Tenchu is the perfect example of a franchise that simply does not want to grow up. It’s been seven years since the original Tenchu game was released on the PlayStation, and although stealth games in general have evolved, this is a series that seems to pride itself in staying just the way it is. So if you go into Fatal Shadows, the second Tenchu game released on the PlayStation 2, don’t expect a radical changes or impressive leaps to the games mechanics, because this game is exactly as you remember it.
Well, there is one change: in Fatal Shadows, Tenchu-mainstay Rikimaru is not one of the playable characters; instead we’re left switching from Ayame and Rin, two sexy female ninjas. These characters initially hate each other, something that is played out through a number of lengthy cinemas; but it won’t take too long before they are fighting side by side and working towards the same goal.
The two characters are nearly identical, with only a few minor differences to speak of. Rin wields a long sword on her back and is extremely effective with her arms and legs, while Ayame has two short blades that are fast and effective. As the characters progress through the game they will unlock new moves specific to their abilities, but the game always makes transitioning between the two ladies easy and simple since they generally have the same combos.
Tenchu doesn’t stray too far from the tried and true stealth mechanics found in previous outings. It’s you’re job to sneak up behind an enemy and go in for a stealth kill, a one-hit kill that is shown via a short cinema. Each of the two characters has a number of interesting stealth moves that are violent without becoming too gruesome. With each stealth kill comes a scroll, collect enough of these items and you’ll received a character-specific ability.
New to Fatal Shadows is the introduction of the double stealth kill, which allows you to sneak up and kill not just one person, but two. This sounds good, but the double stealth kills are often more trouble than their worth. It’s just as easy to sneak up on the characters individually and a lot less risky, but once you’ve mastered the skill, it does make for some cool looking kills and a sense of accomplishment generally lacking otherwise in this game.
One of the things that set Tenchu apart from the rest of the stealth titles early on was the ability to climb up to roofs and sneak around above everybody. You can still do this, although not every level seems ready for you to jump down on the enemy. The game allows for all kinds of special items for just about everything you could possibly want to do in the game. But until you’ve memorized what each item looks like, it’s almost impossible to tell what you have in-game. It’s also difficult to tell what type of item you’re going to need before each level, and by the time you know what you need it’s either too late or you’ve already moved on to the next chapter. Going back and experimenting with the weapons is fun, but unless you’re tackling the hardest difficulty you will not need to use many of the items.
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