Stealth kills

The phrase “stealth kills” has always struck me as a warning against being too sneaky for fear of its potentially deleterious effects on your health, but in games like Tenchu this is absolutely not the case. In fact, it’s lack of stealth that visits upon players bodily harm.

I always liked Tenchu in principle, but I don’t know that I ever got past the first stage — maybe the second? — because the boss fights were so terrible. Terribly acted, too. It’s a problem that even modern masterpieces like Deus Ex: Human Revolution suffer from. You sneak and crawl and dodge conflict, then the obligatory high-damage-threshold meatwall comes along and forces you to abandon the precepts of silence and avoidance in favor of rote trading-of-blows. I feel like people who make games like that should be forced to play Metal Gear Solid 3 and observe the brilliance of its boss scenarios — “battles” seems too mundane a term in many cases — until their eyes bleed. Though of course the original Tenchu gets a pass because, as noted in Jacob Smiley’s second consecutive GameSpite Quarterly 8 article, the game predates the first Metal Gear Solid by about a month. Human Revolution, on the other hand, has no such excuses.

Despite never having finished Tenchu, I know its soundtrack inside and out. I used to listen to that CD constantly. Jacob’s article vaguely disparages it, but don’t believe Ondore’s lies; it was and is a fantastic collection of music, and it’s also notable for being one of the few times Sony’s disparate arms (in this case, SCEI and Sony Music) have ever managed to collaborate.

10 thoughts on “Stealth kills

  1. Always loved Tenchu. It was the level creator in the second game that really inspired me and my friends to keep coming back — kind of like Tony Hawk 2 in that regard.

    Watching my friends fall into a deviously-placed pit of spikes was just awesome fun. Beating somebody’s level was even better.

    Shadow Assassins on Wii/PSP is actually a solid game and well worth a try for the price you can probably find it for now.

  2. Oops. I probably should’ve found a more intelligent way to praise Tenchu’s masterful soundtrack by being a bit less glib. Seppuku isn’t a first-offense punishment for flippancy, is it?

  3. I have the same problem with “survival horror.” Does that mean it’s horrible to survive?

    • “Survival Horror” as slapped on the case to Resident Evil works like “Action RPG.” In that it’s a hybridization of being a Survival game (i.e. Robinson’s Requiem), what with the huge emphasis on managing extremely finite resources, and a Horror game (i.e. Alone in the Dark), what with the scary stuff and being an Adventure game, which for some reason is implied there. People who slap it on every horror game are just plain doing it wrong.

      Also- The thing with Tenchu is, the most of the level design team missed a memo. There’s only two or three which get it right and have you stalking about on rooftops waiting for holes in guards’ search patterns. Others, like the second or third level (been a while) turn into linear platforming, and… no. That doesn’t work here.

  4. MGS3 gets by on a few really good, high-concept fights: The Fear, The End, The Sorrow and Big Boss.

    But people forget how dull the fights against The Pain, The Fury, Ocelot and both Volgin fights are.

    • I don’t forget (please see my MGS3 review here on the site). But I’m willing to forgive them because the others redefine the entire concept of “boss fight” in a way no other game has. I’m willing to allow a few prosaic fights in light of that accomplishment.

  5. I always thought the boss battles in, say, MGS1, provided a nice change of pace from the usual sneaking around – here you go, no hiding, just kill the other guy with one effective weapon.

    And yet, they always utilized elements of the main gameplay well – sneaking around Ocelot, scrambling to find mines, staying out of Sniper Wolf’s scope, etc.

    Then again, what do I know? I’m not a big stealth fan – I just like to indulge myself (and Kojima) every few years with that wacky MGS series.

  6. I don’t think there’s a game whose bad voice acting I love more than Tenchu’s. Oh, the many hours I’ve whiled away throwing out awful quotes like “Hmmm. Nice night.” or “Muh-muh moneyyyy!” Thanks to this article, when a friend comes over today I’ll greet him with our favorite “It’s in my belly. You can NOT have it!”

    Tenchu is one of my favorite games of the PSX era, to which I am eternally grateful because it introduced me to both survival horror and stealth action. I loved grappling hooking from rooftop to rooftop. I loved figured out that “Grand Master” rating actually only required stealth killing 20 guys, because they each gave 20 points and 400 points was a Grand Master whether you got seen zero times or fifty. I loved the soundtrack, especially on that Spanish private level. I adored how Rikimaru’s back-to-back stealth kill involved him breaking a dude’s legs and arms like three times before breaking their neck (not very efficient, time-wise). And, just like in Human Revolution, I didn’t hate the bosses all that much!

  7. I loved how useful Tenchu’s grappling hook was. It really made exploring alternate routes more fun and useful, and probably the biggest thing Tenchu’s gameplay had over MGS’s. Too bad they dumbed it down for T2.

    Fighting The End felt to me almost like a chase from from GTA or Assassin’s Creed. I’ve always imagined that game bosses are busy people with things to do, so I find chasing a boss around a city or some kind of open area to be more believable than seeking out someone who’s sitting and waiting.

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