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 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.
Series in general:
- Action Girl: Ayame, Rin and in Tenchu Z you can make a female character who would become this.
- Another Side, Another Story / Villain Shoes
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Everyone except Lord Gohda.
- 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 of his Rival, and summons his soul from hell.
- 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. "I'm dying... Ohhhhh... I'm dying..."
- Cool Big Sis: Ayame acts like this to Gohda's daughter.
- Cool Sword: Izayoi
- Media Research Failure: UGO referred to Rikimaru as "Tenchu".
- Corrupt Bureaucrat: A very common Tenchu enemy.
- Corrupt Church: Surprisingly they are corrupt Buddhists. Don't see that often.
- Deadpan Snarker: Ayame
- Damsel in Distress: Kiku gets kidnapped once per game early on the series.
- Dull Surprise
- Everything Is Worse With Bears
- Extremity Extremist: Onikage is all about kicks, only using his hands for special grabs in Wrath of Heaven and sometimes block.
- Finishing Move
- Guns Are Worthless: Used and Averted.
- 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, and boy can she use them.
- Level Editor: Tenchu 2. Later implemented 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.
- 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 chracters 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.
- Pirate: The Baoliusung Gang from part 2 and the foreign pirates from the first game as well.
- Rank Inflation: Ninja Dog, Thug, Ninja, Master Ninja, Grand Master.
- Remixed Level
- 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.
- Secret Character: Each game in the series has a third unlockable character. Except the first one.
- Simultaneous Arcs
- 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
- 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
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (1998), 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 Rerelease under the subtitle Shinobi Gaisen, and with the inclusion of a Level Editor. Tenchu: Shinobi Hyakusen (1999), A japan-only Mission Pack made of 100 fan-submited levels created with Shinobi Gaisen's Level Editor.
- The Archer: Kataoka
- Breath Weapon: The fire-eaters scroll and the cultists.
- Debug Mode
- Cult: The Manji
- 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: A mission was to obtain a flower that can cure Princess Kiku.
- Gratuitous Spanish: Balmer, the foreign pirate. The english version is not that bad (though the thick Mexican accent certainly doesn't help), but the Japanese original on the other hand...
"Parece que has muerto. Te mato ahora!"
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: Ayame tells the King of Hell that she's not impressed with him, after Backflipping into Hellmouth. Unless the Japanese version is different; 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.
- Storming the Castle: Mission 9.
- Stripperiffic: The secret armor for Ayame.
- Teleport Spam: Mei-Oh. Hoo-boy does he loves teleporting around...
- 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.
Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins
Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins (2000), 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 character.
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
- Badass Grandpa: Master Shiunsai and the rest of the Azuma. Too bad they all die.
- Bare-Fisted Monk: Wang Xaohai
- Bittersweet Ending: Rikimaru & Ayame are the only Azuma ninja left. Onikage is still out there.
- Break the Cutie
- Cherry Blossoms: Cherry Tree Hill.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: The soldier mooks wear different colors to indicate who they serve. Green=Motohide, Purple=Toda, Blue=Gohda.
- Cool Boat / Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The Fire Demon.
- Crack! Oh, My Back!: Urano Takehito.
- 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.
- Dragged by the Collar: Part of your skill-set
- Dragon with an Agenda: Kagami
- Five-Bad Band The Lords of the Burning Dawn
- Forgiveness Requires Death: Poor Tatsumaru.
- The Four Gods: The Lords of the Burning Dawn.
- Go Out with a Smile: Genbu
- 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.
- Light Is Not Good: The Burning Dawn have rejected the life of darkness and embraced the light.
- Meaningful Name: Suzaku.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Genbu.
- Napoleon Complex: Byakko is supremely arrogant for someone so short.
- Not So Secret Harbor
- Panthera Awesome: Byakko's pet tiger Kotaro
- 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 Ten-Minute Retirement, as Tatsumaru makes a Face Heel Turn shortly after.
- Ayame later gives Izayoi to Rikimaru after Tatsumaru dies.
- Pre-Ass-Kicking 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.
- Sssssnaketalk: 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.
- 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 Rikumaru steps in, cuing a boss fight. After the fight, the trope occurs again, with Rikumaru poised over the uncle. Being a ninja, Rikumaru 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 Other Darrin: Seiryu looks different in the US and Japanese versions.
- The Unfought: Motohide is the only boss that doesn't get killed by the main characters.
- Those Three Bad Guys: The Snake, The Frog and The Slug.
- 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
Tenchu 3: Wrath of Heaven (2003), 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. It all boils down to the Big Bad's attempt to rule Gohda's realm. Later got a remake for X-Box 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 and Tatsumaru.
- 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.
- Dirty Cop: The mooks Rikimaru kills in the bonus mission "Through The Portal".
- Evil 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.
- 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.
- Ho Yay: The Jyuzo/Shou cutscene lends itself to some Unfortunate Implications.
- Incendiary Exponent: A Power-Up ki attack of Tesshu.
- 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.
- Master of Disguise: Hyakubake.
- 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.
- Reality Subtext - The B-Side portrays Tesshu as homosexual. There is truth to this because his English voice actor is gay.
- Silliness Switch: The B-side dialogue option.
- Trapped in Another World: Explains how Riki survived the end of the first game.
- Twenty 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.
Tenchu: Fatal Shadows (2004), 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.
- Doomed Hometown: Rin's village.
- Hand Cannon: Tesshu and Rin can obtain a one hit wonder bamboo gun. Suffice to say that a well-aimed shot makes Massive Damage if not directly One-Hit Kill.
- Multi Mook Melee: Red Blade mode, which lets one select a specific stage/mook variety to fight until death. It also includes a Boss Rush option.
- Murder, Inc.: The Beniya and the Kuroya.
- Parasol of Pain: Jyuzo has as main weapon a sword hidden within an umbrella, which he uses in a battohjutsu style.
- Warmup Boss: Tatsukichi is pathetically slow and loves informing you when she's to attack. Not mentioning grabbing her ends the fight with a quick neck smack.
- You Have Failed Me...: Jyuzo kills his lover Tatsukichi if you spare her life.
- 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 X-Box 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 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 (2006), 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.