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Conveyable Carnage- Tenchu: Shadow Assassins Reviewed

Tenchu: Shadow Assassins for the Sony PSP. Developer: Acquire, Publisher: Ubisoft

There are few videogame protagonists as thrilling and ubiquitous as the ninja. Feudal Japan’s clandestine warrior has been the luminary of games ranging from Shinobi to the Dead or Alive series. Yet only the Tenchu series of games has successfully captured the essence to ninjutsu. Other titles have relegated the black-clad assassins to simplistic platforming and fighting. 1998’s Tenchu: Stealth Assassins for the Sony Playstation was the first title to simulate the quintessential stealthy nature of the shuriken tossing anti-hero.

Sadly, subsequent sequels to Stealth Assassins failed to expand the depth of the simulation, and became mired in mediocrity. Recently, we reviewed Tenchu: Shadow Assassins for the Nintendo Wii, and found the title to be a much-needed return to form. Now, publisher Ubisoft has released a port of the game for the Sony PSP, which nearly recreates a full-fledged console experience with only minor impediments.

While we expected the graphical fidelity to take a hit, Shadow Assassins holds up amazingly well. Despite working on a digital canvas of significantly fewer pixels, all of Tenchu’s textures and environmental geometry are faithfully recreated. Lead characters Rikimaru and Ayame are fluidly animated; their movements convey both the sufficient amount of slink, and brutality when dispatching enemies. The title’s framerate is delightfully lithe; allowing players to skulk the landscapes unimpeded. Our only caveat with the title is the amount of on-screen real estate our protagonist takes up; occasionally the hero will gallingly obscure the action.

Unfortunately, this graphical richness comes at a diminutive cost. Whereas the Wii version of Shadow Assassins offered immersive, uninterrupted levels, the PSP version breaks down each of the game’s 10 missions into smaller chucks. As players enter new areas, gameplay and music is interrupted by seven to ten second load times. Surely, the game could have cached data in the same manner as the brilliant God of War: Chains of Olympus for a ceaseless game experience.

We were pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of the Wii version’s control method, and we hoped for the same level of precision in the PSP port, despite the portable system’s absence of a second analog stick.  For the most part, Shadow Assassins’ controls are uncomplicated and effective. Players use the analog stick to move the assassin, while the left shoulder button is employed contextually to initiate a run or side-step. Additionally, the player can utilize a pared-down arsenal of ninja tools by hitting the ‘O’ button, whereas the square is used to initiate the hissatsu, or instant kills. Clinging to walls, jumping along high-beams, and scrambling up an elevated corner are all performed effortlessly and add to the game’s sense of gratification.

Fortunately, none of the content from the console version of Tenchu: Shadow Assassins has been removed. The game’s story mode still offers players ten decently sized ten levels, while the assignments mode contains fifty side-missions. These abbreviated quests offer the gamer plenty of replay value, as the player attempts to move swifly and unseen through each level in a quest for the elusive ‘S’ rating.

Overall, Tenchu: Shadow Assassins is a commendable PSP port of the recent Wii release. If the mid-level load screens could have been alleviated, we could have given the title a whole-hearted recommendation. Despite those niggling interruptions, the title is an admirable return to form for the Tenchu series. Fans who became disenfranchised with later entries in the series, will find many of the original game’s engaging qualities on display in Shadow Assassins.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

47 comments

  1. I’ve been waiting for a review on this before buying it. I think i can live with brief load times. It’s the 30 second pauses that kill me.

  2. Throwing cats instead of throwing stars? thats full of win.

  3. Motion blur in a PSP game? I don’t think I’ve seen that before.

  4. This almost makes up for that bomberman Tenchu clone rubbish.

    ALMOST.

  5. What are the cats used for? Distractions, or do the guards get overcome by the cuteness of a female ninja holing a kitten?

  6. Good looking PSP game. How long are each of the side missions?

  7. I haven’t turn my PSP on in months. If it still works, I may have to get this. Whats is selling for?

  8. If only this was for the DS. Why couldn’t Ubi keep this on Nintendo systems?

  9. They scratch their eyes out and uses their fur to make the guards sneeze.

  10. Sounds like they brought this franchise back from the dead. I got the 360 version of Tenchu at a Circuit City sale and noticed it hadn’t changed at all really.

