The Tenchu series revolves around the use of stealth, an important component of Ninjitsu. If you were hoping for a ninja game on Wii that falls along the same lines as something like Ninja Gaiden, then you may fall asleep during this game, but if you are into sneaking up behind an enemy to snap his neck before he knows what hit him, then Tenchu: Shadow Assassins is a game for you.
The original Tenchu is still the highest rated and most acclaimed of all of the titles in the series. Prior to this recent Wii release, there were 13 games in the series, yet none of the ones after the first improved upon the formula enough to merit much praise. Part of the reason for that is most likely due to the original developers, Acquire, not working on the games. With Acquire now back developing and some changes made to the series’ formula, it’s probably safe to say this is the best Tenchu title in ages.
Feb. 3, 2009
Shadow Assassins revolves around the ninjas Rikimaru and Ayame, your two playable characters. Rikimaru is the slower character, but more powerful than his peer, while Ayame is more about the agility aspects of being a ninja. Having the two different feeling characters works well, as you avoid becoming bored with the gameplay, though it would have been nice to see the missions split up differently in order to bounce back and forth between the two.
The game takes place in feudal Japan, and it’s beautifully recreated here on the Wii. Despite running in 480i rather than 480p, it’s obvious that the developers spent a lot of time pushing the Wii hardware in order to make the game look great. Some enemy animations are a bit stiff, but the ones for kills are not, and those are the ones you will hold the most interest in anyways.
Overall, the presentation is incredible, mostly thanks to the music. The music is an excellent mood setter, and is comprised mostly of flutes, both electric and acoustic guitars, various string instruments, drums and the occasional industrial rock sound effect. The string compositions have a very Eastern feel to them, while the harder edged songs have a more ominous feel to them, especially the ones played when you’re discovered by an enemy or about to enter into very dangerous territory.
The voice work is well done, though it’s strange that some characters sound like they are from feudal England rather than feudal Japan. The only real downside is that enemies repeat lines far too often when they discover you; I can only be called a “turd” so many times before it isn’t funny anymore.
The cutscenes are also a joy to look at; they are obviously prettier than the in-game footage, which is saying something given the attention to detail in recreating feudal Japan in this title. They are well-voiced, animated well, and help to tell the story without boring you along the way, just like cutscenes should.
Gameplay is simple to explain. Stay in the shadows and out of the line of sight of your enemies, and you will be able to succeed. Sneak up on foes, and you will be prompted when you are close enough to go in for the kill. There are a variety of kill sequences, depending on the area you are in and the angle you come at the enemy from, and they are easy to perform with a motion-controlled quick-time event. The controls work well, so don’t worry about having to needlessly waggle. If you don’t pull off the attack, you will be discovered since you came out of hiding, and will have to head back to the last checkpoint using Ninjitsu to escape in order to try again.