The Tenchu Z Speedrunning Resource

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Mechanics & Technology

A collection of various techniques, game mechanics, and speedrun technology, along with their correspoding explanations

Basic ControlsBack to Top

Default Control Scheme

All of the information presented on this site assumes the use of the default control scheme, as shown here:

The buttons listed on that graphic can have their functions swapped around with others, but not all buttons can be remapped; most notably, the item selection and aiming fuctions cannot be changed. The buttons with such fixed actions are coverd below. To modify your control scheme, go to Options>Control Settings>Controller Settings.


Pause

Fairly self-explanatory and common use of the Start Button button. You can restart the current mission here, or quit out to the ninja village or mode select. This is useful to know for routing and/or testing more so than running.


View Map

Pressing the Back Button button during a mission brings up an overlay of the map. While it isn't wildly accurate and typically doesn't show much information, it is critical to use in bomb retrieval missions, such as Mission 45. You can move and act normally with the map up, and overlay is somewhat transparent, but it can be difficult at times to see where you're going.


Reset View

This is an action you can rebind in the Control Scheme window, but it isn't quite as useful as it initially seems. While the function is called Reset View, it only resets the camera's Y-axis (vertical position). It does not face the camera where your character is looking; instead, the Right Trigger is responsible for this action. By default, Reset View is bound to the Y Button button.


Select Item

You can change which item you have active by pressing left or right on the D-Pad (Directional Pad). Upon entering the mission, the Grappling Hook will be selected by default, regardless of any other items you have equipped.


Aim Item/Peek

You can aim your currently selected item by pressing down on the Right Analogue stick. If it can be aimed, a targeting reticle will appear. Many items do not require aiming or cannot be aimed at all, such as Vanish or Dazzle. However, items such as the Grappling Hook require aiming before being used, and others are most effective when aimed ala Blowguns.

While in front of a door (aka shoji), using this imput will instead peek through the door. This is very useful for surveying a room, but more importantly enables you to open a door with your sword drawn. This comes up huge in Missions 27 and 48.


Use Item

This is another action that can be rebound, but since the game simply calls it "Item", some extra explanation for clarity is in order. By default, pressing the Left Bumper will use/activate your currently selected item. As mentioned previously, the Grappling Hook requires aiming before it can be used.

General MechanicsBack to Top

The Ki Meter

The Ki Meter, sometimes referred to as the Lantern, is the most useful part of the HUD in this game. Its most basic function shows the player the status of nearby enemies and whether or not the player has been detected, and has a variety of other states. It glows a different color depending on whether or not you're detected, or if an enemy is in a search mode, sees something suspicious, on-alert, smells you, or actively sees you. By default, it glows green, indicating that you haven't been noticed, and displays a number next to it. This number is a proximity indicator that displays how close you are to an enemy character, with the number getting larger the closer you are to the enemy.

    Meter Colors and Modes:

  • Green - Sense
    - Default state; undetected.
  • Purple - Sound
    - Curious. Triggered by nearby noise. The enemy will stop in place and begin turning towards the source of the sound. No heightened detection.
  • Yellow - Sight
    - Suspicious. Triggered by being seen near the edge of an enemy's vision range. Enemies in this state will slowly walk towards where they saw you and have slightly higher detection.
  • Orange - Smell
    - Smell. Triggered by being near a guard while afflicted by a distinct odor (blood, cesspool, stinkbomb, etc). Similar to Purple mode.
  • Blue - Alert
    - On Alert. Triggered by certain noise thresholds and finding bodies. You cannot Stealth Kill anyone who is in this mode. Enemies have much higher detection capabilities.
  • Red - Alarm
    - Detection. You've been detected and most enemies in the immediate vicinity are fully alert and will try to kill you. You cannot Stealth Kill any enemy who is in this mode.

Of these Meter states, Green and Purple are typically the best. Green allows you to scout for enemies who aren't in line of sight with the proximity number, while Purple mode stops enemies and civilians in their tracks, delaying their regular cycle. It is also used to distract guards into looking in a direction that allows for otherwise impossible Stealth Kill strats, such as Mission 17 or Mission 26 in the Any% Ninja 5 category.


Physical Abilities (Stats)

Physical Abilities are Tenchu Z's values for the ninja's base stats. A ninja has a Vitality, Strength, and Agility value between 0 and 100, with the maximum limit increasing periodically throughout the game: 150 maximum after completing Mission 17, and increased again to the hard cap of 200 upon completing Mission 37.


