Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Tenchu

Go To

Live By Honor. Kill By Stealth.

Tenchu is a series of stealth based games originally developed by Acquire and later K2 LLC and FromSoftware 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.

Stealth gameplay is the standard fare for the genre- sneaking, assassinating people while they are unaware, and so on. What sets it apart is the setting, which is feudal Japan. Tools available to the player are all stock Ninja tools, though the open nature of the levels and their multi-purpose uses means that experimentation can be both rewarding and fun. In addition, getting spotted isn't really a big deal, as the player characters can actually fight back rather well even if they're spotted. This is also one of the few games that actually somewhat discourage a Pacifist Run, with bonuses being rewarded to players that assassinate every enemy in the level. All of this comes together to form a rather arcadey stealth game, facilitated by the games multiple unlocks and short run times.

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 Damsel in Distress 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 it for USA, the latter for EUR) for Game Boy Color borrowed a lot of elements from the Tenchu series. And the cards you obtain through playing through stages or trading with friends add to this referencing!

This video game contains the following tropes:

    open/close all folders 

    In General 
  • Action Girl: Ayame, Rin, and in Tenchu Z you can make a female character who will 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 first include a third secret character whose story runs parallel with that of Rikimaru and Ayame. This is most notable in Tenchu 2 and 3.
  • 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.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Guards will panic if they spot a body and chase you if you get spotted, but inevitably reset back to their patterns if they can't find you for upwards to half a minute. Then they'll just march over the bodies they spotted before like they were never there. The guards (and in Z, even the boss fights) will also happily march to the edge of water, even lining up to try to get you no matter how many times you knock them into the drink. And then there's cases like using the wall cover or hanging just off a ledge where by all means you should get spotted, but a guard will just walk right on by none the wiser.
  • 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.
  • Bears Are Bad News: A recurring enemy in the series. They are usually simply Giant 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: Tesshu is a blatant homage to the Hissatsu series, as he's inspired by the earliest protagonists, acupuncturist Fujieda Baian and bonesetter Nenbutsu no Tetsu. His exclusive weapons, the Bamboo Gun and the hanging wire, are also iconic weapons from the series.
    • Wang Xiaohai from Birth of the Stealth Assassins is based on Mongolman from Kinnikuman
    • Tachibana Jubei from Birth of the Stealth Assassins is an obvious ersatz of Yagyu Jubei.
    • Tajima from Fatal Shadows is an homage to Unosuke, the Big Bad from Yojimbo.
    • Masashi Kishimoto of Naruto fame has openly admitted that Kakashi is based off of Rikimaru. Orochimaru resembles Onikage, too.
  • Captain Obvious: The Mooks tend to be this.
    I'm dying... Ohhhhh... I'm dying...
  • Child Soldier: Rikimaru and Ayame were trained from a young age to become Azuma Ninjas, and undertook their first missions when they were 16 and 14 years old, respectively.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: AI boss characters tend to have unlimited ninja items while you can only carry limited amount of items; Onikage has unlimited healing potions, Lady Kagami has unlimited shuriken/kunai and hand grenades, and many other bosses have unlimited smoke bombs.
  • 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.
  • Damsel in Distress: Kiku gets kidnapped once in each main game.
  • 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 them, 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 asks 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 protagonists are guilty of this with Rikimaru expressing that women shouldn't be warriors despite the fact that his partner Ayame is one.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ayame.
  • Devious Daggers: Ayame wields a pair of kodachi/daggers, and boy can she use them.
  • Dual Wielding: Ayame wields a pair of daggers as her weapons. Occasionally 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 blocking.
  • Finishing Move: The Stealth Kills function like this. The final skill in Tenchu 3 being a cinematic One-Hit Kill may also count.
  • 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!
  • 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
  • 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 originally in Shinobi Gaisen and is brought back in 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: Ninja in this game are not suited to open hand-to-hand combat like the Samurai are, but are the undisputed masters of the stealth kill.
  • Ninja Log: The Ninja Rebirth item, which resurrects the player if they are killed when equipped.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Ninja Pirate Animal Demon.
  • Nintendo Hard: These games aren't necessarily complex in their stealth mechanics, but the combat mechanics are intentionally terrible so you can't just brute force missions usually - and a good number of targets turn into boss fights which can be quite difficult to deal with as a result. And if that wasn't enough, try going for Grandmaster rankings, which require as many stealth kills as possible without killing civilians or, on harder difficulties, getting spotted a single time (bosses obviously not withstanding). And you need to keep hitting this rank to get some of the better items that can help mitigate said bosses as well as help with more Grandmaster rankings. It's that kind of series.
  • 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 massage giver 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.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Among the Echigoya clan's extensive rap sheet is rendering the daughters of their clients into prostitution if they fail to pay their debts.
  • 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, although 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 (bar the first game) has a third unlockable character.
    • Time of the Assassins has 5 different characters to play in story mode, and many more for use in the Level Editor.
  • Shout-Out: The dark tone and the focus on assassinations, especially of corrupt bureaucrats and evil aristocrats, is reminiscent of the Hissatsu series. This is especially blatant with Tesshu, who seems directly taken from the series.
  • 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.
  • Spiritual Successor: Found in the Shinobido series, designed by Acquire after they lost the license to FromSoftware. While significantly different in core design, as the Shinobido series is more open-ended between faction allegiances, skills and gear as well as Multiple Endings, a number of similarities and elements to the Tenchu games remain such as the focus on stealth kills and using the Ki meter for awareness of nearby foes.
  • Storming the Castle Gohda castle has been stormed or infiltrated numerous times.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Averted for the player, as every single character can swim and even dive (albeit not indefinitely) as well as use a bamboo stick to hide beneath the water surface while keeping an air supply. Played straight for every enemy, however - if they so much as sink a foot into water, they'll instantly drown. Even funnier, Tenchu Z lets this happen to two major plot bosses if you're stubborn enough to try.
    • It can also be done in the very first game, because most boss fights let you move around the entire level while fighting your opponent. If you feel like knocking Onikage off the roof of Goda's castle so you can drown him in the river that runs outside the castle wall, you can.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Killing non combatants and allies (even if they die because they stomp on caltrops you have scattered) will inflict severe penalty on your score.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: The player can often hear the mooks utter some lines while hiding in the Shadows. That includes lines such 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".

