|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Acquire||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 3, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
December 15, 2008 - The Tenchu series has had a relatively short yet interesting history. When it first hit the original PlayStation back in 1998, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was both a critical success and a joy to mature gamers hungry for a new and engaging adventure in the third dimension. The game was followed up by Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins (also a critical success), but when the series made its jump to the following generation, the franchise changed hands from its original developer, Acquire, to K2.
Though Wrath of Heaven was little more than an extension of its predecessors - with updated graphics and a few tweaks - it was still another great addition to the ongoing saga. However, as the series continued on, new installments such as Fatal Shadows and the DS Tenchu, Dark Secret, only served to drive the series into a slump. With the last console entry, Tenchu Z for Xbox 360, it seemed the series was all but dead.
Then something surprising happened...
FromSoftware, the current owners of the Tenchu franchise, announced a new game for Wii, a Tenchu that would once again be helmed by the original development team. What better place to revive what was once a paragon of gaming innovation than Wii. Back with the main characters and taking the action where it's never gone before, Tenchu: Shadow Assassins is poised to be a true renaissance for the series.
Let's make one thing clear from the start - Shadow Assassins will not be a tamed ninja experience. We've seen the game in action, and it's perhaps the most graphic game in the series in terms of violent content. That said, Tenchu has always been more about style than gore, and fans can look forward to all the stealth-killing goodness they've grown accustomed to.
Shadow Assassins once again focuses on the series' two main ninja characters, Rikimaru and Ayame. Though little is yet known about the game's plot, there is some hint the two ninja will actually be adversaries this time around. You'll still get the opportunity to play as both characters during missions, but fans are likely in for some very interesting twists and turns as the story unfolds.
What might concern and excite folks the most, however, is what has been done with the controls. As a ninja, you'll require precision handling and timing, and gimmicky motion controls just won't do. However, Acquire really seems to have nailed a best-of-both-worlds scenario, mapping gesture-based action only where it makes sense. Character movement is performed using the Nunchuk's control stick, while jumping is relegated to the C button. Of course stealth kills are performed with gestures. Like the finishing moves of No More Heroes, motion-controlled stealth kills will be visceral without being overused. Tenchu games have never been about button mashing, so it's an approach that seems perfect for this particular setting.
Though players will be doing many of the same things they've done in previous games, such as grappling up to rooftops and sidling along walls, there are many new features that play into the Wii's unique attributes. Some of the cooler things we've seen thus far include using the Wii Remote as a fishing pole to reel enemies into water, waggling the remote to blow out lights in order to hide your position, and gesturing either left or right to quickly roll from side to side.
As its namesake implies, shadows play an integral role in the gameplay, as there are many areas throughout levels where Rikimaru or Ayame can take refuge when the lighting is just right. You'll often have to quell candles and lanterns to create shadowy paths to travel along. Additionally, there are little cubby spots your characters can crawl into and hide, waiting for just the right moment to strike.
Perhaps the most exciting thing we've seen so far, though, is the first-person combat. If your character is noticed by an enemy or you flub up a stealth kill, you'll enter a first-person duel. These encounters only occur if you're carrying a weapon, otherwise enemy detection will cause you to be sent back to the most recent checkpoint. However, when you do engage in open combat, you'll use gesturing to attack, block, and parry. Since the game is otherwise almost entirely about stealth, these bouts are a nice little addition that promises to break up the more methodical gameplay.
The Wii is, of course, no graphics powerhouse, but Shadow Assassins is shaping up to be a good-looking game. The character models are very detailed and animate fluidly, and the environments have an authentic vibe that elegantly captures feudal-era Japan. The sound and music are also impressive so far, with punchy effects and high-powered themes that should sound great out of a quality stereo system.
It's been a long while since there's been cause to get excited about the Tenchu series. It was once a pillar of greatness, but later fell into disrepair. However, real love and care seems to have gone into the creation of this latest installment, and we're very much looking forward to once again taking on the role of ninja. Tenchu games have oft been referred to as ninja simulators, and Wii could very well prove to be the perfect platform for traveling down that dark path. Keep it here on Cheat Code Central for more on Tenchu: Shadow Assassins as it nears its release in February of next year.
CCC Freelance Writer