Reviewed on: PS1
Tench: Stealth Assassins ended with one hell of a cliff hanger. SPOILERS. Rikimaru is presumably dead and the future of the Azuma ninjas is left clouded in mystery.
Want to know what happens?
Tough tits ‘cause the sequel is actually a prequel.
That’s right, Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins tells the story of Rikimaru and Ayame becoming Azuma ninjas and doesn’t make any mention of the first game. You'd have to wait for the PS2 sequel for that. Once again you play as either Rikimaru or Ayame (you can also unlock their master, Tatsumaru) across a variety of missions whilst serving Lord Ghoda. The game begins each character with a training missions in the ninja village and then sends them off on more elaborate missions. One of the best changes that was implemented here is that Rikimaru and Ayame no longer share identical missions. This adds great replay value to the game and strengthens the story. This is added to with the unlocking of Tatsumaru who also has his own set of missions and adds another layer to the story.
Speaking of story this game does a far better job of it than its predecessor. Where Tenchu: Stealth Assassins blunders along and clumsily goes from gritty feudal Japanese tale to fantastical mindf*** this game gradually unravels a conspiracy to conquer Japan (and then the world) and have it all ruled by ninjas. Badass idea. This conspiracy is to be carried out by the Burning Dawn and their large chested leader Lady Kagami. After some twists and turns and a little bit of betrayal and espionage you discover that Kagami has a huge ship with massive fire cannons and is planning on attacking Ghoda castle. Naturally you go at her with all the might you have in a last ditch effort to save Japan.
The story isn't anything spectacular but it is entertaining and provides a suitable backdrop for the gameplay. The gameplay is largely the same as it was the first time round only there are some new animations for the executions, it supports analogue control (not my copy though!) and isn't set exclusively at night. Many of the missions take place during the day time and so the draw distance and graphics are altered for the better. Enemy AI has also been tightened up but is still pretty terrible. By and large the gameplay is the same. There are refinements but the formula is unchanged. This may cause cries of “sequelitis” and other such nonsense but for the first sequel in the series this is a great way to do things. An overhaul wasn't really needed at this time, just a touch up.
The same approach was taken with the graphics and sound. The engine used is the same but it has been powered up and it really shows. The draw distance is much better, there are more varied character models, the animations are improved and more diverse and lots of the missions are set during the day time. The soundtrack is fairly unaltered with some classic themes and a couple of new ones. It still isn't as perfect as the one from Wrath of Heaven but by this stage it was getting there. The same criticism I had with the first game’s voice acting are still relevant here. The script is pretty awful and the voice acting is wooden and just embarrassing. It seems like the increased budget did not go into the acting.
On top of the story mode there is also a level editor which allows you to create and play your own missions. Like most level editors from this time its pretty confusing for a while but once you get the hang of it you realise that the toolset is pretty extensive and you can get a tonne of fun and replay value from making your own missions to mess about in. Its also pretty cool to create tough courses and watch in glee as your friends get butchered.
Maybe I'm just sadistic.
The overall package of this game is superb. Its got almost all of the refinements you would hope for and features great value for money. Its definitely a must buy for any PS1 owner the only problem with it is Lady Kagami. I don't know if the first game was a sales disappointment or something but Lady Kagami is just pure exploitation and it really messes with the otherwise awesome story. She spends the whole game prancing around in barely any clothes and has tits the size of mountains. I know I bang on a lot about this issue but seriously, portraying women like this is not good. It isn't a deal breaker in this case but it does mean that the game’s villain cant be taken seriously and it really damages the enjoyment factor for the story. I just wish I could say that, 13 years after this game launched, this sort of issue was a thing of the past.