Tenchu puts you in the jump suit of Rikimaru or in the lovely ninja outfit of Ayame, and throws you into a world of intrigue, stealth, and sneaky ninja tactics. If you plan on jumping into combat with random sword swipes and uncoordinated button mashing, you can get used to the idea of flying to an early grave right now. It takes true skills to master Tenchu, and although it wont be easy, it will be a hell of a lot of fun.
As with most modern PSX games, you are greeted by a nice and perdy FMV intro that introduces you to the premise behind the game. The FMV is not exceptional, but it does not really matter, as for the most part, the only place for it is in the introduction. You are also welcomed with a small group of options, including a special training mode that will teach you the ropes of being a ninja. I would recommend trying out the training mode before jumping into the actual story mode, as it is a good place to learn how to sneak around as opposed to what will probably be your natural instinct: arcade hack'n'slashing.
Tenchu's graphics are flawed, but at the same time incredibly sweet. The animation is nearly top notch, although the running animations seems a bit funny, and some of the flexible movements are a bit choppy. The worlds are lush and deep, and it wont take you long to fall in love with the game design. One beautiful area of Tenchu is the fact that it somehow manages so retain solid gameplay while still incorporating gallons of blood: a task that few games have achieved in the past.
The musical score is incredible, and will very much engross you into Tenchu's deep and tranqualizing world. It loops a lot, but overall the soundtrack is simply amazing. The sound effects are superb, and the voices are very clever and entertaining, if not a little unrealistic, considering that this is supposed to be feudal Japan. Everybody has very funny Western accents (especially the first boss you have to kill), but it actually adds to the gameplay experience, and makes the addition of a lighthearted atmosphere come into perspective.
Easily the aspect that makes Tenchu a true winner is its diverse and unique look at gameplay. As Rikimaru, you wield a long katana-type weapon, which can do heavy damage but is somewhat slow in execution. As Ayame, your death deal of choice is a really groovy dual-blade type set up that is very speedy, and perfect for slitting unsuspecting guard's necks. Both warriors carry a really cool grapple that you can use to boost yourself up to roofs and other high destinations. You can also buy other items such as smoke bombs, ninja stars, poisoned rice, and healing potions, all to be used at your own discretion. When you begin your mission remember this: stealth is the key to victory. Your primary goal is to stay in the shadows, take out guards without them seeing you, and then going back into hiding to wait for your next opportunity. Not much is more thrilling than jumping off of a roof, slitting a guards neck, and then grappling up to the roof again before you are spotted.
Of course there is a backstory, but it carries no relevance to the game's entertaining aura, other than the fact that you do embark on some pretty humorous quests-like assassinating a particularly horny merchant. The quests stay roughly the same for both characters, with usually the only difference being in the dialogue and some interaction with various characters, and follows the search for the lost daughter of your sensai.
Tenchu is madly entertaining, and it will keep you coming back for months to come as you discover new ways of beating the training mode, or unique methods of slaying enemies. Tenchu gets a very high recomendation from me. So what are you waiting for? Go get it!
Andrew the Game Master