GAMECUBE REVIEW: NARUTO: CLASH OF NINJA

If this game is a sign of things to come, Naruto fans have a lot to look foward to. by Vaughn Smith

You can read our other Naruto: Clash Of Ninja review here.

March 15, 2006 - Having been a Naruto fan since its debut in 1999 - which I see nothing wrong with even though I'll be turning 40 this year - I have recently enrolled in a Japanese Immersion class in hopes that I will be able to read and write in Japanese and therefore be able to understand the Naruto anime series, which will then enable me to create my own fanboy Naruto puppetshows and do them in their native language. Naruto has become far more important to me than my own family, as I have discovered that they are not nearly as interesting nor as colorful as the awesome Naruto characters. Actually I'm just yanking your chain. Up until I played the game I had no interest nor knowledge of the series. Honestly, my first introduction to Naruto was via a member of the CCC forums named Abb who had Naruto as his signature image. But since then I was tasked with reviewing the only console Naruto game released in North America and thought, "What the heck?", so I brushed up on my Naruto and went to work.

For those who aren't familiar with Naruto (say those over 18 years of age), the series originally began as a manga by Masashi Kishimoto which began in 1999. The stories revolve around a hyperactive, slightly obnoxious and cocky 12-year old ninja named Uzumaki Naruto who wants nothing more out of life than approval and recognition. Sounds like most 12-year olds that I know, so it's no wonder why the anime series is gaining popularity daily and is seen as the main competition to the ever popular Dragon Ball Z.

Prior knowledge of Naruto isn't necessarily required to enjoy Naruto: Clash Of Ninja the game, but you'll obviously get far more out of it if you know who the characters are. The game is a fighter, much in the same vein as previous Dragon Ball Z games who have had varying levels of success ranging from absolutely terrible to excellent. Naruto: Clash Of Ninja falls somewhere in between, resting comfortably in the range of "good, but could have been better". It's safe to say that rabid Naruto fans aching to get their mitts on anything related to their favorite series will ignore the weakspots that those of us without emotional vested interested in the subject matter will spotlight, but that's just the way she goes.

Developers Eighting, who cut their teeth on the slightly popular Bloody Roar series of fighting games has managed to create a fighter on the GameCube that controls well, in spite of the GC's awkward controller. It's not the deepest fighting game, nor is it as deep as some of the Bloody Roar games (which weren't known for their depth in the first place) but there is more to the game than originally meets the eye - but be warned: Button mashers will blow through this game quickly on the easier difficulties.

Much like other fighting games, the Story mode doesn't do much in the way of fleshing out the motivation for all of that kicking and punching and you'll actually be at the end before you know it. Story mode advances the plot through static text which isn't exciting but before every main battle the characters from the show will appear and are voiced by the actors from the hit show. Along with Story mode, Eighting has provided the following modes: Arcade, Survival, and Two-Player Vs. Playing the Arcade and Survival modes will provide one with a whack of Naruto fan-service unlockables while Versus mode will allow you to slug it out with a friend.

Since the game is geared towards appreciative fans, Eighting pulled out all of the stops and provides an anime packed presentation throughout every facet of the game. Menu's, loading screens and of course unlockable art galleries are jammed with colorful images of the characters and as mentioned the voice actors from the show add some authenticity to the product.

In terms of the fighting, you'll have to come to terms with the sad fact that in Japan, Naruto games are already into #4, so it stands to reason that this game isn't quite as refined as what they're playing overseas. That being said, Eighting has provided a pick up and play control scheme which does work surprisingly well on the Cube controller, even though it's lack of serious depth may hurt the play value in the long run. The game is essentially centered around the A (special attacks) and B (basic attacks) buttons, while the X and Y buttons are configured for special moves and throws respectively. Much like Ultimate Muscle, the special moves trigger an animated sequence and since the characters only have one of these moves each, sitting through it becomes an exercise in patience. What saves the game from falling into drab repetition is the amazingly fast paced fighting that Eighting has honed since the Bloody Roar days. Since each character is designed with their strengths and limitations in mind - close range, strength, projectile etc - you'll have to adjust your fighting style when playing as or against certain fighters.

From a presentation point of view, Naruto can't be beat. The animation, levels and characters are excellent while the music, voice overs and sound effects are equally as impressive. Fans will love the attention to detail in terms of costumes and special moves, ripped direct from the manga and animated series. The downside in this first game is the weak roster which only features a handful of characters - Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke, Iruka, Kakashi, Haku, and Zabuza. Rock Lee, Sharingan Kakashi and Kyuubi Naruto.

Will you find enough here to warrant a purchase? That depends on your level of loyalty to Naruto. I'm betting most fans wouldn't hesitate to plunk down $39.99 US to play the game as it's the only Naruto game in town, so to speak. As more Naruto games are released stateside, gamers may become a little more discerning of the end result, as the inconsistent Dragon Ball Z games have experienced. Bottom line: A three day rental would definitely give you an insight into how much longevity you'll wring out of Naruto: Clash Of Ninja in the long run.

By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director

Rating out of 5
Naruto: Clash Of Ninja (GC)
4.8
Graphics
Eighting captured the essence of the characters and their individual styles to a "tee". The visual presentation is top notch.
4.0
Control
It's not a deep control system but it definitely works well on the awkward GC controller.
4.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Lots of voice overs from the anime actors and groovy tunes help authenticate the Naruto experience.
3.0
Play Value
Since the story mode is criminally short, you'll get most play value out of Versus and Survival mode.
4.2
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
 
System: GC
Dev: Eighting
Pub: Tomy
Release: Feb 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Vaughn

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best