    Stealth Assassins 

Released in 1998 for PlayStation

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (Rittai Ninja Katsugeki: Tenchu) is the first game in the series, focused on an apparent series of unrelated missions carried out 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-submitted 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 blood-soaked street littered with corpses without being alarmed.
  • Breath Weapon: The fire-eater 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.
  • Catchphrase: Ayame has the Bond 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!
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: From the guards being unable to react to any dead bodies, to certain control and design elements that were improved upon in the sequels, it can be tough for some fans to come back to the first game after playing the later ones.
  • 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...
  • Outside-Genre Foe: Mei-Oh, a Humanoid Abomination from another world with a sword that shoots lightning, who comes pretty much out of nowhere in a game that until this point was grounded in reality. His name literally translates to "King of Hell".
  • Pre-Asskicking 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 the Castle: 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 love teleporting around...
  • Updated Re-release: A curious example. The first Tenchu released in Japan is quite unlike the one overseas gamers 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 at both moving and shooting, telegraphs every attack he makes and has a rather mediocre life bar. Sasaki (Echigoya's personal bodyguard) never block or jump while the player can block his attacks.note 
  • Worthy Opponent: Senjuro Akechi considers Rikimaru this, and laments that they stand as enemies loyal to their lords before battle. Face him with Ayame, though, and he'll express anger and disbelief both at his sister's defeat and his own. Again, this is 16th-century Japan.

    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 (originally used in Shinobi Gaisen) and the traditional third secret character.