Sound

Sound in Tenchu Z is a bit quirky, to say the least. There is a Sound meter on the left of the Ki Meter that indicates how loud you are currently, with the idea being that too much noise will alert nearby guards of your presence to varying degrees. This meter can be inaccurate, with some movements like the R-Dash seemingly looking as loud as running, yet has the pratical effect of catching the attention of nearby enemies in a surprisingly large radius.


Mission Rankings

The Ninja ratings in Tenchu Z are tied directly to the amout of points scored in the mission.

    Ninja Rankings Requirements

  • Ninja 5: 900 Points minimum
  • Ninja 4: 700 Points minimum
  • Ninja 3: 500 Points minimum
  • Ninja 2: 300 Points minimum
  • Ninja 1: less than 300 Points

While the Any% category doesn't mandate any specific rating, Ninja 1 ratings are avoided as much as possible. This is due to the longer unskippable cutscene that accompanies this rating taking nearly five seconds longer than other ratings. For Any% HN5, a Ninja 5 rating is required for any mission played. The next section will break down how the game calculates these point totals.


Specials & Score Calculations

Upon completing a Mission, you will be given a score based on various criteria and given Gold equal to your score.

Consecutive SKs are valued somewhat strangely; we'll use an example of a typical Mission 1 and its two-man Consecutive SK. The first SK is counted as a "Normal SK" and valued at 100 points. The second SK is counted as a "Consecutive SK", and valued at 280 points. So, by eliminating two guards, we are awarded 380 points, which is nearly the value of four Normal SKs! This is why Mission 1 can be completed with that one Consecutive SK and the Boss SK, actually completing the level with 130 extra points. The exact points breakdown is like so:

  • 1 Normal SK @ 100
  • 1 Consecutive SK @ 280
  • Undetected Bonus @ 150
  • Itemless Bonus @ 100
  • Uninjured Bonus @ 100
  • Boss SK @ 300
  • TOTAL: 1030 [Ninja 5]

Note that these Bonuses are listed in the results screen as "Specials", and can be viewed by pressing the Right Trigger.


Movement MechanicsBack to Top

Run

The most basic form of movement, controlled by the Left Stick. The speed of the run is dictated by the Agility stat of your character. Note that an Agility stat less than 150 is slower than R-Dashing.


Roll

The fastest stealth movement in the game. Rolling in Tenchu Z is treated as a silent movement regardless of terrain and reduces your visibility significantly. It is also impossible to bonk into walls or other obstacles while rolling. Despite it being the fastest stealth movement in the game, it still ends up being slower than running and R-Dashing. In cases where silent movement isn't required, use those movement options instead.


A-Jump

A normal jump by pressing A-Button. The momentum can be affected by stick input. This jump without stick input is referred to as a Neutral Jump.


R-Strafe

Holding the Right Trigger and moving in any direction allows you to slowly move in that direction. This is primarily useful for adjusting positions for precise Dashing sequences on narrow walls, such as the one in Mission 8.


R-Dash

The fastest ground movement under 150 Agility. Press forward and A-Button while holding down the Right Trigger to Dash. This is the primary means of movement pre-Mission 45. While faster than rolling or running, it is also significantly louder in-game, which can be a detriment when dashing near enemies. This audio property is sometimes used advantageously to put certain key guards and bosses in Purple Ki mode.


R-Sidehop

Holding the Right Trigger and jumping with a left or right input will sidehop in that direction. Fairly slow and not currently used for anything.


R-Backflip

Same as above, but with a back stick input. It covers ground fairly quickly, but has a hefty recovery time.


R-Jump

What the game refers to as a Moonsault, this techinque is performed by pressing Right Trigger+A-Button with no stick input. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this technique is the very quick landing recovery. This allows you to scale succeptible walls and almost immediately continue onwards upon landing. There are parts of the route that use R-Jumps to get over or onto certain walls and take advantage of the low recovery frames, such as Mission 8 and Mission 9.

Note that the Right Trigger is also responsible for facing the camera forward, so try to just tap this trigger when executing this jump. Otherwise, your camera will face the direction of your character during the twist and end up in the reverse direction of the beginning, which can be disorienting.


L-Jump

L-Jumps are the fastest jumps in the game. They can cover a decently large amount of aerial distance fairly quickly, and the landing recovery can be canceled into a Dash or Roll. Left Trigger+A-Button executes a basic L-Jump, with stick input modulating the momentum of the jump.


