Feudal Japan, some time around the 16th century but, somewhat more pertinently, just one year after a bunch of stuff that happened in Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven. It seems some flimsy veneer of peace was chucked over the land following that particular bunch of stuff, but discord has a way of steeping itself into the very soil like dog poo in wet weather. The peasants whisper of treachery, as mutinous samurai prowl the countryside, pledged to some wicked purpose. Anxious to maintain order in his realm, Lord Goda Matsunoshin of the Azuma clan dispatches his pet ninjas, Rikimaru and Ayame, to check stuff out for him while he sits around and crams his gob with crunchy prawn rolls. Then his kid is abducted and it’s up to Rikimaru and Ayame to fix everything while he sits around and crams his gob with crunchy prawn rolls. It’s good to be the shogun.
Tenchu: Shadow Assassins is a stealth game from the Thief school of stealth games. You spend most of your time creeping about in the rafters, snuffing candles, hiding corpses, and generally being the big ninja. And when all that fails, you stab people in the face with a fancy ninja sword.
Now, Tenchu Shadow Assassins should be a decent enough game. The story’s not bad, and the stealth gameplay thing worked out brilliantly for Thief and Chronicles of Riddick, and even previous Tenchu titles. But at some point in its development, someone with absolutely no understanding whatsoever of control design decided that the game was going to use lots and lots and lots of totally awesome motion control with the Wiimote. And by “totally awesome”, of course, I do mean “totally broken”. You know what the top ten Wii titles on Metacritic all have in common, boys and girls? None of them unnecessarily substitute gimmicky gestures for good, old fashioned, reliable button presses. I’m sure making slyly obscene motions to impale enemies or roll into bushes seemed like an enormously clever idea on the boardroom table, but in practice it’s just stupid. When it works, mind you. I’d rate the software’s ability to accurately plot motion at approximately 50%, and considering I had to replay one particular sequence 29 times over, I’m pulling that statistic from valuable research. And you never roll in the right direction.
On the plus side, however, I must concede that it’s a genuine pleasure to play a moderately violent game with mature themes (i.e. not another iteration or variation of Mass-Produced Fuzzy-Wuzzy Shit™) again on the Wii. If you can get past the really rubbish controls, you might enjoy this until Dead Space: Extraction comes out.