Tag Archives: Tenchu

Shadows are Us

It is almost 20 years ago that me, myself, I, my playstation and controller took a gander into the world of Tenchu. Even as I now shiver on the graphics that were then amazing, the gameplay is something I missed. This came to light when I got a dose of Aragami 2 on YouTube. Proper sneak games are a rare commodity, and as we look for the next sneaker (Splinter cell, Metal gear solid, etc.) those who love stealth games, we all have a fondness for Tenchu, 

I personally do not think that there is an exception to that rule. And for some reason, even as we all love Thief and its versions, it feels a little more amazing in Japan around the 1600’s. Japan in that era was a fun place (a little superstitious), but fun none the less. So Tenchu was a lovely step into the past. 10 years after that, when Microsoft still knew what it was doing, Tenchu Z was launched and the thump in my heart was as happy as it could be. 

Even as we saw some repetition in the levels, the levels themselves were amazing. And there was the second setting where you wanted to live in the levels you were mastering, the house, the inn, they were all amazing. There were off course issues, there always are for those who do some of the levels again and again, some of the parts that Tenchu 1 offered did not happen in Tenchu Z, yet I was not upset, after 10 years I got to tenchu again. 

So what happened? Why did the PS4 not have its own Tenchu, or whatever it would be called. A Japanese set stealth game, I know there is a sizeable population that wants one. Even if we see an upgraded remastered Tenchu Z, it is a stage that could propel the cloud consoles (Google Stadia, Amazon Luna and whatever Microsoft has) forward and yes, Microsoft does have the advantage, but only if they act, if not it is up for grabs. Microsoft does not have IP on Japan or stealth gaming. I wonder why I had not missed it sooner. Perhaps I had hoped that Ubisoft got its act together. Perhaps I hoped that some would remember the great games. 

Yet if Aragami 2 (due out in September 2021) delivers, we will feel happy and after such a long silence it should optionally receive a large following. Yes, the first Aragami had flaws (a few) but it felt much closer to the original Tenchu than many other stealth games. Styx and Thief are good games, they have their own niche and they are quite good, yet it is not sneaking in 1600 Japan. The era speaks to our imagination, it has pretty much since a man named James Clavell wrote Shogun in 1975. The age of Blackthorn and Toranaga. It spoke to most people and the image continued in gaming. So now, when we see the Sony PS5 and Microsoft alternative, we see a system that can render an entire village, one would hope that Tenchu gets a new lease on life in gaming, optionally in a much larger setting. We learned so much over 20 years that this is all possible and cloud gaming might actually end up with a larger advantage.

Options
Cloud gaming has its own stage and its stage is a lot larger than any game. I staged that play in a previous blog when I coined the return of Murder on the Zinderneuf. The cloud consoles will have an option what I call ‘cross gaming tokens’ Something found in one game can be used in another game, or better stated becomes an unlocked item in another game. Consider that you find a house ceramic in Murder on the Zinderneuf, that could unlock the steampunk version of Monopoly, When you play Tenchu, you can unlock a weapon that is an additional weapon in Clue, and so on. It is a stage never contemplated before , or never acted on, but in cloud gaming it becomes real, as we embrace subscriptions and therefor we need long term gaming. As such long term gaming is found in adding to games, but what makes the addition? By adding games, other games will optionally be enhanced, or even added to, all because you played Murder on the Zinderneuf and you examined the chess set in a room, a new chess set is added to chess. And there is no end to the options you can unlock making a long term connection. Now consider that setting in a game like Tenchu. As the enemy is there, it is also possible that a game like Anno 1600 will unlock more powerful enemies in Tenchu. 

Remember that evil Dutch Merchant? Well, if you played Anno 1600, he will become a VOC representative, complete with two bodyguards yielding a ‘Donderbus’ (the Dutch invention that would later become the shotgun). When the stage is adjusted the game becomes again enticing and rewarding. A simple stage of adjusting, and players like Ubisoft never went there, why is that (equally other players did not go there either). 

So whilst we can argue that we must move forward, we have a ton of options that have not been acted on, as such there are years of exploration in sight and there Cloud gaming has the option to offer more, not merely another version of a game, but a much larger game, if only the developers had that in sight when they thought that one platform is merely a port of another platform. 