Stealth Kill MechanicsBack to Top

A Stealth Kill, typically shorthanded as SK, is the primary mechanic used to eliminate enemies. An SK is a one-shot kill, allowing quick disposal of enemy combatants, including most mission targets. An enemy cannot be SK'd if they are certain Lantern Modes, namely, Blue Flame and Red Flame modes. The only enemies who cannot be SK'd are Shigi and Nagayori, due to the fact that they are always in Blue or Red Flame mode.

An SK is performed by pressing the X Button button near an enemy with the sword drawn while the Ninja Seal is circling the target (there is also heartbeat audio). Depending on various factors such as your stance as well as your positioning relative to the target, you will perform a specific SK. In a speedrun, certain SKs are favored over others, with some strat relying on performing specific SKs on critical targets to complete a level optimally.


Uneven Terrain SK

An Uneven Terrain SK is a forced type of SK that occurs when you are at a different elevation than your target when you attempt to SK. Front SKs, Back SKs, and Side SKs will automatically become UTs if you are standing on terrain that isn't equal to the target. For a speedrun, it is best to avoid these SKs as much as possible, with some strats failing if such an SK does occur (such as Mission 8, or any other strict timing strats). To avoid a UT, you can try to move close enough to your target to reduce the elevation discrepency, or you can force a different type of SK that can't be converted into an Uneven Terrain SK. Crouch SKs, Aerial SKs, Choke SKs, Slash SKs, Dash SKs, and Corner SKs cannot transform into UTs. Of these, Slash SKs and Dash SKs are the fastest due to their inherent virtue of being the fastest SKs in the game. Otherwise, Crouch SKs and Aerial SKs are the most flexible methods to avoid UTs

-Show Example-

Front SK

A standard SK that occurs when approaching from the front of the target. The Front SK is fairly slow, involving flipping the target over before executing. Given that the angle of approach for this SK to occur is very risky anyways, it probably will be one of the few viable SKs when charging an enemy.

-Show Example-

Back SK

A standard SK that occurs when facing the back of an enemy. This is the fastest standard SK due to simply grabbing and stabbing. Aside from the non-Seal SKs, the Back SK is probably the fastest SK in the game, allowing a quick cancel to boot.

-Show Example-

Right-Side SK

When executing an SK from the right of the target, you will grab the target briefly and slash diagonally downward, throwing the body right and slightly behind you. It is a fairly quick SK and doesn't lose too much time compared to faster methods.

-Show Example-

Left-Side SK

When executing an SK from the left, you will shove the target, filp them over you, then snap their neck. This SK is very slow and should be avoided in virtually all situations.

-Show Example-

Crouching SK

By performing an SK while crouched, you flip the enemy over and execute. This is faster than most SKs involving flips, but it is still fairly slow.

-Show Example-

Choke SK

If you grab an enemy, you can either knock out or SK them. The SK stabs twice fairly quickly, with the downsides being the long recovery and that you need to invest the time to grab the enemy in the first place. It does have the benefit of going into the grab with an unsheathed sword and coming out of the SK with a drawn sword.

-Show Example-

Aerial SK

An Aerial SK occurs when you SK a target while you are airborne. This SK will snap you directly behind the target if you're facing the target's back, and will turn the target around if approached from the front. The main benefits of this SK are to avoid Uneven Terrain SKs and the swiftness of conversion to a Consecutive SK.

-Show Example-

Shoji SK

A Shoji SK is a stealth kill that stabs the target through a shoji, or sliding translucent door. This SK is done by pressing the X button in front of a shoji while a target is close enough to the shoji on the other side. Shoji SKs can be done on moving targets, but since proximity is a crucial factor, the window in which to SK is greatly reduced.

The primary benefit of the Shoji SK is the fact that you can kill an enemy in a room without actually opening the door, which eliminates the possibility of being seen by the target. Additionally, opening a door in Tenchu Z is actually rather clunky if the sword is drawn; you must peek into the room by clicking the Left Stick in while adjacent to the door, then press the X button to slide the shoji open, then run into the room and SK. Because of how time-consuming and finicky this can be, Shoji SKs are a much cleaner and faster way of dealing with certain room-dwelling enemies, such as the Mission 1 and Mission 2 bosses.

