Tenchu: Dark Secret
The only Dark Secret here is that you'll want to impale this crappy game with a sword.
Define travesty. Fine. A travesty is something that you expect to be good but then goes horribly, horribly wrong. Now I'm not reading from a dictionary verbatim, mind you, so I might be wrong on the exact terminology. But I think I'm using the word justifiably when it comes to Tenchu: Dark Secret for the Nintendo DS. This game is offered exclusively through EB and GameStop locations, and that right there is the beginning of trouble being spelled out. Anytime you see a word like "exclusive", it's for a game that doesn't matter. Some earlier Blockbuster-only releases like Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine and Final Fight Guy stand out from this rule, but those days are gone. Here, we just have garbage.
The game has you choose between a male and a female ninja character and then complete a number of missions, where you must wipe out certain targets in order to move ahead. These targets usually consist of guards that roam around certain complexes, in which you must sneak up on them and take them out before they can alert anyone or kill you. The concept's worked just fine for Tenchu console releases in the past, but here, it hits a very bad snag. Several, in fact.
First, let's talk about the graphic engine. The game is limited to a top-down view of the action, instead of a fully drawn 3-D engine. Now, a top-down engine can work fine for a portable game done right, like Metal Gear Solid on the Game Boy Color. But it's miserable here. The graphics are muddy and uninspired enough to begin with, but then you have the level design, which is not only repetitive but deeply flawed. You can't really see that far ahead of you, and when you see your guard alert system going off like crazy and can't even find the guard you need to dispatch, that's big trouble. The item selection screen is okay, but a lot of key items are missing, including the very cool grappling hook. Nope, not here.
The sound fares no better. You've got garbled English making up for cool Japanese dialogue, and the same kind of music repeating over and over and over again. The sound effects are muted at best, and fail to deliver on any count in the coolness of ninja. It's almost like a Toys R' Us brand of ninja, except that's an insult to Toys R' Us. And I don't feel like insulting them right now. They're not selling this garbage.
Gameplay is pretty slow and stunted, translating very poorly to the Nintendo DS. It'd be one thing if stealth had a use here, but you have to find the guards first on a map in order to kill them. If that's not enough, with the grappling hook gone, you have to leap onto buildings to get higher up, a very lame tactic that can leave you wide open for attacks if you're not careful. The enemy AI is also a bit of a lame duck, with guards that roam around with very little brains, although they're a bit smarter when it comes to trying to ambush targets you need to protect. That's where the game hit the boiling point with me, as I have to move around and rely on a map to find enemies and see one that sneaks right by me and kills my target. Jackass.
There has been mention of Wi-Fi support for the game, but, really, it's pointless. You're not able to jump in with a friend and play at all, but rather log in with them and then trade items. That's it. That's the extent of Nintendo's groovy Wi-Fi features with the game. A trade-off. Tell you what. I'll just take my copy of Tenchu: Dark Secret and trade it for a more worthwhile game.
From Software has insulted themsleves with this piss-poor development, a game that fails in every category. Graphics? Terrible. Music? Bleah. Gameplay? Unreasonable. Wi-Fi? Not even included to a good extent. Replayability? Hey, if you can handle playing past two levels, have at it. Me? I'm nauseated by this game and don't ever want to deal with it again. Let GameStop and EB clean themselves out from their inventory and be done with the damn thing.
What's Hot: Um, well, there's ninjas.
What's Not: Gameplay is awful; presentation is underwhelming; Wi-Fi features are useless.