|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cavia||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by Mike||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Mike Chasselwaite
Take Dragon Ball Z and add a splash of Grand Theft Auto along with some RPG elements and that scintillating Naruto personality that fans have come to love and youve got Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles. This game breaks away from the tier-structured combat that places you in various gladiator-style arenas, one after the next. There is still plenty of ninja combat but its framed by missions that are somewhat open-ended. The storyline is woven around these missions so by completing them youll gleam information that will push the storyline and your progress through the game.
Naruto is an orphan with a heart of gold and fists of iron. Fighting on the side of righteousness, hes vowed to become the greatest ninja in the world. Training at the ninja academy, Naruto learns the harness the powers of this mystical martial art. He combines might and magic which he uses to thwart enemies. To the uninitiated, Naruto is not just a videogame. Its an extremely popular cartoon show that is kicking Dragon Ball Zs butt for cartoon supremacy. The show is fun and action packed. Its full of personality, humor, warmth and of course, violence.
The developers did indeed add some depth, something that is seriously lacking in the Dragon Ball Z series, but they didnt go far enough. Its not to say that they should have increased the difficulty, because a lot of the charm in this game is its simplicity in terms of control, but the premise of the missions could have been more imaginative. The majority of missions involve escort and collecting. Youll travel from village to village where youll help the good people with your special abilities. Usually this takes the form of protecting traveling merchants and their merchandise. Its really little than an excuse to be attacked by enemies whereupon you launch into battle. Even when youre sent out to retrieve items, youll still encounter the usual threats lying in wait for you to venture into their territory. Perhaps in the future we can see this franchise expand on different missions such as stealth. I realize this is primarily a combat-based game but Im just suggesting that the developers mix it up a little, after all its not a very deep combat system to begin with and the repetitive nature of the gameplay can cause ADD to kick in.
At the beginning of the game youll view a nice long cutscenes which blossoms into an original storyline, not one taken from a previous cartoon episode. When its your time to take control you will follow a tutorial in the form of a ninja training session which will bring you up to speed on the control system, the variety of moves, chakra magic attacks and so on. The controls are arcade-style, with most moves involving only a couple of button presses. Its got more depth than a button masher but just barely. You can pull off some nice combos but many of them occur automatically within the context of the action.
Attributes and stats can be increased by the RPG elements in the game. Before missions, you can upgrade various skills such as health, attack power and stamina but there is limited room on the skill plate so you have to make a few blind guesses. Youll know better if you lose your life and have to start over, and that can be a real a pain in the butt because the game saves right before the long animated cutscenes which youll have to view over and over again. Needless to say you cant skip them. Other upgrades come in the form of things that you can purchase in the village with the gold that you collect. Enemies will drop gold when defeated and all you have to do is go around the battlefield and collect it. The AI is marginally challenging and only when they attack in swarms. They arent very aggressive and will usually only attempt a couple of half-hearted swipes at you. The boss battles are more intense and will certainly give you a work out. Be prepared to die.
The 3D graphics look fine but they dont replicate the flat, colorful look of the show at all. The characters in the game look more lifelike which compared to the anime of the actual show is a great improvement but Im not a big anime fan to begin with. Fans will have to judge this for themselves. At least the environments look good and the animation is smooth. The voiceacting features the same actors from the show in addition to the sound effects and much of the music.
Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles is definitely an improvement for the series. Its pointed in the right direction, now all we have to do is make sure it gets there in time for the next version.
CCC Freelance Writer