-Show Example-

Slash SK

While most SKs involve pressing X Button while the seal is showing, there are a few SKs that bypass these SKs and their subsequent animations entirely. Namely, the Slash SK, R-Dash SK, and Aerial Slash SK all avoid the usual animations of SKs and allow very quick dispatching of enemy combatants.

More coming soon!

-Show Example-

Aerial Slash SK

By pressing X Button while airborne, you will slash in a arc forward. If executed correctly, you can Slash SK enemies while in a jump. The timing for this tech is pretty tricky on its own, but is compounded by the awkwardly small hurtbox produced by this slash. The landing recovery is also quite slow, which pushes this method to fringe case use. Currently, only Mission 26 sees common use of this technique.

-Show Example-

R-Dash SK

By pressing X Button while executing an R-Dash, you will stab forward. This technique behaves similarly to a Slash SK, has the longest effective range of all SKs, and is ideal for getting an SK over a greater distance. The primary downsides are the very narrow hurtbox and the longer than average recovery animation. Note that an R-Dash SK will toss the target forward quite a distance, so keep this in mind for level that require more precise body placement.

-Show Example-

Consecutive SK

A Consecutive SK is performed by pressing the X Button button while another SK is being performed if there is an appropriate adjacent target. The Ninja Seal will flash breifly when this technique can be executed. The timing between the different SKs varies, with a Back SK seemingly having the most lax timing and SKs such as Left SKs being very tight. Generally, we just mash the button upon beginning the inital SK.

The example below shows an Aerial SK linked into a Consecutive SK, which also demonstrates how quickly Aerial SKs can be converted into Consecutives.

-Show Example-

Cling SK

An SK performed while sidling a wall. Currently has no use in any speedrun route, since it is generally slow and has a short kill range.

-Show Example-

Ledge SK

An SK that can be used while hanging off of a ledge under an enemy. Currently has no use in any speedrun route.

-Show Example-

Ceiling SK

A unique type of SK that can only be used in conjuction with a special ceiling technique that can be bought in the shop. Currently has no use in any speedrun route.

-Show Example-

Non-Stealth CombatBack to Top

Combat conducted outside of stealth is fairly clunky in this game. Unlike Stealth Kills, which are very fast and efficient, engaging in a sword fight is time-consuming and largely inefficient.


Slash, Triple Slash, & Quad Slash

Pressing the X Button Button will slash your sword, which is intended as the bread and butter method of fighting bosses. The primary use of slashing in speedruns is for Slash SKs as mentioned in the previous section. Additionally, slashes can be used to quickly move through doors by cutting through them.

By default, the Triple Slash will be equipped to your character, performed with three X Button button presses. The first and second slashes can be cancelled into another Triple Combo ad nauseum, but the timing is quite strict. This can be used to great effect when brawling Nagayori on the final stage. Alternatively, doing two full Triple Slash Combos consecutively will break through an enemy's block, which can be very useful.

There is a Quad Slash available in the game, but it is currently unused. It replaces the Triple Slash Combo with four slashes in quick succession that do less damage and have much lower range. Because this makes Slash SKs much worse, the default Triple Slash is preferred.


Aerial Slash

Aerial Slashes are performed by slashing the sword while airborne. They are currently only useful for Aerial Slash SKs. Their hefty recovery time and difficulty of use relegates them to niche strats and aren't commonly used.


R-Targeting

While fighting an alerted enemy, you can lock on to them by holding down Right Trigger. It can be very useful in Mission 50, but otherwise doesn't see much use.


Blocking

Holding Left Trigger and X Button will put you in a defensive stance. It can be broken with too many heavy attacks from enemies, but can be very useful for blocking one string of attacks.


Relevant ItemsBack to Top

Grappel Hook

The default item that is always equipped, the Grappel Hook allows you to zip up to high ledged and rooftops. It can be used both on land and in water, but cannot be used while airborne. The Grappel Hook cannot be used offensively, and only serves as a utility tool.


Shuriken

The Shuriken is a ranged throwing star. It does mediocre damage and is very underwhelming in combat. In a speedrun, Shurikens are instead relegated to a utility role. Specifically, in Mission 16, we use Shurikens to tactically alert Echigoya at specific spots in his cycle. Throwing this item near Echigoya immediately puts him in Blue Ki Mode, causing him to be alerted at run along his set path. This hurries up what essentially was an auto-scroller, and saves a huge amount of time. Click Here to see this strat in action.

