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     ' It tells the tale of the "Birth of the stealth assassins". As opposed to the noisy assassins, whom kind of run at you yelling, "Iím coming to kill you now! Look at me, bringing death to you!" '

      Title: Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins by Activision

      Format: Playstation Ninja Game

      Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

      The Hype: The follow up game to everybodyís favorite Playstation stealth game. Despite the 2, this game is a prequel. Follow Rikimaru and Ayame on their stealthy adventures. Letís see if they can sneak past this reviewer.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Even for Playstation (in these PS2 days), this game is sub par. Pixelated, blocky graphics are rife in this world. The game really is quite ugly. Cut scenes, while stylistic, are not much better. All of the colors appear washed out. Character models are odd at best. Not what Iím calling fun to look at. 2.5 out of 5

      Sound: Not much to talk about here. Music doesnít play during the game, leaving your time there notably quiet. This is, of course, to allow you to hear the great ambient sounds, which appear to play at random intervals for no good reason. A bird will chirp fifteen times in a row, and then not chirp for a half-hour. The other sound effects are not much better. Swords clashing sounds more like someone banging on a small pipe. Guards make good sounds to indicate their presence. Thatís about it. 2.5 out of 5

      Game Play: This game is, in turns; frustrating, cool, then frustrating again. The basic concept has you, the mighty ninja, sneaking up on your unsuspecting prey for the dealing of harsh death. Stealth kills (when you kill an opponent after successfully sneaking up on them) are pretty cool to watch (even with the ugly graphics). There are a lot of gratifying experiences to be had when sneaking through a war camp, quietly eliminating all opposition. Unfortunately, the game pushes stealth a little too much. If you get spotted, youíre in for it. Although your character can fight, they donít do it very well (apparently that was passed over in ninja school). Getting into a fight with even a simple enemy can sometimes lead to death. Part of the problem here is that the controls are badly implemented. If you need to move in a straight line, youíre all over it. Any other direction thoughÖ Turning is frustrating, as you watch them try to turn like a one legged paraplegic. Youíd think that someone with as much training as these guys have would be able to pivot smoothly, but no. Even worse is that, after youíve actually managed to successfully sneak your way through the level, itís all ruined by the fact that you have to fight a boss. No sneaking up on the boss for you! No, you get to experience all the wonders of combat against a guy that can most likely kick your ass and take your coat. And can do it quite swiftly. Sneaking your way through a level, only to get killed on the boss is the height of frustration in a game with no in level saving. 2 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: There are interesting levels in this game. The game ranges all over the place, and the layout is done well, nothing too terribly confusing, although there are some very large levels. Iíve already mentioned the washed out colors, it just serves to make the environments that much less interesting. The layout and is cool, the actual visuals along the way arenít anything to write home about. 3 out of 5

      Multiplayer: No. Just no. No jokes, just no. 0 out of 5

      Replayability: Believe me, you will replay this game, many, many times. Not the whole game, mind you, just the levels. The game rewards you for sneaking past your enemies but if you get spotted once, and thatís all ruined. Get killed and you have to do the whole thing over again. There is an item that you can get to allow save point returns, but you have to beat the game with both characters with near perfect scores to get it. By the time you actually manage to beat a level, youíll be so flaming exhausted that youíll most likely just save it to get it over with. Youíll replay levels; it just wonít be your choice. The game does have a mission editor on disk, which is a very cool addition. However, you have to unlock a lot of the pieces, which requires you to play the game. Trust me, by the time you beat the game, youíll be sick enough of it that no editor will save it. 2 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: The story is pretty good. It tells the tale of the "Birth of the stealth assassins". As opposed to the noisy assassins, whom kind of run at you yelling, "Iím coming to kill you now! Look at me, bringing death to you!" Anyway, it follows the story of the respective characters (two normal, and one secret) along their misadventures. The three rarely interact, despite being part of the same clan. The game has some interesting twists, and some bad clichťs (come on, we canít do any better than the old amnesia storyline?). The story isnít enough to really get you to play more, more like an interesting backdrop to look at when youíre not yelling at your ninja to stop making noise. 3 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: The instructions are useful, covering what you need to know. Of course, no one can be told what stealth is; you have to experience it for yourself. Thatís what takes some doing. Learning curve is steeper than gas prices. Mastering the controls (and this is a task which will probably never be fully completed) will take time. Youíll eventually get a good enough grasp of them that the controls wonít be the primary reason you die on a level anymore. You will, however, still die. 2.5 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: Load times arenít that bad, coming in at about average. I definitely wouldnít look to this game for boundary pushing though. 3 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       The gratifying moments tend to pale once youíve experienced them for the fifteenth time. Controls that barely qualify for that title, coupled with a learning curve that looks like a cliff make this game a hard one to love. I say donít try, save it for someone special.

      The Good: Stealthy kill scenes, with plenty of blood for you violent monkeys.

      The Bad: Controls, and having to fight bosses, despite your bad combat skills

      The Overall Ugly: Most of the game is ugly. If you simply must know how Rikimaru got that scar on his eye, buy it. Otherwise, just email me and Iíll tell you.

      What it's Worth: $20.00, if youíre feeling generous.

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