|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Takara Tomy||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: D3||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 26, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2 (Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
January 22, 2008 - As powerful a force as the Naruto franchise is in the world of console gaming, it can't quite claim the same victory in the handheld gaming market. Handheld titles, including the RPG titles and especially the Ninja Council titles, have been pretty underwhelming and haven't featured the series' trademark battle style. However, the newest handheld title, Naruto: Ninja Destiny, looks to change all that.
With a style and function that is closer to the Clash of Ninja and Ultimate Ninja series', Naruto: Ninja Destiny seems to be taking its cues from the arcade-style Naruto fighter. And this is definitely a good thing when you consider how consistently good titles from these series are. Naruto: Ninja Destiny takes several key facets from these games including an updated 3-D visual style, signature special attacks, and a gameplay style that is more focused on arcade-style fighting rather than weird missions or mini-games.
Some of you may have heard, however, that the Japanese version of this game had some pretty big issues. Poor graphics and framerate being the most prevalent of said issues. However, the folks who are doing the localization took it upon themselves to fix up some of these problems before the game's US release, sort of like they did with last year's Clash of Ninja Revolution. Among the changes was a sharper focus on graphical style. If you compare screenshots between the two, the change is readily apparent, because while characters in the import version looked out of focus, and sometimes even blocky, the characters in the US version look sharper and much more detailed. The framerate in the US version has also been greatly improved, with sources saying that the Japanese version had a measly framerate of 15, and that the US version doubles it to nearly 30. So chances are good that if you didn't import this title when it released in Japan, you're probably pretty happy with your decision right about now.
But besides all the upgrades to the US version, what else is new about Naruto: Ninja Destiny? Well, if you're comparing it to the console versions from where it takes the most of its gameplay, not a whole bunch. Your character roster consists of only 16 this time around, with your series mainstays like Naruto, Sakura, and Rock Lee taking the lead. The story is inspired by the anime, and takes plot elements from the 5th and 6th seasons primarily, until right after the Sasuke Retrieval arc.
Control for this game will be primarily button-based, with the DS' face buttons used for medium and large attacks, jumping, and chakra attacks. The left and right shoulders buttons will be used for chakra-powered instant transmission and blocking. And of course you'll move around using the d-pad. The touch screen will be used to activate different special attacks, power-ups, and to use items that you gain in battle. But other than that, this game will be a strictly button-mashing affair. This is definitely a good thing because history has told us that using too much touch screen functionality can really hinder gameplay, especially when you're looking at fighting games.
In addition to the one-player modes, there will also be a number of multiplayer modes that can be played via local wireless. No word on exactly what the different multiplayer modes will consist of, but judging from the console games upon which this title is based, there will probably be a team battle element and a straight-up versus mode.
One thing that the Naruto series of games have always been really good with is the sound. I have yet to come across a game that doesn't utilize all the English voiceovers, and this title looks to be no different. In addition to the voiceovers, the in-game music will also be derived from the anime's original score.
Naruto: Ninja Destiny looks like a step in the right direction for everyone's favorite spiky blonde-haired ninja. Although he's had a pretty good showing on consoles, he has yet to show his true ninja power on the handheld platforms (perhaps with the exception of the PSP's Ultimate Ninja Heroes, which doesn't count because it was essentially a port of the PS2 game Ultimate Ninja 2). Hopefully Naruto: Ninja Destiny will have all the ingredients for the first great original handheld Naruto fighter on the Nintendo DS this spring!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer