Video Game / Tenchu

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Live By Honor. Kill By Stealth.

Tenchu is a series of stealth based games that features a ninja duo from the Azuma clan. It started in 1998 and has had several sequels across various consoles that expand its story. The story starts with a demonic sorcerer named Mei-Oh trying to take over the land of Lord Gohda whom the two ninja, Rikimaru and Ayame serve. The series is rather liked amongst those who have played it and some games contain a humorous dub version of the story that is completely different.

Aside from the games listed further below, the Tenchu franchise also include these titles:
  • Tenchu: Time of the Assassins (2005), a PSP game set after Wrath of Heavens. Includes the largest selection of playable characters to date and the return of the Level Editor (with online-sharing capabilities).
  • Tenchu: Dark Secret (2006), a Nintendo DS game set after the second game. Deals with the titular ninjas trying to protect a Distressed Damsel from an Evil Overlord who she was arranged to marry.
  • Tenchu: Shadow Assault (2008), a downloadable game. An unrelated puzzle game that borrows the series' setting and characters.
  • Even though not developed by Activision, Return of the Ninja, released by Natsume and Ubisoft (The former released for USA, the later for EUR) for Game Boy Color borrowed a lot of elements from Tenchu series. And the cards you obtain through playing through stages or trading with friends adds to this referencing!

These tropes are like you, weak and twisted. I fear them...NOT!:

  • Action Girl: Ayame, Rin and in Tenchu Z you can make a female character who would become this. They are all highly-trained ninja that can kill their targets in the blink of an eye.
  • Another Side, Another Story: Most games after the fist include a third secret character whose story runs parallel with that of Rikimaru and Ayame. This is most notable in Tenchu 2 and Fatal Shadows.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Everyone except Lord Gohda appears to be this. A common sight in most games is that of a corrupt merchant selling out the daughters of his debtors to a corrupt minister of Gohda's realm.
  • Anachronic Order: Tenchu 2, Tenchu DS, Tenchu 1, Fatal Shadows, Tenchu 3, Time of the Assassins, Shadow Assassin, and some unknown years after, Tenchu Z.
  • Back Stab: The series' iconic stealth kills.
  • Badass: Rikimaru, especially after his shadow retrieves his katana, fights off his Rival, and summons his soul from hell.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Ayame did this throughout the series, most notably in Wrath of Heaven and Shadow Assassins.
  • Bears Are Bad News: A recurring enemy in the series. They are usually simply Big Mooks found in cave/forest-type stages, although Fatal Shadows presents one as a boss, which was later made playable in Time of the Assassins.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Tenchu means "Divine Punishment", which is what you dish out.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Ayame can easily master techniques, but gets bored with training.
  • Captain Ersatz: Naruto's creator has openly admitted that Kakashi is based off of Rikimaru.
  • Captain Obvious: The Mooks tend to be this.
    I'm dying... Ohhhhh... I'm dying...
  • Cool Big Sis: Ayame acts like this to Gohda's daughter, princess Kiku.
  • Cool Sword: Izayoi. Specially in Tenchu 3, where its magical properties are first shown.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: A very common Tenchu enemy.
  • Corrupt Church: Surprisingly they are corrupt Buddhists. Don't see that often.
  • Dead Character Walking: Original has a player-accessible Debug Mode that can cause all sorts of amusing glitches when abused: If you jump into a Bottomless Pit and then use the debug menu to teleport back to the beginning of the level after you drop to 0 HP, you'll be essentially invincible and all enemy attacks go through you. However, this also gives you the same Super Drowning Skills the enemies suffer from, but thanks to the debug menu, you can teleport yourself out of the water as well and revive yourself on command: depending on how long you let your character drown before you revive then, their lower torso might disappear entirely or they might turn completely invisible with only their weapon floating in the air.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Since the games are set around 16th-century feudal Japan, the characters have values that are rather old fashioned or sexist from a modern point of view. In Stealth Assassins for example, if Rikimaru was sent to assassinate a corrupt Minister who's taking bribes, the Minister accepts his fate and ask Rikimaru to help him commit Seppuku. But if Ayame is the one to the assassinate him, the Minister is offended that a woman was sent to kill him and fights back. Even the protagonist are guilty of this with Rikimaru expressing that women shouldn't be warriors despite his partner Ayame is one.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ayame.
  • Distressed Damsel: Kiku gets kidnapped once on each main game.
  • Dual Wielding: Ayame wields a pair of daggers as her Weapon of Choice. Ocassionally enemies or bosses also appear wielding two weapons, usually katanas.
  • Dull Surprise
  • Extremity Extremist: Onikage is all about kicks, only using his hands for special grabs in Wrath of Heaven and sometimes block.
  • Finishing Move: The Stealth Kills function like this. The final skill in Tenchu 3 being a cinematic One-Hit Kill may also count.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Played straight with enemy guns, which are slow and easy to avoid, even if they have unlimited ammo and infinite reach. Averted with the player's Bamboo Gun which, while sluggish and hard to aim, packs the strength of a bazooka and can heavily damage, or even kill, most things in one shot.
  • High-Pressure Blood: And plenty of it!
  • Highly Visible Ninja
  • Invisibility Cloak: An unlockable item in Tenchu 2, Wrath of Heavens and Fatal Shadows.
  • Katanas Are Just Better
  • Knife Nut: Ayame wields a pair of kodachi/daggers, and boy can she use them.
  • Level Editor: Tenchu 2 introduced one which allowed players to create and save stages using one of 10 predetermined sets, based on game stages. The mode was later reimplemented in Shinobi Gaisen and Time of the Assassins.
  • Master of Disguise: An unlockable item in the earlier games. It allowed one to transform into a mook or innocent civilian for a short amount of time, or after delivering a kill. It and the Invisibility Cloak have the same effect with the difference that while the invisibility lasts for a shorter amount of time and you can only carry 1, it allows multiple kills for its duration while the disguise item lasts longer and you can carry up to 3 of them, but it wears off instantly if you kill someone with it active.
  • Ninja Log: The Ninja Rebirth item, which ressurects the player if killed when equipped.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Ninja Pirate Animal Demon.
  • Off with His Head!: Totally random but happens frequently in the first game if an enemy is killed with a jump slash.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, though in different games. There are two characters named Nasu: a corrupt aristocrat in Wrath of Heavens, and a Dirty Old Man that doubles as a massagist in Fatal Shadows. There are also up to three Echigoya characters in various games, and they're all corrupt merchants with a thing for harassing geishas.
  • Pirate: The Baoliusung Gang from part 2 are a Chinese gang of pirates, while the foreign pirates from the first game are the more traditional kind.
  • Rank Inflation: Thug, Novice, Ninja, Master Ninja, Grand Master.
  • Remixed Level:
    • One of Tenchu's main features is that the levels play different depending on which character you choose.
    • Tenchu 2 features new takes on the Storm the Castle and mountain stage from the first game, the latter even with the same Tengu enemies!
    • Fatal Shadows brings in a mostly-complete recreation of the 3rd/cave level and 4th/checkpoint level from the first game, altough many areas in the latter are closed off and split into two different missions.
  • Rival: A Smug Snake to boot, that purple kicking bastard.
  • Rule of Cool: Some of the stealth kills are ridiculously complicated. Ayame does things that make pro wrestling finishers look basic.
  • Scars Are Forever: Rikimaru sports a scar over his right eye, and it's awesome. He got it in Tenchu 2 at the start of the timeline, and still has it in Z, set some unknown years after the last released entry.
  • Secret Character: Each game in the series has a third unlockable character. Except the first one.
    • Time of the Assassins has 5 different characters to play in story mode, and many more for use in the Level Editor.
  • Simultaneous Arcs:
    • Rikimaru, Ayame and Tatsumaru's stories in Tenchu 2 happen at the same period of time, and they complement each other entirely so one has to play all three to completion to see the full picture.
    • Fatal Shadow works similarly, although there's a single story mode with Ayame and Rin taking turns each mission, the former dealing with foreign enemies of Gohda and the latter with getting revenge for her Doomed Hometown.
    • Averted in Tenchu 3, where the three playable characters' stories are entirely independent and tell very different stories with the same bad guys.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Go(h)da.
  • Storming the Castle Gohda castle has been stormed or infiltrated numerous times.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Saw a dead teammate over there? They stay alert...for all of 1 minute before resuming patrol as if nothing ever happened. Worse if using an animal-sound mimicking item/skill, which will make the guards relax after hearing a cow, chicken or dog and assuming those were the culprits!
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: the player can often hear the mooks utter some lines while hiding in the Shadows. That includes lines as "The doctor said I should stay away from dangerous business for a while" (said by a ninja of all people) and "I need to cut down on my drinking, or my wife will be mad at me again". Though that might not be intentional. You could feel sorry for mooks getting murdered seconds after saying "I'm sure tonight will be completely uneventful".

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

Released in 1998 for PlayStation
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins is the first game in the series, focused on an apparent series of unrelated missions carried over by Rikimaru/Ayame by orders of Lord Gohda. Half-way through, Onikage makes his appearances and the protagonists are dragged into hell itself to save Gohda's daughter from Onikage's master, Lord Mei-Oh. The original Japanese version was an Obvious Beta with clunky controls and graphics, so the western version was reworked, while adding two new stages and three different selectable enemy layouts. Eventually the Japanese market got an Updated Re-release under the subtitle Shinobi Gaisen, which included all the upgrades plus a brand-new Level Editor. Later in 1999 Tenchu: Shinobi Hyakusen was released, a japan-only Mission Pack made of 100 fan-submited levels created with Shinobi Gaisen's Level Editor.

