Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: April 19, 2004
Tenchu: Return From Darkness, Activision’s latest for the Xbox, can be a little deceiving at first. The new title and absence of any tie-in with Wrath of Heaven would seem to indicate a new entry in the Tenchu series, but the game is actually a port of last year’s PlayStation 2 hit. Furthermore, with newly implemented combos and abilities, two additional single-player missions and Live support, it appears that the company is making a hard push to win over fans from the fantastic and not-so-dissimilar Ninja Gaiden.
While Tenchu II: Birth of the Assassins was a prequel to the original game, Return From Darkness finally answers the questions raised more than four years ago, as it takes place after the first two titles. The sinister Lord Mei-Oh, incorrectly believed to have been defeated, has returned to rain terror upon the world. Inevitably, the virtuous Lord Gohda sends the supposedly fallen hero of the first installment, Rikimaru, and his beautiful but deadly companion, Ayame, to fight the forces of evil. There’s also a third character named Tesshu who remains unavailable until he’s unlocked later in the game. Tesshu is a doctor by day, lethal martial artist by night, and his side story sheds more light on the main quest.
Most of this tale is revealed through narration at the start of each level, though an occasional cutscene will help further the plot. The story loosely ties the missions together, but each one is more of an independent quest than part of a larger whole. For this reason, the locales feature great variety, ranging from elegant castles to Buddhist temples. Naturally, all sport most inhospitable tenants, just as varied as the environments and determined to stop the heroes in their tracks. Fellow ninjas, spirits and even zombies will all help to make your adventure just a little more interesting.
Most of your time in Return From Darkness will be spent either preparing for or executing stealth kills – extremely powerful one-hit attacks that cause instant death. The only trick is that your enemy mustn’t be aware of your presence, thus the term “stealth kill.” Your method for surprising a foe may be as elegant as expertly dropping from a rooftop or as simple as striking when their back is turned. Regardless, pressing the X button will yield the same result, and give you a nice pre-rendered animation sequence for added entertainment. When you fail to successfully perform one of these attacks, hand-to-hand combat will be necessary to overcome the opposition.