Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, Acquire, 1998
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was a massive hit on the original PlayStation, and for good reason. It was the first ninja game to focus on stealth as necessary for the completion of your goals. Up to this point ninja games were run n’ slash type games like Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi. (awesome games but so, so different) When Tenchu hit, gamers were asked to do something completely new and completely awesome. Taking control of Rikimaru or Ayame, each with their own wildly different storylines, players had to sneak, trap, trick, and sometimes fight their way through ten levels of increasingly difficult missions. The game was set in 16th century Japan and had a few historically accurate moments but also included elements of mysticism and mythology into the art direction and story. The game controlled well and allowed you to really feel like a part of the world. Graphically the game has not held up as well as some of the other titles in this series but that is not to its overall detriment. All told, Tenchu was a new and unique experience that perfectly captured the feeling of sneaking around an ancient Japanese village and truly being a ninja.
Iron Monkey, Golden Harvest, 1993
Iron Monkey is one of the few big name Chinese films to get an American theatrical release. Thanks to Quentin Tarantino, Iron Monkey can lay claim to being the 11th highest grossing foreign language film in America. (he pushed for its release here) The film itself is a beautifully shot and acted modern version of Robin Hood in which the main character, the titular Iron Monkey is actually a doctor by day offering free care to the poor residents of his village, while charging the wealthy, and a vigilante by night. After an evening in which he robs from the governor, he is made enemy number one. In the meantime, a newcomer to town, also a doctor and martial artist played by Donnie Yen, is attacked while traveling with his son. As he is able to fend off his attackers in a spectacular fashion, he is accused of being the Iron Monkey. From there the movie takes off and delivers a satisfying retelling of a classic story. The fight scenes in this film are simply incredible and really showcase the talent this film had. It’s a fantastic film and a wonderful showcase for Donnie Yen.