While other items can have similar effects on that mission, they aren't as precise. Also, a new game file has 5 Shuriken available from the beginning, thus securing Shurikens as a staple item in the various Speedrun routes.


Vanish

The Vanish item renders the user invisible after a slight delay. Primarily designed for running past guards without detection and setting up a critical Stealth Kills. The effect dissipates after about 15 seconds or if you SK an enemy. However, non-standard SKs such as Slask SKs and Dash SKs DO NOT break the invisibility effect. This means that, within the duration of the Vanish, you can SK without limit assuming you use those SK types.

You can learn more about this glitch in the Vanish Slash SKs tab, under the General Technology section, by clicking here.


Blowgun

Blowguns are arguably the most powerful item in the game, in contention with Vanish. Blowguns are a ranged weapon that one-shot any non-alerted enemy struck, including bosses. They can auto-target, have a huge effective range, and fire silently. This allows for far more efficient Elimination Missions (46 and 48) as well as the occassional level cheese (Mission 36 in Any%HN5).

The downsides are relatively minor. You can only equip five Blowguns at a time, they are somewhat slow to fire, and they tend to alert enemies near the struck target. Additionally, any enemy alerted or alarmed will not go down to a single shot, and will instead be poisoned. Regardless, the Blowgun is a staple item in all Speedrun categories due to its unrivaled power and range.


Burst Arrow

The Burst Arrow is the only explosive used in Speedruns so far. This item fires an explosive fireball to the targeted area, doing decent damage. As usual with combat items, Burst Arrows are used for their utility instead of their damage. The primary benefit of Burst Arrows is their large knock-back, which enables a very effective Shigi drowning strat in Mission 50. The first Burst Arrow knocks Shigi down one roof level, then a second shot blasts him into the moat below, concluding the mission and the run very easily and safely.


Bow & Arrow

The Bow & Arrow is an item that fires a fairly slow projectile in an arc. A Bow cannot be purchased in the shop and can only be picked up by looting Archers. The Bow is relevant in Mission 16 of HN5 since it allows for no prior item equipment, saving roughly 7 seconds on its own.


Paralysis Cake

The Paralysis Cake is a seemingly underpowered item at first glance. If eaten by an enemy, they will become poisoned, taking periodic damage.

The real strength of this item is the fact that enemies are automatically drawn to and are distraced by the cake. Guards will interrupt their routine cycles to pick up and eat the item. This is used in the start of Mission 48 to lure a normally stationary unit out of a house, allowing a quick Stealth Kill.


General TechnologyBack to Top

Stealth Kill Cancels

All Stealth Kills have recovery animations, and most can be canceled to allow for earlier movement afterward. In all instances, holding down Crouch (Right Bumper) until you see your character begin to crouch, then releasing the bumper will cancel the recovery frames to various degrees. Only the Uneven Terrain SK cannot be canceled in any appreciable way.


Slash Cancels

While an uncanceled Slash SK is faster than any standard SK, these slashes can be made faster yet. Slash SKs can be canceled with A-Jumps and any Right Trigger+A-Button Movement sequence. However, there are two special types of Cancels that extend beyond manual dashes.

X-A Cancels

The X-A Cancel is a unique type of Slash Cancel performed by holding A-Button shortly after Slashing with X-Button. This will execute a seemingly frame-perfect R-Dash to cancel the Slash animation. If no stick inputs are applied, this R-Dash will always go in the direction the character is facing, regardless of camera position.

XAC Cancels

An extension to the X-A Cancel, XAC Cancels stop the given Dash with a Crouch. This allows for very fast Slash SK conversions and allows for much more utility and safety. Holding A-Button along with Right Bumper shortly after Slashing with X-Button. Due to how quickly this cancel cycles, it is very possible to recover a whiffed slash by repositioning and attempting another Slash or Standard SK.

[Show Video]


Vanish Slash SKs

While Vanish is active, you can retain the invisibility and SK enemies if non-standard SKs are used, such as Slash SKs or Dash SKs. See the later sections of Mission 46 or Mission 48 for examples of this exploit in effect, found by clicking here.


Grappel Cancel

It is possible to cancel a grappel by pressing the Use Item button while traveling. This stops your upward trajectory and does a small backflip back down. Largely useless at the moment.


MiscellaneousBack to Top

Skills, Secret Arts, and Combos

As it stands, there are no relevant Skills, Secret Arts, or Combos in any current route. This may change in the future, most likely when All Missions Ninja 5 is routed.