If this game is a sign of things to come, Naruto fans have a lot to look foward to. by Vaughn Smith
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
Shallow and repetitive, Naruto is a watered down version of Dragon Ball Z. by Colin Thames
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.
- 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