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Naruto: Rise Of A Ninja Review (XB360)

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Naruto: Rise Of A Ninja (XBOX 360) Review

If you haven’t passed over this review already because of the assumption that Naruto is kiddie anime trash, then pat yourself on the back. The reason for this is quite simple, although Naruto does have its fair share of issues, it manages to put enough ticks in the right boxes to make it a worthwhile experience. While the subject matter may produce groans from those who generally shun anime and the games associated with them, the fans of the series will find much to enjoy here as Naruto: Rise Of A Ninja is the best game the franchise has produced thus far.

It all begins with you playing the loud mouth ninja of the title in Konoha Village, which is essentially the game’s hub. From the offset we realise that all of the villagers pretty much despise Naruto for a very specific reason and it becomes his obsession if you will, to prove himself to them and earn their friendship. In gameplay terms, this whole respect system doesn’t actually add up to a whole lot, as the happy villagers simply point Naruto in the direction of his next objective… which you can find out yourself by bringing up the in-game map. Making friends in Konoha Village does have one thing to offer though, it unlocks more side missions for you to participate in.

Frustratingly the side missions tend to be as cookie-cutter and uninspired as they come, usually involving racing through checkpoints, playing hide and seek or collecting things. It’s especially the latter which grates the most, as not only are the collection missions banal to say the least (Oh, I lost my scarf when I was nosing around the temple, can you fetch it for me?) but each time you collect something from a location, you get another mission to collect something else from the exact same place. Fantastic. As annoying and basic as they maybe however, the side missions, like the main missions in the game itself, improve attributes like your health, chakra (essentially the same as a mana bar in an RPG) and give you a bit of cash to spend in the shops also, to buy new weapons and scrolls to augment your abilities.

It’s here really that Rise Of A Ninja begins to shine a little, as the character improvement system is pretty well thought out. It’s an RPG-esque system of improving Naruto’s abilities that’s is essentially a two-tiered system, one system is built around improving your abilities for combat (more on that later), while the other is built for aiding Naruto’s exploration of the village and encourages you in that warm, fuzzy, old Metroid kinda way, to use your new abilities in areas that you couldn’t previously access.

The exploration side of things, which pretty much forms the backbone of the game is a bit of a mixed bag. While it’s cool to collect as many coins as you can, and seeing where you can get to in the city, it all feels a tad clunky as the leaping from surface to surface doesn’t feel natural at all, unless your leaping from flat surface to flat surface. For instance, if you try a long jump but miss the ledge, with visible outcroppings below you, Naruto will simply just slide down the wall, as if there was nothing to grab onto. Perhaps in a sequel, more work is needed on the collision detection methinks.

Besides exploration, the other main gameplay element in Rise Of A Ninja, is the one on one fighting duels that occur every time a random encounter is stumbled upon (to convince you that this IS an RPG because it has random encounters), or a story battle occurs against a character from TV show. The fighting system that Ubisoft has in place here, is very reminiscent of what we have seen in previous Gamecube Naruto titles, that is to say it’s easy to use with just the right amount of depth for those who want to go a little further with it.

In these fights, you are able to use standard fighting combos which are learnt from various trainers dotted around the map in Konoha Village, throw various types of Kunai and of course, use bad-ass ninja techniques. Where the similarities end with the Gamecube titles though, is with the cack-handed QTE inspired mini games that crop up each time a primary jutsu or ninja technique is used. It’s such a shame, as the fights have a nice flow to them and it just feels intrusive when you have to press, up or ‘A’ when you’re told for about 10-15 seconds in the middle of a fight Silly QTE sequences aside, the fighting is fairly enjoyable and puts out a good impression of what an actual ninja duel from the TV show looks like.

On the topic of aesthetics, another reason why Rise Of A Ninja on 360 is the best Naruto title to date is because quite simply it looks pretty much just like the TV show itself. The cel-shading that is used for the character models, pretty much have no peer outside of this game. All the models look like they have been pulled straight from the show and they move with the kind of grace you would expect them to.

The environments also, are pretty darned impressive, Konoha Village in particular looks amazing, encompassing all the shops, buildings and landmarks that you remember from the TV show. My only complaints about the visual side of things in this game, is that there really isn’t much variation in the models you encounter, both in Konoha City and in combat situations and also the video clips lifted from the TV show, look very low-res and out of place compared to the crispness that abounds in the graphics everywhere else.

In addition to the features mentioned previously, Rise Of A Ninja also sports a mandatory online mode, which is essentially just one-on-one combat, in either single matches or in a tournament, against other players. Yep, that’s every bit the afterthought that it sounds like. Naruto Otaku however, will be pleased with the downloadable content that the game has to offer ranging from a Japanese language with subtitles option (except for the video clips pulled from the show strangely) and extra characters to use in the Vs mode.

Like any title which is based on a licence, particularly an anime like this, fans will ostensibly get more from this title than non-fans, that said however, Rise Of A Ninja, is still able to stand up on it’s own merits as an action RPG in it’s own right. Sure it has it’s fair share of flaws, but for those who aren’t familiar with the spiky blonde haired ninja lad, there are far worse gambles you could take then simply disregarding it because of it’s license.

Overall Score: 7.7

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Written by bitsnark

February 18, 2008 at 1:15 pm

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