Publisher: UBI Soft
Developer: UBI Soft
Naruto: Rise of a Ninja by Ubisoft was released on October 30, 2007, and is part of the gigantic network of Naruto-related products. Naruto began as a manga published in Japan’s Shonen Jump magazine and has morphed into the massively popular anime/manga series it is now. Kind of like Pokemon, if you think they should make it with Naruto, they probably already have – card games, movies, video games, toys, costumes, etc. As a fan of the manga series, I wanted to see how well the story would translate into a video game. As it turns out, it doesn’t translate. At all.
They attempted to stuff the first 80 episodes of the series into a 3-4 hour game, which means a lot of things got left out. What were once fleshed-out characters with big personalities and motives became mere shells of their former selves as almost all character back-story is tossed by the wayside. The cut-scenes are taken directly from the poorly dubbed anime series, which meant the voice acting is pretty painful and visually quite different from in-game. I watched in horror as the scene that initially got me interested in the manga played out before my eyes in its entire poorly dubbed, incredibly edited version. I remember tearing up reading Naruto’s teacher Iruka trying to protect him in the beginning of the manga and then thinking how cheesy it looked on my TV with Iruka and Naruto shouting at each other with over-the-top voice acting.
Best of all, Naruto freely used his horrible catch-phrase Believe it! whenever possible. Just land a good punch on somebody? Believe it! Deliver Ramen on time? Believe it! Preparing to go into battle? BELIEVE IT!!
For such horrible story transition, gameplay is surprisingly good. It’s also weirdly similar to Assassin’s Creed, but because this Naruto game came out first, I guess that would make Assassin’s Creed weirdly similar to this Naruto game. Naruto spends most of his time in his gigantic hometown of Konoha, and the town is definitely fun to explore. He is able to run up walls, climb roofs, and slide across high ropes to get from building to building quickly, and jump over short walls, leaving town only to complete main missions.
In addition to the main missions that progress the story, Naruto can also take up side missions doing speed runs, collecting coins, playing hide and seek, mending broken hearts with his sexy jutsu, or other small tasks to make the townspeople happy. Happy townspeople are more willing help Naruto, but in reality they’re not all that helpful unless you need directions. Naruto carries a map and scroll that lists any open tasks you’re working on though so it’s pretty difficult to get lost. Side-missions can make up a large chunk of the game and get pretty repetitive after you’ve tried them once, but they’re side-missions so you don’t need to try them more than once if you don’t want to.
Within the city is a weapons shop where Naruto can use the coins he has collected to upgrade weapons, a Ramen shop where Naruto can earn money doing deliveries or purchase Ramen to renew health, a scrolls shop were Naruto can purchase scrolls to upgrade his stats, and a bookstore where Naruto can purchase game extras like game art.
When Naruto gets into battles, the gameplay switches to your standard fighting game with different button combinations for different attacks. He has a health bar and another bar for special attacks that take longer to execute but cause greater damage. After taking a lot of damage, players occasionally get the option to go into a short rage when their attacks are stronger and they are unable to take damage. Naruto’s health bar and special attack bar grow every time he defeats a difficult enemy or completes a task in his hometown. I’m not much for fighting games so each battle ended up being a frenzy of button-mashing, but it was enjoyable button-mashing and honestly, the battles only make up about 1/3 of the gameplay on story-mode.
If you want to skip everything but the fighting, there is a battle-mode that is purely a fighting game. Battle-mode allows you to choose from a vast cast of characters, each with their own unique special attacks and an online option to battle something besides bots.
The graphics are nice. It matches the anime style pretty well although close up, they do tend to look sort of weird. It’s all cel-shaded awesomeness that gives it a sharp unique style with the exception of the cut-scenes, which are taken directly from the anime. The cut-scenes are sort of random, and I would always try to remember what else happened in the parts that the game cut out or wonder if I would be able to follow the super-abridged cut-scenes at all if I hadn’t read the manga first. Music was also taken from the anime, and it’s kind of repetitive to listen to but not to the point that your thoughts will return to how repetitive the music is as you’re playing.
All in all, it’s not a bad game. It’s pretty short, and there aren’t a whole lot of things to do aside from explore the town to do the somewhat repetitive side-missions or button-mash people to death, but if you go into playing it with low expectations, it’s still a pleasant surprise. You could beat it in a day if you ignore a lot of the extra stuff, but it would also probably make the battles more difficult because the extra stuff is what gives Naruto extra health and money to buy upgrades.
The replay value lies completely in battle-mode, and if I were more into fighting games I’d probably love to play this with friends and strangers over and over. But then, there are a lot of fighting games out there so unless you really have a thing for seeing Naruto fight, it’s not much of an incentive to get this game. It might even be painful for fans to play it through on the story-mode because of all the horrible voice-acting and story compression. Maybe this game is more for a hardcore anime and fighting-game loving pre-teen?
About Tiffany Chan
I currently work in the online ad sales department at MTV Networks Spike Digital Entertainment: GameTrailers, Xfire, and Spike.com. In my free time I run a webcomic called Big Fish Comic and work as a part-time blogger for a video game peer-review/social networking site called VGviews.com. Of course, I love video games and anime!
Category: Game Reviews