When a developer kills off one of a game's main characters, it's given one of two choices: create a prequel or start looking at the afterlife in that revolving door sort of fashion found in comic books. In the second entry in Activision's PlayStation ninja adventure series, the creators chose the former route. You play as Rikimaru and Ayame shortly after they pass their final tests to become Azuma ninja, long before one of them meets an untimely end.
In Tenchu 2, a rival ninja clan has set forth with a plan to destroy the local lords so that they may rule the land themselves, and Rikimaru, Ayame, and their friend Tatsumaru are soon drawn into the conflict. While the original game had an adequate plot that possessed a few standout moments, the sequel's story is compelling, impressive in the telling (seen through CG and in-game cutscenes), and multilayered. In fact, you won't see the complete picture surrounding the game's events unless you play it through as all three characters (Tatsumaru's missions open up after you beat the other two's stages) and see it through their eyes.
Tenchu 2's basic gameplay remains much the same as in the original. You view your ninja from a third-person perspective, and guide him or her through each stage, completing your mission objectives while avoiding detection. You use the square button to crouch or flatten out against a wall, while R1 functions as a free-look that lets you peek around corners to see if an enemy is approaching. A small meter on the bottom left-hand corner of your screen indicates how close a foe is to you, and if they've spotted or heard you. If they haven't seen you, you can sneak up on them and perform a one-hit kill. If you can wipe out all the evil ninja and soldiers on each level without being detected, your score is much higher and you can gain extra items, such as a gas bomb, a sleeping potion, or special dust to blind your enemies with. With you at all times are two items, a grappling hook that you can use to climb onto rooftops and a bamboo reed you breathe through while under water. Unlike in the first Tenchu, you can sneak up on shore-, boat-, or dock-bound foes by swimming up beneath them underwater, although it's necessary to watch how much noise you make splashing about. Additionally, you also now have the abilities to search fallen ninja for items and to drag bodies away so that they're not discovered.
While the stealth aspect of the original Tenchu was well received, many felt that the game was far too short. That's one criticism you won't hear of Tenchu 2, as it's likely the most immense game of its genre. To start with, both Rikimaru and Ayame have 11 missions each, and Tatsumaru, once opened, has an additional seven of his own. Though some character's stages take place in the same environments you saw with other characters, the objectives you must carry out, bosses that you fight while there, and graphics that pretty up the landscape are often different, giving each territory its own feel. The mission editor section of the game offers fifteen extra missions and provides you with the ability to create custom stages. There is a wide range of options available to you, and the tools are fairly intuitive to use, so you can put together and play a mission to be proud of within a few hours. Forty missions and the easy ability to make more is an unprecedented amount of value for a console game.