Naruto: Path of the Ninja Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Naruto: Path of the Ninja Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

I thought ninjas were supposed to be cooler than this!

Although I’m not much of a fan personally, it’s undeniable that Naruto is one of the most popular anime and manga series on the market right now. After all, what’s not to like? You’ve got your popular little preteen relationships, a protagonist who looks like he escaped from prison wearing an orange jumpsuit, and of course, ninjas (need any more be said?).

Naruto: Path of the Ninja screenshot

But the real question is: Is the game any good? Naruto: Path of the Ninja is actually quite a deviation from the norm when it comes to the myriad of Naruto-based games already released. Rather than being a fighter, Path of the Ninja chooses to go in a different direction; it attempts to be an RPG. Probably the biggest problem with Path of the Ninja is the fact that while it may at first seem a breath of fresh air to Naruto devotees, the battle system is actually quite repetitive. In fact, if you have ever played any sort of role-playing game before, you have a very good idea exactly how Path of the Ninja plays out.

For the majority of the game, you’ll take control of a party of three ninjas-in-training. As is typical of the RPG genre, a number of equipment options are available for each character; it’s up to you to determine how exactly to customize each of your characters. Another somewhat debated staple of RPGs is also present in Path of the Ninja: random battles. The area is divided up into a world map; you use the cursor to enter into various areas of the world. The areas are dungeon-like, in the fact that treasure chests are scattered about and random enemy encounters are somewhat frequent.

Missions pretty make up the bulk of the game. In fact, if you’ve played a DS title such as Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja, then you probably already know what to expect. The elder ninjas dish out missions to you; as you complete them, you will be given progressively tougher challenges. The potential for this to be ridiculously boring is high; however, Path of the Ninja manages to prevent this from happening, just because the missions are so varied. They’re not limited to simple take-out missions or fetch quests; instead, there is quite a variety of missions, which really keeps things fresh and enjoyable.

Naruto: Path of the Ninja screenshot

As with all RPGs, the make-or-break aspect of Path of the Ninja is the game’s battle system. And sadly, it’s not really that great, although there is one pretty nice aspect. The aspects of fighting are simple and straightforward, though they do allow for a bit of customization. Options consist of such items as fleeing, defending, attacking, or moving. It’s pretty standard fare, and isn’t very exciting. However, the move command is actually pretty cool. There’s a 20-square grid on the screen that makes up the battleground. The 8 squares to the left belong to your opponents, while the 12 on the right are yours. Before you perform a true action, you have the option to move. If you’re closer to your foe, you can do more damage when you attack him. At the same, though, the closer you are to him, the more damage he can deal to you. The fun lies in strategizing to ensure that you balance damage you do and damage you take in each individual situation.

Aside from that, though, the battle system is just flat. It’s not that it doesn’t work; rather, it’s just that it’s not exciting or innovative enough to make it really worth playing for real RPG fans. Weapons are exactly what you’d expect from a ninja-based game, as are the items. The random battles are mediocre, and the battle mechanic itself is dull and uninspired, for the most part. However, another somewhat interesting aspect to the fight system is that of jitsu.

Naruto: Path of the Ninja screenshot

Jitsu is essentially magic in the world of Naruto, and it plays in important part in the game. Certain enemies will be particularly vulnerable to elements of magic, and to use this jitsu can sometimes be the difference between success and defeat. While attacking is a very passive sort of command — simply select your target and watch the computer do the rest — performing jitsu is actually a somewhat involved task. You’ll be required to do something to ensure that the attack is as powerful as possible; sometimes this means drawing out a shape on the touch screen, and other times inputting a sequence of buttons. It’s nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it does keep the battles from becoming too repetitive.

Aside from this, the game has a few interesting little quirks that attempt to add some depth to the suffering battle system in Path of the Ninja. Chemistry between characters, which can be upped by completing side quests and participating in random events (such as eating a meal together) can help your team out in a pinch by allowing two characters to attack simultaneously. Such little additions are few and far between, and besides, they don’t add much at all to the game.

Naruto: Path of the Ninja screenshot

The game stumbles with its gameplay mechanic, but it falls flat on its face when it comes to graphics and sound. The game was made in Japan for the GameBoy Advance, and it certainly shows. The graphics lack detail and are generally quite mediocre. Environments are weak, and character renders are poorly animated. The one thing the game does to slightly alleviate this problem is to insert some beautifully done cutscenes in the game. They are, in fact, quite well done, and look very nice.

The music is just as bad as the graphics for two big reasons. First is the fact that there’s very little variety. There are quite literally only a few tunes throughout the entire course of the game. Second is the fact that the few tunes aren’t even good. They’re monotonous and boring, and don’t add anything at all that somehow improves the game. It’s a pity, really, but you’ll likely play through most of the game with the volume off.

Surprisingly, the best aspect of Naruto: Path of the Ninja probably is its story. It may be surprising that the plot is the best part of a predetermined children’s series, but it’s the storytelling that really makes Path of the Ninja fun to get into. The cutscenes are inserted at key moments around important battles or plot events, and greatly enhance the overall quality of the storytelling. And it may be shocking, but the writing in Path of the Ninja is actually very well done. There are some clever parts, so downright funny parts, and the entire thing is very realistic — nothing at all too cartoony. Even though fans of the series may already know what’s going to happen (the game sticks pretty strictly to the plot the TV shows), they’ll still enjoy the writing present in this game.

Overall, while there are a few decent aspects to it, Naruto: Path of the Ninja is just not a very fun game. Sure, the battle system has a few neat aspects to it. And yes, the storytelling is surprisingly good. But all in all, there are just too may important things lacking here. The gameplay mechanic is simple, and as a result quickly becomes monotonous and boring. The graphics and music are absolutely horrendous, and are inexcusable after some of the fantastic visuals that we’ve seen the DS is capable of. Hardcore Naruto fans may want to pick this title up; the rest of us, however, can find far better RPGs with which to spend our time.


  • Fight a different way! A new role-playing battle system takes the place of the traditional fighting game and allows for tons of customization!
  • Beautiful cutscenes reveal important plot points with great graphics and sound!
  • A fantastic game script full of subtleties and jokes is sure to please both fans of the series as well as newcomers.
  • Take control! Unleash devastating jitsu attacks upon your opponents with the help of the DS Touch Screen!

    The in-game graphics are atrocious, for the most part. However, the graphics for the game’s cutscenes are surprisingly well-done. 2.5 Control
    The touch screen can be used to control the game, but you’re better off sticking with the D-pad anyway. The in-game actions are also stale and don’t offer much variety. 1.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
    The music in the game is far too repetitive and isn’t even any good. You’ll probably play the entire game with the volume off. 3.1

    Play Value
    The game offers some good customization, plenty of gameplay, and some variety when it comes to mission variety.

    2.8 Overall Rating – Average
    Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

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