Naruto: Ultimate Ninja

By on August 20, 2006

Does Naruto Ultimate Ninja pack enough ‘chakra’ to bowl over fighter gamers and fans alike? Read on to find out.

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First Impressions
My reaction is

While Naruto, the ultimately popular anime series here in the middle east, slumbers on the television with unworthy fillers, he and his gang are ready to take on the gaming front of mainstream media. With the first ever world wide game debut, Naruto Ultimate Ninja (NUN) is seen exposed to the fighting genre on the PS2.

Naturally, a combat prone anime series would be justified with an arcade style fighter, but even when that’s a norm it’s been difficult for Naruto to settle its roots in the consoles. NUN however, is an exception and does a great deal of tweaks and tricks to get close to being a very good fighter.

The main course of the game is the scenario. This is a short ride based on the actual fight sequences in the anime with a little twisted and light weight storyline to give some substance to the game.

You get to fight with 6 initial characters inclusive of Kakashi and his team where on you could unlock more as you complete the available story lines. The characters perform and deliver most of what we have come to see in the anime and it’s all too satisfying to control them.
 

NUN is backed up by a solid 2D game play engine, similar to Smash Bros Mellee. A multi-framed environment is incorporated into the level design, meaning that you can play on top of the dock yard or on the face of water when you fight the Hidden Mist Village ninja and so on for every opponent in every level you face. You may also change entire environments in-game whenever prompted to.

All of this forms part of the brilliance in style that defines the game. The artistic ingenuity of cell shaded characters and manga-like (but not perfect) story telling gives the game an added touch of originality.

Nevertheless, the show is stolen by the extraordinary presentations amidst the course of a battle. Whenever you are able to gather certain amount of chakra in the middle of the battle you can execute a special move (as per the anime) and the fight shifts gears to an animated sequence combined with a mini-game where you need to hit the right buttons to make your attack critical. On the other hand your opponent can do his bit by hitting his on screen buttons in sequence to reduce damage. If that nets off or has any major effect on the fight (except for the obvious damage), is not apparent, but the interactive cut scene is anime reminiscence in the best of its form.

The controls are responsive and very simple to learn. Half an hour with the practice mode and you’ll learn basically every move a person can perform. That said though, it’s quite easy to get to know your player and as all of the characters can attack with exactly the same key hits, training sessions will usually be a one off requirement even though they’re very helpful. Thanks to this excessive approachability, the moves can get recurring to the point where NUN might as well be boring to play during the longer course.
 
However, to keep the challenges rolling, the game also includes a mission mode and a two player free play. While the free play is no surprise, the mission mode requires you to win battles with a certain criterion to advance to further mission levels. This works very much like the anime where to undertake an A class most imperative mission you need to ladder up the rest of the classes. Generally insanely tough and confusing, this is the hardcore-finish/collect-em-all-gamer/fanboi-area.

Talking about collection, each time you play you win certain amount of ryo (Naruto-ien currency) to bet on in the shop and get some extras, like footage of special move out of the anime or character figurines etc.

As far as the sound is concerned, fans in this part of the world will not be familiar with the English dub artists. Also, the intensity of Japanese cannot be reiterated by English and thereby the voice acting is just alright. To make matters worse, they have waived with original sound tracks available in the television series and made a new mix out of Japanese and western music, good in its own accord but not downright awesome.

NUN is essentially a decent fighter with a massive amount of style and vigor to compensate for the lack of depth in its scenarios or mission levels. The speed of the game and its excellent presentation that looks so pencil-ly done makes the game look out of the box, yet inside the lines of the anime. A good time game and an excellent one for fans.


The Scorecard
GAMEPLAY
8
Great and extremely stylish; fitting to the anime.
GRAPHICS
8
Good looking visuals and unique character animation.
SOUND
6.7
Reasonable; nothing over the top.
VALUE
6.5
Short lived and may get recurring but it’s the only worthwhile edition Naruto’s got to its belt.
FUN FACTOR
5
Even when the game plays and looks good, lack of depth is a turn off for serious fighters.
OVERALL
6.8
You know you want it if you’re a fan. For every one else, it’s a good experience, if not a great one

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