  11. I got the WII version and really like it. But I do wish they were more than 10 story levels in it.

    So far I have an S or an A in 48 missions.

  12. Great review, man!

  13. Did Tenchu: Time of the Assassins ever come out for the PSP? I heard it was horrible!

  14. Desert, did you ever write for a professional site? Your reviews (and TideGear too) are quite good.

  15. Looks like this has the same problem any stealth game would have on a portable- its too dark.

    Since we play this outside, I hope all developers put a brightness adjustment in.

  16. Most likely $40.

  17. It’s 36 here, I don’t know about the site, so if you get rupped don’t yell at me.

  18. And this series continues to rattle on. I’m waiting for someone to take the concept and do redo in a much better way.

  19. Can I assume this one is rated “M”, like all the other games?

  20. SpongeBob NoPants

    Good review. I’m interested.

  21. With a BB RZ coupon, I’m staling this gme.

  22. I grabbed this yesterday and agree the load times are annoying. Even when they show a cinema theres a brief pause and then back to gameplay.

  23. What about Ninja Blade, there’s a Ninja sim that’s neither a platformer or fighter!

  24. Looks and sound great, but I’m going to wait for the drop in price.

  25. I have the wii version and love it. If I ever end up getting a PSP, I’ll definitely get this version. Tenchu rules!

  26. Great review, been a fan of the series for some time now so I may just go out and pick that bad boy up! 🙂

  27. Tenchu Shadow Assasins is a true stealth game with great realism and many cool details to enjoy. With all these arcade type fantasy ninja games ( such as Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Blade ) that are mostly hack & slash games, Tenchu Shadow Assassins is a REAL ninja assassin game that takes a little skill and patient to complete. Any fan of martial arts movies or ninja movies will enjoy it.

  28. Like others have said above- I gotta wait for a price drop; Still it looks solid.

  29. I have been on the fence with this game, but the review helped me with my decision. i’ll end up givin it a run through

  30. hmmm, never really got into any of the tenchu series…. might give this a try though

  31. Ha, love the cats.

    It’s been so long since I’ve played a decent Tenchu title, so I imagine I’ll pick this up at some point. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of this until now.

    Maybe I’ll get the Wii version…

  32. A great game on the original PS, it fairly quickly lost its way in subsequent iterations in next gen consoles. However a hand-held version might work really well. Thanks for the well-written review.

  33. I miss the original Techu =(

  34. Looks very clean from the shots you posted. I really stopped playing Tenchu after the 2nd one on Playstation. Is this game a remake of any of the series or does it fit into the time/story line somewhere on it’s own?

  35. The pixels in this game ruin it.

  36. I’m excited about this game (love tenchu titles…even the sucky ones)…but I hate plopping down $30 for a portable game.

  37. Great Review!

    I definitely need a new PSP game. I was a fan of Tenchu in the PS2. Worth the read.

  38. It doesn’t look like much has changed with the Tenchu series since the PSOne days. They should really update the game mechanics to make it more action packed and fast paced but still ninja like.

  39. Cool, I might have to check this out. I remember loving the original Tenchu game for the first Playstation. I have been meaning to try some of the newer Tenchu games, but I have heard most of them are lacking. Maybe it’s time to dust off the ol’ PSP, though…

  40. Nice, i’ll pick it up.

  41. Interesting… I may pick this up later, the kittens sold me, lol.

  42. good review,Not a bad game but the loading sometimes is annoying.Both this version and the wii version are better than tenchu z for the 360 easily.

  43. I’m surprised that Shadow Assassins turned out so well, the latest games in the Tenchu series have been pretty awful.

  44. Looks and sound great, but I also would like it to be cheaper

  45. I own the Wii version from January, and I really enjoyed it. I had never played a Tenchu game before, so I’m unsure how true it was to form. I need to get back to that one now that I think about it.