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Tenchu 3: Wrath of Heaven Preview
game: Tenchu 3: Wrath of Heaven
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
date posted: 09:10 AM Wed Sep 4th, 2002
last revision: 06:41 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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Say what you want about sequels, about watered-down gameplay or aging franchises (lord knows I complain about them enough), there are just some concepts that you can\'t wait to see make the leap from generation to generation. For nearly two years now, ever since I took my PS2 out of its box, there has been a voice in the back of my head saying \"just think how cool Tenchu 3 is going to be.\" As new information and screenshots have become available, and after playing the early version at E3 2002, that little voice has risen to a scream.

Taking place after the events of the first Tenchu (Tenchu 2 being a prequel), Tenchu 3: Wrath of Heaven continues the story of ninja Rikimaru and Ayame, as well as introducing an all new playable character to the series. As before, each character\'s story, abilities, and missions differ slightly, providing three separate paths through the game.

Players must make their way through the game\'s huge levels in true Tenchu fashion: prowling unseen along walls, in foliage, atop of roofs, dropping in silently among the enemy and dispatching them in gruesome ways. As always, stealth is the key. Making too much noise, disturbing a cat, or otherwise putting yourself out in the open will draw the wrath of your foes and likely get you killed. And this time the enemy will pursue you much more aggressively, following you onto the rooftops, working in teams-whatever it takes.

Several new weapons and tools have been added to the Tenchu arsenal, and this time around you can pick up and use the weapons of your vanquished foe. Kill a guy holding a spear and it is yours. Also new to the series are hand-to-hand combat moves including kicks and punches. Most significantly, however, the combat system has been changed to a fully analogue configuration. For the most part, this consists of different combos that utilize the left analogue stick. Some moves are simple, like pressing forward for a forward slash. Others, like rotating the stick in a circle in order to swing your sword around take a little getting used to. But, with practice, the unique control system becomes pretty intuitive.

Also new are the special skills that can be learned in each level. These skills are unlocked by performing stealth kills, completing objectives, and negotiating particularly tricky scenarios. Each successive feat will earn you one of nine symbols, or ninja codecs. Get all nine and you attain a new skill. However, if you are discovered by the enemy or kill a civilian, you lose all of your symbols. The new skills then allow you to go back and open areas in previous levels that you couldn\'t get to before. I was told by the representative on the E3 show floor that they are working on including a move in which you cut yourself and play dead-lying there, bleeding, in wait. If an enemy falls for your ruse, and comes over to check you out, you can quickly perform a killing move. How cool is that?

Perhaps the most exciting additions to Tenchu 3 are the multiplayer options. Now you can play with a friend on five unique multiplayer levels in either cooperative, team-based missions, or in the Hunter-Hunted death match games. The skills earned in the single-player levels can be used in the multiplayer mode as well.

Tenchu 3: Wrath of Heaven is certainly one of the most anticipated games coming to the PS2 in the next year. Unlike most games that jump to the new systems boasting only a facelift and better sound, Tenchu 3 is truly taking the series to the next level: bigger, badder, more articulate and intelligent. Plus, it has the better graphics and sound thing going for it too. Look for it to hit the shelves sometime in the first quarter of 2003.