In all this we can lie in the shadows awaiting what comes next, or we can adjust the lights and create alternative paths. So whilst we all await a new game, what is wrong with replaying a game we forgot about, only to see that it has been enhanced by other games we have played in the meantime. I believe that there are a lot of developers and they do not realise the impact of long term gaming yet, they seemingly forget that soon we get to a point (in 6 months) when some people will have played the same game for 10 years. There are not many games that are worthy of that but Skyrim pulled it off, so what happens when on 11.11.21 the game offers the players something new in the same game they played? In opposition, what happens when the ‘patch’ will unlock a whalebone dagger in Dishonored 2? These are options that cloud gaming can offer, or perhaps a Skyrim board in Monopoly, an Axe in Clue or a Skyrim style chess set? It is not merely cosmetic, consider that over time you get additional rooms, people and items in Clue. The standard formula you had in your mind will no longer work, it needs adjusting for the different items optionally altered items. The game suddenly becomes more fun to play again. A stage many forgot about but Cloud gaming enables it and suddenly the stealth games all get an upgrade and that is what we like a challenging game that offers more over time. So whilst we see Aragami 2 coming in September, what happens when some of the guards have crossbows? Do not laugh, the Japanese had crossbows as early as 230 AD, they called them Shudo, they also had something not unlike a ballista, but that came 400 years later, still ahead of Europe though. History provides a whole range of options and opportunities. And the coming of Argami 2 made me consider that. I wonder what Google and Amazon are doing. Most likely relying on a deal with Ubisoft, I wonder how that goes over time. 

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Redo from start?

I have been considering the games that are, that are soon to come and those we wish to see again. I feel that I am not unique, I am one of many who feels the same way many gamers feel. It all started with a simple pre-order notice I saw at JB-Hifi. The order was not for Mass Effect 4, but for Mass Effect, which seemed a little odd. Soon I found a few less reliable mentions of a possible upcoming re-release of Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 for Nextgen (Xbox One and PS4). I got excited, because overall the Mass Effect series are nothing short of a marvellous achievement. Consider that Mass Effect is one of the earliest Xbox360 releases, it still hold a storyline that was amazing to play. Yes, we will replay and we will know certain key parts, but that is still not an issue for those who love Mass Effect.

The revamped version of the last of us seemed to have instilled a desire for games on Nextgen that should make developers happy. Is that because the lack of good games or is that because the new games are leaving us cold? I think it is a little bit of both. As studios tried to play the ‘marketing game’ they are now learning harshly that playing that game on gamers is a sure way to see your product get smashed. The outrage that Assassins Creed Unity brought is only one of the elements. I will go one step further, a relaunch with upgrades to the story of Assassins Creed 1, 2 and brotherhood would very likely be more successful than the next Assassins Creed. This for the simple reason that the makers seem to have lost their way (the fact that Unity is regarded by many as the worst Nextgen release does not help any).

Even a relaunch of System Shock (1+2) is likely to draw in a much larger crowd than the likely disappointments new PS4 RPG’s are going to bring. The added issues is not just the game, the problem is for the most the marketing division for these developers; a decent example is the Division by Ubisoft. My issue is that so far the game might look good and could even become great, but in their approach to feed the hungry hordes of journalists and to remain ‘visible’, the people at E3 2014 got to see something that is now not coming until 2016, even the Q1 part here is currently under debate, so as the gamer is promised a game that is now 19 months from its initial ‘presentation’ the people are wondering whether to trust the game because of the mental link we all make between presentation and delivery. It leaves many of us with the thought ‘how many bugs do they need to fix‘? Now, that thought might not be the correct one, but when 10,000+ people think it, some outspoken nitwit will scream it on YouTube, which results in many players moving away from what could be a good game. An example here is Elder Scrolls online, which is a marketing disaster, yet when we see the review from ChaosD1 (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2082&v=csY7RYF4rKQ), which is excellent and might change the minds of those who walked away from Elder Scrolls Online.

We the players now want to move to games we know, we trust and believe in, which gives added weight to relaunched games. Let’s not forget that Borderlands, The Last of Us and God of War 3 were excellent games. There is however another form of relaunch, one that is not actually a relaunch, but a new evolution of the game. Elite, the legendary game from the BBC Micro B, might have made its fame on the CBM64, it is the upcoming console version which left some parts intact that is now the talk of many towns and even more gamer communities. It shows a new air and an approach to a ‘sandbox’ world many are eager to get onto. As Elite upped the game by mapping the galaxy, with the added wink to legendary science fiction moments, which they did by adding Vulcan and the Leonard Nimoy Space Station as well as Pratchett’s Disc Starport. It is still many years away (as he is in good health), but the moment will come when we will get a place like Badger’s station or the President Lampkin’s station of justice as Mark Sheppard joins the legendary ranks in Elite: Dangerous. You might wonder what does it matter, but it does! You see, as the gamer identifies with moments of his own ‘reality’, the things he/she is passionate about! The game becomes more fun and we will see that people connect more to a game. The danger is that when the threshold lowers and too many ‘legends’ are added, it could drive down the sentiment overall, but the sentiment remains! This will not hinder the upcoming No Man’s sky and both titles will very likely appeal to many players. In that same air we should see the upcoming Shadow of the Beast. What was a scrolling game with slashing on the Amiga/Atari ST, is showing itself to be a Nextgen blood dripping slice and dice extravaganza. This is a new group where the makers can relaunch their original idea and many gamers will love them. So, as the ‘new’ games don’t hack it, the gamers will get treated to a game that did and will do so again. The benefit here is that game makers will need to up their game by a lot to get out there. In the end the gamer wins no matter what! (Don’t you just love that?)

