| Action-adventure, stealth|
Acquire, K2 LLC, FromSoftware
Sony Music Entertainment, Activision, From Software, Sega, Nintendo, Microsoft Game Studios, Ubisoft
PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, Wii
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
February 26, 1998
Tenchu (天誅) is an action-adventure stealth video game series, originally developed by Japanese developer Acquire, where the player assumes the role of a ninja in 16th century Japan. The title in Japanese literally translates in English as: "Divine Retribution", with 天 (ten), meaning heaven and 誅 (chu), meaning death penalty (another translation of this phrase, Wrath of Heaven is the title of the first PlayStation 2 entry in the series).
The series takes place in 16th-century feudal Japan. The original story (Stealth Assassins) revolves around two ninjas, Rikimaru and Ayame, who have both been members of the Azuma ninja clan since childhood. The two ninjas serve the benevolent Lord Gohda and work for him as his secret spies to root out corruption and gather intelligence in his province. However, the evil demonic sorcerer Lord Mei-Oh sought to destroy Lord Gohda, and using his demon warrior Onikage, wreaked havoc throughout Lord Gohda's province. Although Mei-Oh was killed in the first game, Onikage appeared in all subsequent games (except Fatal Shadows and Tenchu Z) as the archenemy of the two ninja, especially Rikimaru. Another major character who shows up frequently is Princess Kiku, Lord Gohda's daughter who often needs to be saved.
The game perspective is third-person. There are numerous items to help the ninja on his/her mission, but unlockable items can be acquired if the player gets a "Grand Master" rating at the end of the level by being as stealthy as possible. Items and controls vary from game to game, but the gameplay is essentially the same throughout with the exception of Tenchu: Shadow Assassins. Stealth is a very important element in the game, where players have to duck, crouch, and hide behind walls to avoid detection. Enemies can be killed with one manoeuvre by using Stealth Kills, and a player can avoid detection by using the Ki meter. The larger the number, the closer the player's position to an enemy. If a player is spotted, the Ki meter will turn red, the enemy will alert everyone in the area, and the player is forced to fight hand-to-hand or hide somewhere until the enemies give up their search and resume their patrol routes.
The main characters of the Tenchu series are Rikimaru, Ayame, Rin and Tesshu. Rikimaru is a tall, silver-haired ninja with a single ninjato named "Izayoi" and a scar over his right eye. He is physically stronger than Ayame and Rin but relatively slower. Ayame is a kunoichi or female ninja who wears standard ninja clothes with her midriff exposed. She carries a pair of kodachi. She is faster and could perform more combos than Rikimaru and Tesshu, but is weaker than them. Rin is a young kunoichi short-haired brunette who carries a large Natsume katana. Despite carrying such weapon she prefers to use hand to hand attacks, Rin uses fast combos like Ayame. Tesshu is a vigilante who wears blue doctor's clothes who fights bare-handed with acupuncture needles, he is strong like Rikimaru but slower than Rin and Ayame. Tesshu's appearance is heavily based on the character Baian Fujieda.
Activision purchased the rights to this game from Sony Music Entertainment, who originally published the game in Japan. However, Activision sold the rights to the Japanese game publisher FromSoftware in 2004. FromSoftware's rights agreement does not include games previously published by Activision. FromSoftware licensed distribution of Fatal Shadows to Sega. Tenchu Z was the only game in the series published by FromSoftware worldwide.
There is an additional Japan-exclusive release for Tenchu on the PlayStation. One hundred of the best competing levels designed with the level editor of Tenchu: Shinobi Gaisen (an expanded version of Tenchu re-released in Japan) were put together to form a stand-alone, non-story based expansion set called Tenchu: Shinobi Hyakusen. The engine and game fundamentals remained unchanged. Shinobi Hyakusen is famous for the hardest level settings among Tenchu fans, especially because of the tight time limits and the overall lack of the items, excluding the caltrops and the throwing stars. No North American or European versions were released however.
Several games were also ported to mobile phones with graphic changes. These include Tenchu: Ayame's Tale 3D which was released for the Sony Ericsson mobile phone series and Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven by TKO-Software and Digital Bridges which was released for mobile phones in 2005, although it used two-dimensional graphics. A stage play adaptation Tenchu Butai was performed in 2014.