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Video game review: Stealth is focus of Xbox 'Tenchu Z'

TENCHU Z, Xbox 360, K2, rated M — Mature (reviewer's rating: 8 out of 10)

In feudal Japan the shinobi, or ninja, was a fearsome assassin sent by the powerful to eliminate their rivals. Owners of Xbox 360s can now live a part of that legend, thanks to the latest offering from the programmers who developed the "Tenchu" series.

Where many games encourage a run-in-and-shoot-at-everything approach, stealth is the focus of this game. Using your senses, a sharp sword and other items, players take on assignments from the head ninja. In all, there are 50 missions to challenge your ninja skills.

But before you can become the terror of feudal Japan, you must first create your character. The character-creation system lets you choose facial features, hair color/style, gender and clothing. One unique feature of the game is your ability to go shopping for new clothes in between missions. A ninja's gotta look good, right?

Game controls are easy to learn, but actual combat is a bit choppy. While you can take out a person by sneaking up on them, if they see you, you must cross swords with them. However, this type of combat isn't set up terribly well, and you're better off running and hiding while the guards forget about you.

For those with Xbox Live accounts, the game allows you to join up with four friends in co-op mode to coordinate attacks.

Graphics: The game does try to take advantage of the Xbox 360's improved high-definition graphics, but the colors are pretty drab. My guess is that game developers wanted to set a mood, but it just looks washed out. Overall, the game's graphics are average and not terribly innovative.

Audio: The game's music is a fusion of ancient Japanese instruments and rock, which gives it a nice edge. Character voices and dialogue are all in Japanese with limited subtitles. Guards in the game will say things, but you have no idea what they are saying. For some, keeping the Japanese dialogue lends a sense of authenticity, but some of us prefer not feeling so much like a stranger in a foreign land while playing.

Parent's Take: This game is rated M for mature gamers over the age of 17, as there is killing and simulated blood. It is definitely not for younger gamers.

Final word: "Tenchu Z" is a decent enough game but has some minor problems. Those who love a game that involves stealth will appreciate the game even more.