It's About Taffing Time!
Tenchu: Shadow Assassins (Tenchu 4), represents one of the early forays into making a truly unique Wii game that's not just a graphically weak port of a different console. A Wii exclusive, this marks the fourth in the Tenchu series of "first person sneaker" games. Different from its more famous counterparts of Splinter Cell and Metal Gear, Tenchu hails back to nearly the same time period, and the same gameplay format, as the original ground-breaking stealth game, the one that starts with a "T": Thief. While not quite so edgy an environment as the semi-steampunk world of Theif, and without the cadre of monsters and horror elements, Tenchu is a more straightforward stealth game set in the world of Ninjas.
The most striking element about the game, recognizable, almost immediately, is that it does something few Wii titles have been able to do thus far. It transcends the trappings of the Wii and has a feel that I haven't felt in a long while. It feels like a classic PC game. A combination of the blocky 480 vertical resolution, with the overall feel of the gameplay presents a general mood that desperately wants to be PC, yet isn't harmed, and is almost helped by being Wii instead. While the original Theif games were very free to move about the world, Tenchu has you creeping along walls in special positions, and leaping from shrub to shrub more often than moving about freely, though hit also adds elements like climbing roof rafters, and hiding inside cabinets and beneath walkways: Something inconceivable in the times of the original Theif games.
While we lack Garrett's amazing array of magic arrows in the more realistic Tenchu games, we do still get a few similar items. The bamboo tube allows you to douse most torches, though, the cost of this is that you must be at exceedingly close range for this to work. Often too close to be able to arrive undetected. You have a few other ninja tricks at your disposal. Throwing shurikien at torches will also douse them, and will certainly distract guards, or even kill particularly unaware guards. Poison also has more than a few uses in the game.
The highlights of the game, however, come in the form of the unique Wii controls. Most of the game is controlled in typical video game fashion with the Wiimote and nunchuk used as a controller, a flick of the remote to toss a shurikien or douse a torch with water falls into the usual "waggle control" scheme. Where things get more interesting is the hiyate, the stealth kill. Flicking the Wiimote enters the hiyate when in range, but depending on your means of sneaking up on the enemy, you’re often required to perform a far more satisfying action. Pulling an enemy down into the bushes usually requires a sharp thrust of your sword into him. Catch a guard around the corner? Unsheathe his own sword and yank it back across him. Feel like hanging out while up in the rafters? Take out a guard by snapping his neck with a circular jerking of the Wiimote and nunchuk. The possibilities are endless!
Also unique is what happens if you get caught. Normally you restart at the beginning of the level (with the state of the mission saved as it was before you were caught. If you have a sword in your possession, however, you may stand and fight. Fighting involves impulse-timed pictures of the Wiimote at various angles on the screen. You must angle your remote to match to block the shot. This gives a reasonably satisfying feeling of actually blocking a sword blow. Fighting back involves slashing at specified directions. Again, reasonably satisfying for a couch-ninja.
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