The Tenchu series dates back to the PS1 era and with fans still saying the high point of the series was in its early days, Tenchu: Z on the Xbox 360 was met with bad reviews. Now From Software has attempted to bring the series to Xbox Live Arcade, packing the ninja action into a small 98 megabyte download.
Although it looks great for an Xbox Live Arcade game with nice presentation and a ton of extra characters to unlock, this isn’t a full-fledged Tenchu title. It’s more of a mini-game spin-off featuring characters from the main Tenchu series including Rikimaru and Ayame who are available from the start.
Before you dive in you’ll notice there are a ton of unlockable characters and a total of 30 levels to play through. It may look long, but you can plow through it in a day or two, assuming you don’t get tired of the trial and error gameplay. All of the levels run on a time limit and have goals ranging from taking out a head ninja or wiping out everyone in sight, to just getting to the exit without being spotted.
Strangely, despite being armed with assorted ninja peripherals you can’t actually use them. Instead, you have to rely on picking up power-ups such as traps and projectiles to hurl at the samurai. That said, the enemies move so predictably you can chain together traps - a few of the achievements are unlocked this way - based on their movement. Vanquishing them can bring out your sadistic side as you lay spring loaded traps to send people hurtling into spike traps, or set them alight with grenades. It’s easier said than done, however, as you can get caught out by your own traps while racing against the clock to finish the level.
Planning is essential in boss levels too, with bosses having a large amount of health to take out and little time to do it. If you don’t like trial-and-error gameplay don’t even look at downloading the trial version, because Shadow Assault will test your patients. It just doesn’t give you enough time to think about the best strategy.
Once you’ve played through the single player mode you can take on up to three friends and/or CPU opponents in multiplayer mode in split screen mode or on Xbox Live. It plays like an awful Bomberman clone: lay a trap or throw a weapon and run away, rinse and repeat.
Overall Shadow Assault: Tenchu feels as though the developers just wanted to put out an Xbox Live Arcade title for a quick buck, so they threw something together and slapped the Tenchu license on it.