  • A Million is a Statistic
    Suzaku: "We live in an age of war. People die every day."
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Tatsumaru loses his memory and helps the Burning Dawn massacre his own clan. He regains his memory but chooses to remain one of the bad guys out of guilt.
  • Back from the Dead: Suzaku, once he's revealed to be Onikage.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: Wang Xaohai, a Chinese pirate expert in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Rikimaru & Ayame are the only Azuma ninja left. Onikage is still out there.
  • Break the Cutie: Both Rikimaru and Ayame go through this, seeing their friend Tatsumaru betray them, kill their master/father figure and renounce them to join Kagami in her attack against Gohda. Ayame really gets the worse of it, as she had a crush on Tatsumaru.
  • Cherry Blossoms: The stage set in the Cherry Tree Hill has a huge tree and the whole area covered in blossoms.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The soldier mooks in the first part of the game wear different colors to indicate who they serve. Green=Motohide, Purple=Toda, Blue=Gohda.
  • Cool Boat: The Fire Demon.
  • *Crack!* "Oh, My Back!": Urano Takehito will ocassionally stop his attack due to his bad back, being a really old man.
  • Darker and Edgier
  • Digital Bikini: Of the "original outfit too risque" variety. Compare Ayame's Japanese costume to her US one.
  • Doomed Hometown: The Azuma village, although it doesn't happen until the mid-point in the story.
  • Dragged by the Collar: One of the new abilities added to your ninja's skill-set is the ability to drag bodies and hide them from view.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Kagami served Lord Tohda as head of his ninja group, but betrayed him in order to pursue her own dreams.
  • Evil Counterpart: Lord Toda for Lord Gohda (both lord over their lands, but Gohda is benevolent while Toda is power-hungry) and the Burning Dawn for the Azuma ninja (both are ninja groups serving their lords, but the Azuma are completely loyal to Gohda whereas the Burning Dawn betrayed Toda for their own needs).
  • Evil Feels Good: Subverted; underneath all her evil laughter and gloating, Kagami feels terrible for the innocent deaths she caused, as evidenced by her brief breakdown in the quarantined village. However, she believes it is too late for her to abandon her cause, for the sake of her followers and all those who died for her, making her all the more tragic.
  • Fallen Hero: Tatsumaru.
  • Forgiveness Requires Death: Poor Tatsumaru.
  • The Four Gods: The Lords of the Burning Dawn are named after them.
  • Genocide from the Inside: Suffering from Amnesiac Dissonance and having become a Lord of the Burning Dawn, Tatsumaru wipes out his own clan, leaving few survivors besides Rikimaru and Ayame.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Demon Mountain.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Kagami.
  • Island Base: Kubon island, hideout of the Baoliusung Gang.
  • Just You and Me and My GUARDS!: Toda calls forth two soldiers right before his boss battle with Tatsumaru.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Burning Dawn have rejected the life of darkness and embraced the light.
  • Meaningful Name: Suzaku.
  • Mid-Season Twist: It's in the 6th or 7th missions that Rikimaru & Ayame discover Tatsumaru's amnesia.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Genbu refuses to stop fighting as he feels he owes Kagami for all she did for him.
  • Napoleon Complex: Byakko is supremely arrogant for someone so short.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Zigzagged. Rikimaru's refusal to finish off Tatsumaru lead to the latter gaining a cheap shot that blinded him in one eye. On the other hand, his act of mercy also lead Lady Kagami to spare his life in return.
  • Not-So-Safe Harbor: Or rather, Not So Secret Harbor.
  • Panthera Awesome: Byakko's pet tiger Kotaro, who assists him in fighting Rikimaru and Ayame.
  • Passing the Torch: Master Shiunsai passes down the Izayoi to Tatsumaru, and with it, leadership of the Azuma clan... This turns out to be a 10-Minute Retirement, as Tatsumaru makes a Face–Heel Turn shortly after.
    • Ayame later gives Izayoi to Rikimaru after Tatsumaru dies.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Rikimaru makes one before every boss battle.
  • The Reveal / The Stinger: Suzaku is Onikage.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Tohda kills Motohide after he kidnaps Kiku.
  • Sssssnake Talk: Suzaku.
  • Smoke Out: Parodied by Genbu.
  • Soft Reset: By holding Start+Select.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Tatsumaru ♥ Kagami.
  • Stripperiffic: Lady Kagami definitely.
  • Sword Cane: Master Shiunsai wields one with incredible speed for someone so old.
  • Sword over Head: Lord Gohda is engaged in a sword fight with his uncle, who has led a revolt against him. Being the good and noble lord Gohda hesitates after disarming him, and lowers his weapon. His uncle then shoots him. It is then that the player controlled Rikimaru steps in, cuing a boss fight. After the fight, the trope occurs again, with Rikimaru poised over the uncle. Being a ninja, Rikimaru slashes, but Gohda leaps in and takes the slash to his back. The uncle, touched by this, proceeds to scamper off and kill Gohda's wife and kidnap his daughter. Nice guy.
    • Later, during the battle against Tatsumaru, Rikimaru hesitates to strike down his former friend, who takes the opportunity to slash Rikimaru's face, scarring him for the rest of the series.
  • The Unfought: Although he is fought as a boss (he's the 2nd boss in Rikimaru's campaign), Motohide is the only boss that doesn't get killed by the main characters.
  • Threatening Shark: There's one in the water during the Secret Harbor missions.
  • Undignified Death: Downplayed, but Jubei's death counts : he's a mighty samurai who dies to a mere ninja, and he's also the only boss who doesn't get a post-fight cutscene.
  • Visionary Villain: Kagami just wanted to free the ninja from servitude.
  • You Have Failed Me: Suzaku kills Yukihotaru after she loses to Rikimaru.
  • You Killed My Father: Shiunsai reflects on how Tatsumaru killing him was fate after he killed his father. Slightly subverted in that he never knew it, so it was not personal.

