Games: Embrace the shadows in ‘Tenchu’
March 1, 2009
A successful ninja knows how to use his hands, his blade — and his cat.
The Shinobi Cat can act as a furry spy while you stalk a foe through feudal Japan. Of course you’ll need to turn to more traditional weapons to dispatch him swiftly and silently in "Tenchu: Shadow Assassins," Ubisoft’s M-rated game for the Wii.
You play as the stealthy Rikimaru and acrobatic Ayame, ninjas in the service of Lord Goda, whose kingdom is threatened by unrest. Things get more complicated when a shape-shifting fortuneteller kidnaps Goda’s daughter, Kiku.
As a ninja, you must accomplish your missions without drawing attention to yourself — and your connection to Goda. As a result, you spend most of your time skulking about in the shadows and silencing guards who stand between you and your goal.
There are plenty of bushes and pots to hide in, lights to extinguish, benches to crawl under and rafters to climb into. If you don’t use your cover wisely, guards will detect you and force you to fight or flee.
Fleeing sends you back to the last saving point through the use of your mystical ninja powers. Fighting involves using your motion-sensitive Wii remote to counter your foe’s sword thrusts. If you do it well, you get a chance to strike. If you don’t, your sword will be damaged. If your sword breaks, you need to use those ninja powers to escape. However, crossing blades is a matter of last resort. It’s always best to sneak up from behind — or below or above — and dispatch your foe with one stealthy blow.
The story is pretty good and the game play concepts show a lot of promise. However, control issues can make the game tedious at times. The controls often feel sluggish or loose, even after adjusting the sensitivity. Most of the time, this is only a mild annoyance. However, it can become a big problem when engaging in sword fights, when slow responses are certain to lead to blade damage or defeat, even when facing low-level enemies. This can get incredibly frustrating.
The graphics are pretty good for the Wii. The characters, environments and animations are all solid, though not spectacular. The cinematics that run after each stealth kill are interesting and varied — and can be made bloodless in the options menu.
Like any stealth game, "Tenchu" requires patience. It just might require a bit more than usual because of some control snags.
Platform: WiiOn the Web: tenchu4game.us.ubi.com
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