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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 24, 2006

My view: 'Tenchu: Dark Secret'

By Jeffrey Davis
Special to The Advertiser



5 Outstanding: Add it to your collection now. A must-have.

4 Great: Buy it or rent it definitely play it.

3 Good: Worth playing despite some flaws.

2 Fair: Unless you're a fan of the license or series, don't bother.

1 Poor: You'd have more fun playing "Pong."

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Game: "Tenchu: Dark Secret."

Console: Nintendo DS.

Developer/publisher: Software Inc.

Number of players: One to four (via wireless multi-card play).

Rating: T for teen; blood, language and violence.

The premise: It has been two years since the defeat of Kagerouza by Rikimaru and Ayame. Their loyal service to Lord Gohda has led them to the small village of Saiga, near Lord Gohda's border. Rikimaru and Ayame stumble across Princess Shizu from the house Akama. Her family is a longtime ally of Lord Gohda. Their mission is to protect Princess Shizu from bandits, but things are rarely what they seem.

Game play: The game is played from a top view, with the top screen used for play and the bottom screen used as a map. The map screen is reminiscent of the "Metal Gear" game's Soloton radar screen; it has the ability to track enemy movements plus the direction they are facing. In "Tenchu" DS this feature is activated only when you are in close proximity to an enemy, which could cause you inadvertently to dash right into that waiting enemy. Throughout the game you pick up materials from defeated foes or from the ground. These materials can be used to make ninja gear (traps, health items and throwing items such as ninja stars).

The good/bad: Unlike the other "Tenchu" games, you are not rewarded with free items at the end of each level; this means you have to find or make them. The ability to shop online makes for an interesting touch. All the levels are on flat areas, so there's nowhere to watch or snipe at enemies. This also means there are no areas to hide in, forcing you to run away instead.

Tips: Be sure to explore the map fully. This enables you to pick up more ingredients to make ninja gear. Do yourself a favor when surrounded: Flee until the heat dies down. This is a stealth game, after all. Try your hand at the Wi-Fi shop you might be able to pull in some extra yen.

My take: Oh, where to begin! How about the reason I bought this game? It said "Tenchu" on the box. Big mistake. I would later notice that Activision, the company that published the other "Tenchu" games, was nowhere to be found. I don't know what I dislike about the game more the awful graphics or the horrible voiceovers. For example: The levels open with Ayame saying "piece of cake," making her sound pretentious; and the bandits all say "Over here" repeatedly in the same voice when you are spotted. I did like that the dialogue was done in subtitles, however.

There are no buildings to climb, which meant no grappling hook (a "Tenchu" mainstay), no real fighting system to speak of (the character slashes once), no special abilities. The levels all feel the same, there are no hidden characters, no replay value, Game Boy Advance graphics, a plot that seems derivative, it's boring and it fails to pull you in.

In case you haven't already figured it out: Skip this game.

Jeffrey Davis, of Maui, is a video-game enthusiast.