    Wrath of Heaven 

Released in 2003 for PlayStation 2

Tenchu 3: Wrath of Heaven is a direct sequel starting where the first game left off. Each character has their 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 MacGuffins (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.

  • A.I. Breaker: If an enemy that has spotted you ends up in a hole they can't walk out of and has not lost track of you, they'll jump out. The problem is that they'll do this while still making a beeline for your position, and being that they're completely defenseless while in the air this leaves them wide open to getting smacked back into the hole where the process can be repeated until they're disposed of. Not terribly useful at its face in a game where getting caught is a bad thing, but as it turns out the arena for Tesshu's last two bosses is such that this can be mercilessly exploited, trivializing them if you picked up a spear on the way there.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Intentional, but still exaggerated. The Decoy Whistle (which Tesshu also has variant of built into his abilities) makes an animal noise, which will immediately cause alert enemies/civilians to go from their !? (actively looking to you) state to a normal state. Where this gets silly is that it works unconditionally, even if they're currently looking at a body; and in the sheer insanity of how effective it is, with guards calming down after hearing a cow or cat sound as if the animal in question is the only logical culprit for the clearly-slashed-apart-with-a-katana corpse they are looking at!
  • 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 resurrection 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".
  • 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), Ayame's battle against a shady modeling agency, and Tesshu's adventures as a homosexual.
  • Guide Dang It!: It's possible to skip Stealth Kill animations by pressing the Circle Button. This is actually extremely helpful considering that the world does not freeze during these animations, so it's a distinct possibility that you'll end up sighted from letting them play through. Does the game itself or its manual mention that you can do this? Nope!
  • 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.
  • Just You and Me and My GUARDS!: The second boss in both Rikimaru and Ayame's paths calls for guards to back him up. Played with in that while Rikimaru has to fight the boss with his guards, Ayame proceeds to slaughter them during the cutscene, leaving the boss to be just her and him.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Kimaira.
  • Magical Eye: 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 made.
  • 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, so it's possible to actually die.
  • Poisoned Weapons: A special hidden weapon for Ayame, the Dokuto, 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 and is immune to poison himself, rendering the above-mentioned Dokuto worthless.
  • Silliness Switch: The B-side dialogue option.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Alert enemies are capable of blocking attacks even if you're directly behind them. They'll just do an instant 180 turn and bam, blocked. They're also very much capable of grabbing you in the middle of an attack string if they feel like it, giving them quite a bit in common with unfair fighting game opponents.
  • Trapped in Another World: Explains how Rikimaru survived the end of the first game.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The special "Through the Portal" mission puts Rikimaru in a modern time setting against a Corrupt Corporate Executive who's also a cyborg.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Ninja Mind Control. Its stated effect is that it will cause an enemy who is struck with it to attack other enemies for a period of time. While the description is upfront that it doesn't work on bosses, what it neglects to specify is that it also does not work on normal enemies in boss encounters, meaning it's ineffective against Nasu's guards in Rikimaru's Stage 1 or against the zombie horde in his Stage 6 (nevermind that it's not unlocked in the first place until Stage 8), which immediately means it serves no purpose unless you've been spotted within the stage. The problems don't stop there, however, as the attack required to activate the effect is also incredibly slow and short ranged, meaning that it's universally easier to just dispatch the enemies yourself than to try to hit one of them with it, and even if you land the hit the duration is so short that the affected enemy will probably only even attempt one or two hits before it wears off. Another useless one is Ayame's Wrath of Heaven. Both Rikimaru and Ayame's Wrath of Heaven is an attack with a long wind-up that reduces their health to 1, regardless of if it lands or not. Problem being is that whereas Rikimaru's version is a One-Hit Kill that will dispose of bosses just as easily as anything else provided they're stunned first, Ayame's is not and in fact simply doesn't do enough damage to justify its use in any situation. It's a pity too, considering that she has two stages which begin with a boss fight where something like Rikimaru's Wrath of Heaven might be highly desired when going through the second and third layouts of each stage, whereas Rikimaru has none.
  • You Are the Translated Foreign Word: The subtitle "The Wrath of Heaven" is somewhat redundant as that is what the translation of the word "Tenchu" is.

    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 in enemy territory and the exploits of a former ninja, Rin, looking for the ones who burned down her secret ninja village. It's 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 with 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." note 
    • 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 do 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 an 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 where Ayame has missed the cut.

Alternative Title(s): Tenchu Stealth Assassins