So they will pray at the ‘shrine of Pong‘ to replay System Shock, which does not hinder others either. When we consider Paradroid, or even some games for a chosen crowd like Sierra Entertainment’s games called Manhunter New York and Manhunter 2: San Francisco. They were well above average games then and could now get vamped into truly awesome games tomorrow. Perhaps we will actually live to see the conclusion of part 3 in London. It will be up to Activision to decide and as I see it, it just takes one visionary view within Activision to unlock that revenue! That same feeling is there for the Ultima series. Even though game 10 was an experience released too soon, the idea of an ‘Elder scrolls World’ that is Britannia could be massive. The fact that a developed ‘world’ is scanned and transferred to a first person environment complete with quests, side quests and upgraded storyline could give way to a new generation of gamers, let’s not forget that those who played the original are now regarded to be in the ‘old’ section (yes, that includes me), whilst the young section will experience something completely original in a new jacket. A world where you get Ultima 4, 5 and 6 in one game on the same world with the challenges to master is not only new and novel, pulling it off would raise the bar of gaming considerably. Something all gamers desire!

We became complacent in gaming as we played the Assassins Creed series, which for the most was just ‘more’ (specifically 2, Brotherhood and Revelations). Shadow of the Beast and Elite: Dangerous are now showing that ‘more’ can be an entire new range in evolution, a part many gamers (and developers) have not truly contemplated. As those behind the developers, learn to look behind them on what was and what can be great again, we learn, actually as I see it, it is the gamer taught the developer that games can be recycled.

Yet, we must also consider that it is not about the open world part, a trap I myself tend to fall into. The immersing part of being trapped in a house and surviving it, or as some will call it Alien: Isolation is basically redoing what was great and leaving the player with a replayable challenge. Which is the holy grail of gaming! I believe that more could be coming. I still regard Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 (GameCube games) as one of the most amazing games Nintendo ever released, they did on 3” DVD what many developers could not achieve on a 4.7” Blu-ray, which is truly amazing.

On the other side we see the failures, the hype that was Watchdogs is regarded by some as a failure and a joke. I do not completely agree, but overall the game is not the titan it was heralded to be, but it could be the introduction to a second game that is really awesome (Assassins Creed 1 + 2 are evidence of that), I am just willing to see the glass half full in the case of Watchdogs and I am willing to give Ubisoft a little slack in this game, especially as they do not deserve any slack for butchering the Assassins Creed series (yes, I am slightly obsessed with that). On that same line I tend to set Thief! It was not great, but decent, I do not regret getting the game when I did.

What will come next? Well, that is the question, so as many stare at the horizon for Fallout 4 and Mass Effect 4, we should not hesitate to look behind us to see new (and hopefully improved versions) of Tenchu and Mega-lo-Mania. In my view as all the developers are focussing on multi-player and micro transactions, they forget that the bulk of ALL gamers need moments of escapism, where they need not weigh anything, but focus on just having fun. This is why Minecraft is so bloody addictive. Diablo again shows levels of fulfilment. It is basically why people on Facebook keep a game like Zombie Slayer around. It has no mental need (minimal) it has decent graphics (images) and it shows progress. I will take it one step further, especially as I am not that much of a zombie fan. It is in my view one of the reasons why some of these games will always survive, when we add Pokémon to the mix we see that part even further. It is only because of the technological flaw that Sapphire and Ruby could no longer be played, yet now, with the 3DS editions, we see the power of that formula. Those who played before still love what can be played again, so as some stare forward to the horizon of new games due to technology, do not forget about the treasures behind us. Now some do not feel that ‘vigour’ when they play Colonization, a Sid Meier masterpiece, because it is board like and turn based, but what happens when the mastery of Colonization gets blended with the freedom of play that Seven Cities of Gold on the CBM-64 brought? Evolution, re-playability and challenge all in one go! I would really be curious to see such a result. I believe that within 95% of all gamers is a casual gamer that just wants to have fun, which is why Diablo and Minecraft will survive forever, we will do the multi thing in Mass Effect 3 for periods of time (best multi player experience EVER!), yet we will always return to the games that mentally satisfy, the part that scripted games cannot deliver, a niche market with long term gaming fun many developers seem to ignore.

Let the games begin!

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