VALUEThere quite a bit there, five characters with different stories.
OVERALLTenchu: Time of the Assassins is, without a doubt, one of the worst games released on the PSP to date. It's no where near the quality of the Playstation 2 titles, and quite why Sega saw fit to release it a year after the Japanese launch is questionable at best. Leave this one alone.

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