  • Artificial Stupidity: Dead bodies are effectively "out of play" in this game. Guards and civilians can walk down a bloodsoaked street littered with corpses without being alarmed.
  • Breath Weapon: The fire-eaters scroll allows Rikimaru/Ayame to release a potent fire breath at enemies, whereas the skinny, big-headed cultists in Stage 6 have it as a natural ability.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Ayame understands Captain Balmer's Spanish, but she always responds in her native tongue.
  • Catch Phrase: Ayame has the Post-Mortem One-Liner "you won't ___ where you're going."
  • Cult: The Manji is a cult of deranged, deformed people under the (apparent) influence of a mysterious rock. It is implied Lord Mei-Oh may have a hand in that.
  • Debug Room: A Debug Mode can be accessed in game which allows for all sort of crazy things like controlling enemies/bosses/civilians/animals, creating your own layouts with enemy patterns and behaviors (and saving it on a Memory Card) and even assign an enemy/boss to the 2nd controller and play co-op!
  • Evil Weapon: Mei-Oh's sword, Shichishito. Besides being a somewhat Empathic Weapon with cursed powers, it also has electric attacks.
  • Flower from the Mountaintop: Mission 8's goal is to obtain a flower grown at the very top of a mountain to cure Princess Kiku.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Balmer, the foreign pirate. The english version is not that bad (though the thick Cuban accent certainly doesn't help), but the Japanese original on the other hand...
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Ayame tells the King of Hell that she's not impressed with him, after Backflipping into Hellmouth. She actually says, "SHUT UP AND TELL ME WHERE KIKU IS!"
    Rikimaru: Your guards are dead. And you are next.
  • Seppuku: One of the missions involves executing a corrupt minister, but if the player is using Rikimaru, he will plead with the minister to take the honorable route and perform seppuku, which he will and Rikimaru will assist by decapitating him. If the player chooses Ayame, she will insult and agitate the minister until he lashes out, resulting in a boss battle.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Features really quite pleasant and soothing classical guitar BGM, while you drop onto hapless mooks and decapitate them.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Whereas Minister Kataohka will honorably commit seppuku if Rikimaru confronts him, he'll challenge Ayame, stating that he will "not allow a woman to scold (him)".
  • Storming Thecastle: Mission 9 is set in Gohda's own castle, now taken over by Onikage and his demon ninja. The Azuma Ninja thus has to infiltrate it and reach the top to defeat him.
  • Stripperiffic: The secret armor for Ayame.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Enemies can't swim, but Rikimaru and Ayame can. This gives the player a major advantage they can exploit.
  • Teleport Spam: Mei-Oh. Hoo-boy does he loves teleporting around...
  • Updated Re-release: A curious example. The first Tenchu released in Japan is quite unlike the one overseas gamer experienced. The overseas edition added many features, such as the mid-boss battle at the first stage, extra stages, opening movie, as well as the cheats. This was later remade back in Japan by the name of Tenchu: Shinobi Gaisen, featuring extra difficulty levels including the Harder Than Hard European Extreme, as well as different language audios.
  • Warmup Boss: Echigoya is reeeeeally slow both moving and shooting, telegraphs every attack he makes and has a rather mediocre life bar.
  • Worthy Opponent: Senjuro Akechi considers Rikimaru this, and laments that they stand as enemies loyal to their lords before battle.

Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins

Released in 2000 for PlayStation
Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins is a Prequel to the first, focus on the two characters' graduation into ninjas and their first assignments serving Gohda. Introduced the Level Editor mode (later used in Shinobi Gaisen) and the traditional third secret character.

Wrath of Heaven

Released in 2003 for PlayStation 2
Tenchu 3: Wrath of Heaven is a direct sequel starting where the first game left out. Each character has its own individual and independent storyline, which are quite different and contradictory between them. They all center on a new Big Bad, the dark wizard Tenrai, and his attempt to take over Gohda's land by either claiming Lord Mei-Oh's power (Rikimaru's story) or a set of three MacGuffin (Ayame's). The first entry in PlayStation 2, Wrath of Heaven refined the gameplay of the first two and introduced several new features, including a set of ninja skills to unlock, extra weapons beyond the basic ones and the ability to wield enemy weapons. It also included a set of co-op missions and a Versus Mode with several of the bosses playable. It later got a remake for Xbox titled Tenchu: Return from Darkness, with added stages and online capabilities.

