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Tenchu 3 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Tenchu 3 Original Soundtrack Album Title: Tenchu 3 Oriignal Soundtrack
Record Label: Aniplex (Physical); Mega-Alpha (Digital)
Catalog No.: SVWC-7177/8; iTunes
Release Date: May 21, 2003; May 17, 2006
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan | Download at iTunes


The Tenchu series received another sequel in 2003 with Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven, known in Japan as Tenchu 3. Despite the change of developer and publisher, Noriyuki Asakura was asked to return to create the music and was given plenty of freedom. He offered the series' most expansive soundtrack to date and also its most accessible, but does it live up to the reputable name of Tenchu?


Once again, it is the vocal opening theme and instrumental ending themes that provide the most emotional moments of the soundtrack. Focusing on the opener "Fate ~SADAME~", Asakura created the composition to reflect how the returning protagonist, Rikimaru, always remains strong and never relents even when faced with an overwhelming number of enemies. Following an atmospheric introduction focusing on Yui Murase's divine voice, appropriately the track becomes enpowered and masculinised from the one minute mark with courageous string motifs and raw guitar parts, before exploring various other emotions during its thorough development. The final composition is both a stunning complement to the visuals and a delightful stand-alone listen.

The background music of the title was created with accessibility in mind and is therefore less eccentric than earlier Tenchu titles. Like much of today's video game music, most tracks evolve from riffs that are repeated throughout, rather than developing freely and wildly like the original Tenchu. "Echinoya's Estate", for instance, creates groovy rhythms throughout with a mixture of funk licks and orchestral elements. The track still captures plenty of mood and attitude, particularly with the string motifs and more ambient interludes, but it is definitely less highbrow artistically. Moodier tracks such as "Limestone Cave" and "Tenrai Fortress" showcase Asakura's ability to offer dark pan-Asian fusions just as impressively as those of Tenchu, though feature a greater rhythmical impetus to compel listeners to immerse themselves.

There are some delightful action tracks supporting the various stealth themes. "Decisive Battle" is much easier to stomach than Asakura's usually abrasive action themes, since there are uplifting trance-inspired beats supporting the dissonant orchestral chords and traditional instrument solos. It's not as deep as equivalents from Tenchu, but very creative, enjoyable, and fitting nevertheless. Hardcore fans of the composer will nevertheless be pleased that he doesn't hesitate to offer raw and brutal action themes at the climax, particularly "Ukyo" with its overdriven guitar parts and "Desperate Struggle" with its raging taiko drums. "Last Decisive Battle - Big Tenrai" is a particularly fascinating addition to the experience, since it combines the deep and shallow, hostile and accessible features of the soundtrack into a unifying whole.

The soundtrack for Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven is one of the few in the series that it is complete. However, this comes as a price since the second disc of the soundtrack is dominated by short cinematic cues and subsidiary themes, all of which are fitting in context but superfluous outside it. Thankfully, the major compositions from the game are grouped together in full-length tracks across the first disc, so the additional tracks in no way disrupt the main listening experience. The album ends with a fascinating bonus club remix that once again demonstrates Asakura at his craziest and is rather fitting given the increased mainstream focus of the soundtrack.


The soundtrack does feature its superficial elements and its superfluous tracks, but it still comes together to form an inspiring whole. After the somewhat disappointing Tenchu 2 Soundtrack, it is excellent that Asakura focused on creating numerous expansive fusions once again here. The addition of mainstream-targeted grooves and beats somewhat compromises the soundtrack as a serious artistic experience on par with the original Tenchu, but it ensures that the album is attractive and compelling throughout, while still filled with creativity in other ways. Highly recommended.

Overall Score: 8/10