‘Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven’ Delivers Feudal Japanese Action

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Few historical figures are as awe-inspiring or simply as dangerous as the ninja, a character mired in Japanese lore as a shadow warrior capable of stealthily completing his lord’s orders.

Essentially, these guys were feudal Japanese spies.

The “Tenchu” series, when it began back in 1998, excelled at allowing players to ingeniously take control of a ninja to carry out several tasks in a feudal Japanese environment.

The control was something amazing, giving the player the ability to climb to rooftops, hide oneself in the distance and use a variety of miscellaneous items to misdirect and attack his enemies.

The selling point of the “Tenchu” series, however, has been the fact that the mythical stealth of the ninja was the focal point of the game; if you were good enough, every mission could be completed and all of your foes could be defeated without anyone having seen you.

The game allowed you to instantly dispatch the armed sentries, in the level, if they were unaware of your presence, allowing you to strike from the shadows and retreat to safety.

Careful use of direction and stealth resulted in your leaving a trail of dead opponents and emerging from your mission unscathed.

“Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven” is Activision’s latest chapter of the Tenchu series for the PlayStation 2, following a comparatively disappointing sequel a few years back that was plagued by some glitches and disappointing game play mechanics.

These problems have been rectified and then some, delivering the unmistakable feel and control of the series to a more powerful system with great success.

The game opens with the introduction of one of two selectable ninjas, each of whom will progress through the game differently and encounter different twists to the story.

Your retainer, a fair leader by the name of Lord Gohda, has found an enemy in an ancient evil by the name of Tenrai.

It’s up to you, his loyal servants, to determine the cause of Tenrai’s return and ultimately, his removal.

The game plays out over several different locales in Japan, from samurai villages to bamboo forests and decaying castles.

Atmosphere has always been a key staple of the Tenchu series, and it’s arguably the most successful aspect of the game due to subtle touches.
Whether it comes in the form of a light snowfall or the sound of dripping water in a cave, your environments are always inspiring and unique.

Other touches further reinforce the stellar design of the title, such as the stunning characters and their movement, as well as the music, which is essentially a hybrid of traditional Japanese tunes and upbeat pop elements.

The only downside for some may be that “Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven” is rather blunt about its allowing the player to carry out the role of a feudal assassin.

Although, the presentation opts for tact and style over madcap gore; the level of violence parallels most Akira Kurosawa films in terms of being reserved.

For an action game, “Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven,” is extremely long and encourages repeat play, a feature as welcome as it is in most titles of this ilk.

Pound for pound, “Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven” is essentially the best gameI’ve played this year, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.