|Dev: Takara Tomy|
|Release: November 16, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Cartoon Violence and Language|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Although Naruto games on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have improved over time, the reverse is true of the Wii games. While the early Clash of Ninja titles on the platform weren't terrible, they definitely lacked that certain something when it came to battle system depth and originality. Still, after a handful of titles, I was hoping that the tide had turned in the Naruto franchise. Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles promises a new story and an immersive battle system, but all this title really gives you is a nearly-broken combat system, ugly visuals, and a forgettable story.
The game starts off with some promise, with a nicely animated opening sequence that shows all our favorite ninja heroes jumping around and acting goofy. However, as soon as the CG kicked in, I knew there was something wrong. The first thing you'll notice about this title is the deplorable visual quality. I'm not usually one to judge a game too harshly if its visuals don't meet the pinnacle of my expectations, but this game really sets a new standard when it comes to poor visuals. The first story cutscene involves Naruto and Kakashi talking about training in a forest. The blocky character models almost completely obscure their faces, and the animation is barely even passable. The only way I really knew what was going on was because of the voiceover, which effectively communicated what I was supposed to be seeing on-screen.
They say first impressions are everything, but I held out hope that, despite the terrible first animation, the visuals might get better and I could be wowed by the game's new battle system. I was wrong on both counts. After sitting through several poorly strung together plot scenes, I was finally able to run around a very small portion of Konoha. Again, the visuals stopped me from really enjoying this because everything was poorly textured and the city that has been brought to life in books, TV, and other video games, suddenly became featureless and devoid of life. Another issue I had while running around was the camera, which was fixed most of the time, even when I would move out of frame. I understand that much of the time the camera was focused on where the action was supposed to be happening, but when enemies skate around the fringes of the screen, it can be hard to position yourself in a way where you can see yourself, the enemy, and have enough maneuverability within the frame to attack strategically.
And even though you might hope attacking would be the redeeming factor of this game, the combat is unfortunately simplistic. The game starts you off with a bare-bones standard attack that can be used in most situations, and then quickly introduces a programmable special attack system. This special attack system gets some points for being somewhat unique in the Naruto universe (though we've seen it put to much better uses in other games). However, the execution of this feature is where the combat system really falls flat. The four "slots" for your different power-up attacks are tied to the D-Pad (either on your Wii-Mote, Classic, or GameCube controller) which makes for some awkward gameplay. The controls themselves are slow, especially if you are using the Wii-Mote alone as it uses button combinations for simple commands, and having to switch gears and use the d-pad to use your Ninjutsu attacks just makes the combat feel clumsy.