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Tenchu 4 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Tenchu 4 Original Soundtrack Album Title: Tenchu 4 Oriignal Soundtrack
Record Label: Aniplex (Physical); Mega-Alpha (Digital)
Catalog No.: SVWC-7591; iTunes
Release Date: October 29, 2008
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan | Download at iTunes


In 2008, Noriyuki Asakura returned to score the latest title in From Software's ninja stealth series, Tenchu: Shadow Assassins (aka Tenchu 4), for the Wii. After a five year break from the series, Asakura was asked to restore the concept of the score for Tenchu, while still creating an entirely new score. He dealt with this seemingly contradictory request by blending the series' trademark sounds with a range of new elements.


For the first time in the series, Noriyuki Asakura wrote the vocal themes for an artist other than add'ua's Yui Murase. Instead singer-lyricist Tomoko Shibata takes the lead here and brings out the Eastern flavour of Asakura's melodies. Her voice has a more operatic feel compared to the series' previous vocalists and this ensures a particularly breathtaking peak at the 2:25 mark. The overall track creates a nostalgic feel similar to old Jidaigeki movies, but is still full of unique creativity and heartfelt emotion from composer and performer alike. The melody also returns on the introspective ending theme "In the Depths of Dreams", treated in a similar way to a Japanese operatic aria, and again in a bonus remix with an expressive violin lead. Both are excellent arrangements with a genuinely tear jerking effect.

Right from the first instrumental cue "Disastrous Scene", it's clear that Noriyuki Asakura has returned to the concept of the original Tenchu score, with dense and emotional hybrids of Asian and contemporary elements. However, he still offers a range of novel components throughout to ensure the experience is still a novel and interesting one. One of the most prominent changes is the increased focus on solo and ensemble string parts, due to participation of the Gen Ittetsu Strings. These performers sometimes to offer great passion and radiance, as in the beautifully performed violin lead on the first stage theme "Approaching Pursuer, Complicating Blade", though are sometimes used for more sinister means, as in the combination of low strings and gritty guitar parts on "Life's Hide-and-Seek" or the utterly wild solos on "Burning Castle". They really draw listeners into the score.

There is also a greater Hollywood influence on this title. "Violating Hell Melody" and "Rain", for instance, incorporate moody string parts and and electronic infiltration beats indicative of a modern cinematic influence, though they are still excellently hybridised with Asakura's pan-Asian features. "Taboo -GOHATTO-" meanwhile is among the more perplexing additions to the soundtrack, since it incorporates the chromatic chord progression and moody suspended strings characteristic of James Bond scores; while it suits the process of espionage, it is too gimmicky and superficial to really impress, though thankfully the gorgeous individualistic sections subsequently make up for it. The conclusion of the score, "Transmigration of the Soul", is a perfect blend of the modern cinematic influences and traditional Asian elements, offering a sentimental blend of piano and string parts together with unrestrained Eastern improvisations.

The score does have one major problem. Like Tenchu 2 before it, there are a considerable number of short cinematic cues and subsidiary tracks that disrupt the stand-alone listening experience. While they work fine in the game and are still artistically inspired, tracks such as "Error", "Cold Sleep", and "Time of Stealth" bring little to the album itself. Thankfully, there are still numerous highlights throughout the soundtrack to full make up for this, unlike Tenchu 2 before it. Whereas the original Tenchu score could stand up in its own right as an original album, the Tenchu: Shadow Assassins sounds very much like a soundtrack, through both its frequent interruptions and Hollywood influences. The distinction is obvious, though it is by no means necessarily a bad thing.


Overall, the Tenchu: Stealth Assassins score features a number of obvious and subtle changes compared with other soundtracks of the series. However, the emotional, intellectual, and functional value of the music remains the same. The Tenchu 4 Original Soundtrack will be very satisfying for those who enjoy the music of Tenchu and Noriyuki Asakura.

Overall Score: 8/10