|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Eighting||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Tomy Corporation||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 22, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
May 29, 2007 - Alright, I will begin this review with a disclaimer: If you don't know anything about Naruto, you will be absolutely clueless about what is going on in this game. And you'll probably hate it. I feel like that should be made clear up front. No pretension here. On the other hand, if you do have previous knowledge of the Naruto anime or manga series, then you'll probably like this game, even when it seems a little frustrating. Alright, now that I've gotten that out of the way, let us proceed.
The game begins by dropping you right in the middle of the action. And that's not even an exaggeration. You hit start, and a grid comes up with a bunch of Ds on it. Now fans of the series will instantly recognize this as part of the mission arc in the Naruto anime. Basically, what all these Ds represent are the D-rank missions that are available only to the most inept and terrible ninjas. We don't all start out perfect. Then, once you pick one of the Ds on screen you'll be given a mission. Now since these are D-level missions, expect some to be quite lame. You'll be doing things like finding someone's dog, or gathering a certain amount of medicine. However, I think that it's actually pretty good that these are so lame, because you'll have no help from the game on how to do basic moves, execute special moves, do combos, or even how to run and jump. It's up to you to figure it out yourself, and these first couple missions give you an opportunity to do that.
Then, once you graduate from the D-level rank obscurity, you'll be able to receive C-level missions. These will be harder and a little bit more serious. You'll also notice some A-rank missions that show up on your grid, but are as yet unplayable. But don't worry, you'll be able to play those once you beat the C-level and B-level missions. Then you can beat the A-rank missions, and then you're done. None of the missions really flow together cohesively, and to the un-indoctrinated gamer, they all seem like they're just randomly thrown together minigame-ish idiocy. But to the Naruto fan, they're playing through some of the most memorable scenes from the anime in its pre-Akatsuki days. Everything that you play through in the game has some basis in the anime, and fans of the series will definitely appreciate this.
Another thing that fans of the anime will also appreciate tremendously is the wide selection of playable characters which include all your favorites from Chouji to Tenten. There's over 20 different characters from the anime that you can play as, each with their individual strengths and weaknesses, and with their own special attacks. And of course all the attacks that are featured in the game are taken directly from the anime, and are even executed in mainly the same way that you've seen them executed in the TV show.
However, this game has some real mechanical issues that even hardcore Naruto fans will notice. First of all, the game's control scheme is just a little too awkward. You'll be fighting a good majority of the game with the d-pad and your face buttons, but to execute a special jutsu you'll have to grab your stylus real quick and play a microgame to ensure the accuracy and amount of damage that your attack will cause. Then you have to use lightning-fast ninja speed to go right back to pounding those face buttons. For me, this was a little too much, because when you're in the middle of button mashing, it's weird to have to switch gears and grab your stylus for a touch-screen microgame, and then even weirder still to have to switch back. The mechanics just aren't there for this quick of a switch mid-play, and the game really flounders sometimes because of this mechanical mishap.
Graphics aren't bad, but they're not really anything too special either. I can tell you that the visuals will improve in the next Naruto Ninja Council games (which may not make it to our shores for another couple years), but for a first attempt on the Nintendo DS, this one is alright. I wish that they would have spent some extra time with this one, but no one's perfect, right? The whole thing is a decidedly 2-D affair, with sprites moving around in a fairly detailed environment. No real visual issues, but nothing that's really outstanding either.
Sound is also pretty good, with no real complaints, but nothing really outstanding either. Fans of the Naruto English dub will be happy to know that most of the voice actors from the TV show reprise their roles for the game. And for the most part they get the job done. The music is largely uninspired, but for 2-3 minute mission, I definitely wasn't expecting a grand orchestration for each one. Sound effects, though, are actually really good, and I appreciate some of the distinctly Naruto sounds that come from the game. Fans of the series will know what I'm talking about. That seems to be the theme of this review
Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed this game. Maybe it's because I'm a big fan of the series, and I'm severely tainted. But then again, I'm part of the built-in audience that the game developers made this game for. And by and large I would call this one a modest success. Sure some of the mechanics are weird, and the graphics aren't as good as they could be, but when you get to be your favorite ninja, that's the biggest plus factor for you, and everything else falls secondary.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer