|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco Bandai Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 6, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Other than the spiky blonde haired ninja himself, the most recognizable group of characters from the Naruto Universe has to be the Akatsuki. These nefarious cloud-coat wearing baddies have become synonymous with the Shippuden saga and have gained an unprecedented fan following. It follows then that any game that heavily incorporates the Akatsuki group and its band of brothers will be an instant smash. However, although the Akatsuki are certainly a major player in Akatsuki Rising, even they aren't enough to save this game from feeling mediocre overall.
One of my biggest initial disappointments with Akatsuki Rising was the story. It follows Naruto as he comes back from his training with Jiraiya and adjusts to life back in Konoha. We then trudge through the saving Gaara arc, and it all feels very familiar. Basically all of the Shippuden games released in the US thus far have gone through this exact same storyline, and honestly, it is getting very tiring. With a name like Akatsuki Rising, I would have thought that this title would have had more of an emphasis on the inner-workings of the Akatsuki organization, perhaps providing fans with an alternate storyline to accompany what we've already been told so many times before. Unfortunately this is not the case. If you have played any of the Shippuden saga-inspired games, then you already know the story in this title.
Although the story content was very disappointing, one area where this title excels is the combat. Unlike previous Naruto games on the PSP, Akatsuki Rising is not a straight up fighter but is instead a limited-world brawler. During missions you will have to navigate your character through a series of rooms, each with their own unique look and enemy type, and you'll have to navigate through these environments during each level until you get to a boss stage at the end. These rooms aren't particularly interesting, but the change in format is greatly appreciated, as the same old formula is starting to wear out its welcome.
Even though the gameplay format has been shaken up for Akatsuki Rising, if you are worried about the combat system, fear not! Battling in Akatsuki Rising is nearly identical to previous games in the Naruto Universe, specifically those in the Ultimate Ninja series. You will still use the Square button for general attacks, and you can chain attacks together by using the directional buttons. However, there have been some changes to the battle system, which work to make it function better in a semi-open environment. First of all, the triangle, hit-based chakra attack is gone, and you now have complete control over when, how, and most importantly, where you engage your chakra attacks. Simply pressing the right shoulder buttons brings up your currently equipped chakra attacks, and you can perform them any time you wish, even if no one is around. This is a much needed improvement, as the prior battle system only allowed you to use a chakra attack when you physically made contact with an enemy, limiting your ability to use ranged chakra attacks.
In addition, Akatsuki Legends also introduces a new "Hyper Mode", which is basically a hit-induced overdrive system. However, instead of consuming chakra, as past overdrive systems have, Hyper Mode relies on a timer, letting you save your chakra for special attacks that can only be used in Hyper Mode. The inclusion of this battle element is certainly welcome, as chakra-consuming overdrive mode limited your potential to land a devastating special attack while in the overdrive state.
As far as gameplay value is concerned, Akatsuki Rising has plenty to offer fans. In addition to a decent-length story mode, the game also has a fairly deep mission mode and the requisite ad-hoc battle mode. The mission mode is fun at first, with plenty of beat-'em-up and collection missions, but unfortunately it gets old rather fast. There is rarely any deviation from the formula for the two mission types, and the grind of "find this" and "beat this guy" gets old fast. In addition to the mission mode, there is also an ad-hoc multiplayer mode that allows friends to battle each other locally. The ad-hoc multiplayer is also fairly unremarkable, as it features the same two-player versus play that we've seen in other Naruto games on the PSP.