A Second Helping of Destiny
The Naruto franchise certainly has plenty of sub-series. From the monster Clash of Ninja and Ultimate Ninja to the portable Ninja Council series, Naruto fever has definitely taken over the video game world. Last year, another Naruto sub-series entered into the already crowded fray: Naruto: Ninja Destiny.
This title was a rather simple brawler that had a basic story mode that took players through the beginnings of the Naruto franchise. A year later, Ninja Destiny has returned and is tackling the newest chapter in the Naruto saga: Shippuden.
The game starts off with Naruto returning to Konoha after his training sabbatical with Jiraiya. The game wisely skips the Kakashi Gaiden prequel and heads straight into the action with the Gaara retrieval arc. However, I have to say that the way this game handles the story is a little weird. It presents story evens with very brief text-based plot scenes that give players an idea of what is going on before a battle. However, the game skips over some important story elements and never goes into any detail about the reasons behind the events, often skipping vital plot points in order to move on to a direct battle scene.
For this reason, it would seem that Ninja Destiny 2 would be accessible to longtime fans of the series, as newcomers won’t be able to follow the scattered events of the story. However, I’m not sure if hardcore fans will be that enthralled with the story, as Ninja Destiny only encompasses the beginning of the Shippuden saga, which has been covered in other games. Still, if you don’t mind the repetition, the story is competent enough, and you’ll be able to relive scenarios with some of the series’ most nefarious enemies, including series favorites like Deidara and Sasori.
Although battling these well-known foes certainly sounds fun, Ninja Destiny 2, much like its predecessor, has a weak battle system. The game has three types of attacks, light, medium, and chakra. These attacks can be chained together, but there are no explosive combos or advanced moves. And while the chakra attack does need to be powered up, the game doesn’t feature tiered chakra attacks like those found in the Ultimate Ninja series. Each character has one chakra attack they can perform, and these attacks aren’t even interactive. You just hit the X button, wait for the animation to play, and then resume fighting. The chakra attack system is way too simple, and it actually disengages the player from the battle.
Aside from the too-simple chakra attack system, the game also suffers from homogenous character attributes. Aside from each character’s unique chakra attack, there don’t seem to be notable differences between them in regards to speed, power, or agility. All of the characters control nearly identically, and it was disheartening that a normally speedy character like Rock Lee would move in the same way as a character like Gaara, who is typically slower. I should point out that the battle system in Ninja Destiny 2 isn’t the most horrible I’ve ever encountered, but the fact is it just doesn’t measure up to other fighters, particularly those within the Naruto franchise. While it is competent, especially as the only Naruto brawler on the Nintendo DS, I am not sure if hardcore fans that have played other Naruto fighters will enjoy the severely toned-down battle system.
In addition to the main story mode, Ninja Destiny 2 also includes a single-player mode where you can play as your favorite character and go up against CPU-controlled opponents. The game’s roster includes 34 playable characters, many of which have to be unlocked, including Kabuto, Deidara, and True Sasori. In addition to Shippuden characters, Ninja Destiny 2 also includes characters in their past forms from the original Ninja Destiny game. While the single-player mode can be interesting for awhile, the monotonous battle system just torpedoes the replay value of this mode.
The only mode that really has significant replay value is the wireless battle mode. However, this mode only allows you to fight against local enemies multi-cart, so your options are somewhat limited.
It would be great if the Ninja Destiny series would take a hint from the Bleach or the Naruto: Path of Ninja series (both also on the Nintendo DS) and incorporate an online component to the multiplayer, but it looks like we’ll have to keep waiting for that feature. Still, if you have friends with the game in close proximity, duking it out in one of the game’s many battle arenas is always fun, and it just may be the best part of the game.
The only thing that really stands out about Ninja Destiny 2 is the visuals. While every other Naruto game for the Nintendo DS platform tends to use sprites for the action, the Ninja Destiny series is the only one that incorporates 3D, cel-shaded models for the action. This is a very interesting choice, and it works well about 70% of the time. The 3D models look great in battle, and the look of the game is reminiscent of the visuals in the PlayStation 2 iterations of the Ultimate Ninja series. However, when your character is running around in the story mode’s overworld, things get a little less polished. In this situation, character models suffer from very dramatic jagged edges and blurry features. Still, despite these issues, the fights in Ninja Destiny 2 look great, and I was impressed with the choice to go 3D on the DS platform.
With a superb character roster and great source material, Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Destiny 2 could have been a great Naruto-themed brawler for the Nintendo DS. However, the simplistic battle system and poor story/dialogue choices leave this game with much to be desired. It’s hard to recommend this to hardcore Naruto fans, as they’ll likely be disappointed by the shallow gameplay. However, it’s equally difficult to recommend to series newcomers, as the dialogue and story are hard to follow. If you are looking for a great Naruto brawler on the Nintendo DS, you’ll have to keep waiting, because Ninja Destiny 2 just isn’t destined for greatness.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.1 Graphics
3-D animations look great in battle, but they suffer from several issues in overworld settings. 3.2 Control
Simplistic brawling controls work well, but the battle system is sorely lacking depth.L 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Unsophisticated background music is mostly inoffensive, but voiceover is sparse. 2.1
The shallow battle system makes the single-player mode boring, and while the story mode is interesting, it isn’t all that long and doesn’t cover much new ground.
2.8 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.