  • Asian Rune Chant: As a method for learning new moves.
  • Back from the Dead: Rikimaru returns from his apparent death at the end of the original Tenchunote . Tenrai has the power of ressurection and all members of the Group of Six (most notably Tatsumaru) are this.
  • Badass Normal: Tesshu is just a thug-for-hire, but can go toe-to-toe with the ninja main characters.
  • Clockwork Creature: The specialty of Dr. Kimaira is his wooden robot army.
  • Deadly Doctor: Tesshu works as a doctor by day, but during the night he's an assassin for hire.
  • Dirty Cop: The mooks Rikimaru kills in the bonus mission "Through The Portal".
  • Five-Bad Band: The Group of Six.
  • Follow the Money: Some of the mooks Tesshu kills carry gold.
  • Gag Dub: The B-side audio option, detailing Rikimaru's quest for the secret invention toilet paper, Ayane's possible modeling career and Tesshu's adventures as a homosexual.
  • Incendiary Exponent: A Power-Up ki attack of Tesshu gives him a fiery aura, and each punch sets enemies on fire.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Ayame hears Tajima telling one of the kidnapped villagers "What a nice pair you have, now let me show you mine!" They are, of course, playing poker.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Kimaira.
  • Magical Eye / Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Rikimaru's Dohjutsu. Sealed in his right eye by Shiunsai because he "was not ready at the time", it allowed him to overcome Tenrai's evil power. Worth noting it seems to have been Ret Gone afterwards, as no further mention of this ability is ever done.
  • Master of Disguise: Hyakubake, a member of Tenrai's group with this ability. He faces Rikimaru as Ayame and viceverse in their respective storylines.
  • Murder, Inc.: The Muzen (Tesshu).
  • Playing Possum: It's possible to feign death but doing so causes you to slowly lose health as you bleed, it's possible to actually die.
  • Poisoned Weapons: A special hidden weapon for Ayame which poisons with every strike. Suffice to say that this effectively completely cripples the enemy/boss in question, who will be stunned every second for each slash he receives.
  • Poisonous Person: Tenrai's One-Winged Angel form in Ayame's story is this, a serpent-like monstrosity who can poison with a mere touch.
  • Silliness Switch: The B-side dialogue option.
  • Trapped in Another World: Explains how Riki survived the end of the first game.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The special "Through the Portal" mission put Rikimaru in a modern time setting against a Corrupt Corporate Executive Who's also a cyborg.

Fatal Shadows

Released in 2004 for PlayStation 2
Tenchu: Fatal Shadows is an Interquel set between the first and third game, focusing on Ayame's mission on enemy territory and the exploits of a former ninja, Rin, looking for the ones who burned down her secret ninja village. Its very similar gameplay-wise to Wrath of Heavens and features a few small new additions, such as enemy-based Stealth Kills.

Shadow Assassins

Released in 2008 for Wii and PlayStation Portable
Tenchu: Shadow Assassins finally continued forward the plot. Got an Unexpected Gameplay Change, with fights represented in first person.

  • Demonic Possession: Implied in the end that Onikage has possessed Ayame.
  • In-Name-Only: the play style is barely like the other games at all— While stealth is key, combat amounts to "If you have a sword, play a minigame, if you don't have a sword, don't get seen again, or it's game over."
    • Perhaps it's subjective, but the sword fighting mini game on Wii is so ABSURDLY difficult that you might as well just press restart. You get under a second between the indication of the sword's direction and the time in which you have to block, if you get hit once you lose, even on early levels enemies seem to have an unreasonable amount of health, and if you don't block exactly perfectly more than a couple of times your sword breaks and you also lose. Nintendo Hard doesn't begin to describe it. Then there's the Xbox Live DLC game Shadow Assault, being a Puzzle Game with nothing but the setting and characters from the series.
  • Kill the Cutie: Kiku.
  • Kill Us Both
  • The Mole: Someone within Gohda castle appears to be acting as one for the Big Bad
  • What Could Have Been: The game was meant to be the first of a trilogy which unfortunately never came to fruition, leaving the series on a massive (and probably never to be resolved) cliffhanger.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Rikimaru is forced to stab through Princess Kiku to get to Onikage, who was holding her hostage. Princess Kiku more or less orders Rikimaru to it, but it's implied Rikimaru is now no different from his mortal nemesis.

Tenchu Z

Released in 2006 for Xbox 360
Tenchu Z is a distant sequel set some unknown time after the other games. Rikimaru is now a NPC and your teacher, since you can create the protagonist. Only game in the series to make use of a character creation system. Also the only one Ayame has missed the cut.


Alternative Title(s): Tenchu Stealth Assassins

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