Like we said, that's within the first 30 minutes. By the end of our first hour, we could visit a special ninja shop and purchase special ninja tools (shurikens, caltrop, etc) or special ninja abilities (Fang the powerful downward attack, Moon the spinning attack, etc). Later, features like disguise and invisibility are unlocked.
Unfortunately, our hands-on time was overwhelming for another couple of reasons as well. To begin with, the controls - at this point - just don't seem very intuitive. We found ourselves backtracking multiple times during the training session to read and reread instructions. Basic maneuvers can often require complicated sequences involving the d-pad, the analog sticks, the face buttons, the shoulder buttons and the trigger buttons. It's tough to memorize when practicing... it's plain frustrating when in the middle of a mission. If games like Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell can make unbelievable moves seem second nature, why is simply wall sidling in this game so hard?
Finally, with all those stealth options, you'd think Tenchu Z would be very friendly to, well, stealth gameplay. But almost everywhere we went, enemies noticed us immediately no matter how many techniques we applied. We understand the need for some trial and error in games like these... but this was the first door in the first mission and we couldn't make it through without causing a huge, loud commotion.
With its smorgasbord of sneaky moves, Tenchu Z ought to offer plenty of meat for fans of the series. Our questions is, will anyone besides fans be willing to slog through the control scheme and unwanted combat to truly enjoy all those tools and options?
We'll find out when the game releases this summer. Until then, check out our new gameplay screens under the Images tab above.