GAMECUBE REVIEW: NARUTO: CLASH OF NINJA

Shallow and repetitive, Naruto is a watered down version of Dragon Ball Z. by Colin Thames

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

March 25, 2006 - You might have heard of the axiom, "Easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master." You can attribute that statement to a lot of games, especially where strategy is involved. Unfortunately only the first part of that statement applies to Naruto: Clash of the Ninja. It's easy to learn but that's because the move list is so limited. You can master the techniques in less than half-an-hour.

The simple control system may be perfect for young and casual gamers, or those that just want some mindless, arcade entertainment. If you're looking for a challenge you're not going to find it here; unless that challenge is trying to contain your boredom.

The Naruto franchise centers on a very popular Japanese character named Naruto. He's part of a group of ninjas that employ hand-to-hand combat, weapons, stealth and mysteriously magical ninja techniques to shock and awe the enemy. Naruto appears in Japanese comic books, several movies, in an anime TV series, and as many as 20 videogames. It has a loyal and somewhat fanatical fan base. This is the first time that Naruto has been translated into a game for the North American audience. It's good to know the background of the characters since there is very little back-history presented in the game. It's basically a tale of three kids that attend a ninja school. Don't count on the storyline to give you much relevant information beyond that. Between the poorly written, or translated, dialog and the terrible voiceacting, it's hard to glean much coherent information from the story mode. On the other hand, this is a fighting game and you don't have to know anything about the characters to dig in and have some fun.

Whether presented in manga or anime, the characters have never looked better. They are well rounded with cel-shading and fully rendered in 3D. They are very colorful and animate smoothly. You may be familiar with some of the locations but I found the combat arenas to be confining. They are quite small and don't give you as much room to move around in and you would expect from a Dragon Ball Z game.

Basic attacks such as punches and kicks are accessed by the A and B buttons with the analog stick controlling the direction of the attacks. The Y button is used for executing throws. The X button is used for special attacks, the only moves that truly separate one character from another. You can unleash a furious attack when you've filled your Chakra meter which slowly fills during combat. These attacks can be used as finishing moves as they are usually strong enough to put your opponent away if he or she is getting low on health.

Much of the gameplay is button mashing. The characters do have subtle differences in displaying various strengths and weaknesses but during the heat of battle it's really is hard to tell one from the other. It all comes down to timing your moves correctly and learning how to block, dodge and counter incoming. You can connect with some decent combos and even launch your opponent into the air for some aerial combat while you continue to juggle your enemy with kicks and punches. The combat animations are excellent. You can witness Naruto's Sexy Jutsu move in addition to Sasuke's over-the-top gymnastic skills that look even better than they do on the TV show.

Other ninja skills such as deception, invisibility and weapon-use are also included. You can use a smoke screen to disappear behind, and re-appear somewhere behind, beside, above or below your opponent. You can summon a doppleganger and clones to confound your enemies and even throw the deadly shuriken blades which take the place of range projectiles.


The story mode is nothing more than a slide show with some talking heads thrown in every few fights to advance the so-called plot and increase the tension. You can only play as Naruto in this mode which I think is odd. There are eight playable characters but you won't get your hands on them in this mode.

Getting yourself in shape is the first order of business so you'll want to check out the training mode. Here's you'll learn how to use the controls, which won't take long, but putting them to good use in a real combat situation will take a little more practice. As far as modes are concerned there may look like there is quite a few but they are very redundant. Excluding the practice mode, you could combine all of these modes into two main ones: A single-player and a multi-player mode. The Time Attack, Survival, Story, Verses and two-player modes are just variations of the same thin theme. The single matches are really a stupid addition. These superfluous modes just make it look like you're getting more value for your money but trust me, you're not.

The two-player mode works great and might be worth the price of admission alone. Here you can unlock different playable characters and see for yourself if you can tell the difference among them when engaged in battle. If you can manage to play against a really good opponent you will see that there's a little more depth to the gameplay that you would suspect just playing against the CPU. It's not so much strategic as it is finessing the controls. Using all the moves, timing, blocks and counters at a fast pace can really keep you on your toes but remember that the gameplay is only as challenging as your opponent.

All of the action is fast paced and all of the acrobatic animated moves and flourishes never drag the framerate down. Sometimes the characters are bit slow to move, especially when you want to turn them around 180-degrees. It can cost you some hits. The sound effects are great and the background music is very fitting. The voiceovers are very cliché with overly exuberant shouting anime kids that just make you want to beat them up all the more.

Features:

  • Choose from eight of your favorite Naruto characters including Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura and more
  • Take on challengers in one-on-one fights to determine who is the greatest ninja
  • Lightning fast controls and special effects make combat feel intense
  • Cell Shaded graphics parallel the style set forth in the cartoon
  • Special character-specific moves add to the feeling of authenticity

By Colin Thames
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Naruto: Clash Of Ninja (GC)
4.5
Graphics
Great fluid animation, fast-paced action and cel-shaded characters make this game look better than the anime TV series.
2.5
Control
The move list is pretty barren and some of the moves can be a little slow. But if you work with what you've got it's reminiscent of an arcade game.
3.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are good but the voiceovers are really cliché and annoying.
2.1
Play Value
he action is repetitive and shallow. Only the two-player mode will give this game any lasting appeal.
3.2
Overall Rating - Average
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 Colin

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