Naruto Powerful Shippuden Review

I’m so lost when it comes to Naruto.

Having watched all of zero episodes of the show, I have no background on the characters, the setting, or the plot. I do know that I like Rock Lee’s eyebrows. That’s really it.

That said, I didn’t know what to expect when booting up Naruto Powerful Shippuden for the first time. Would my ignorance be a detriment to the experience? Could I still enjoy the game despite my lack of background? As it turns out, my lack of understanding turned out to be a major strength. Naruto Powerful Shippuden ditches the normal tone of the series in favor of a lighter, funnier feel. The characters continuously crack jokes during cutscenes, some of them even fourth-wall breakers about being in a video game. The art style transforms everyone into a “chibi” version of themselves. Best of all, the complex fighting action of the consoles is replaced with a classic side-scrolling beat-em-up format, hearkening back to the days of Final Fight and Streets of Rage. In short, this is the perfect Naruto game for a guy like me, as it’s still a ton of fun without any previous Naruto knowledge.

This may be one of the most accessible Naruto games available, mostly due to its comparatively simple gameplay. Powerful Shippuden follows a format we’ve been following since Mario’s first adventures: go to the right and fight enemies. Each of the two playable characters, Naruto and Rock Lee, has his own unique fighting style: Naruto mixes physical attacks with energy blasts, while Rock sticks to strictly physical blows. Thankfully, the different styles only affect how each character should approach an enemy, as they both control the same.  I never had any trouble controlling either character; I just picked up and played the game, the simplicity being an unexpected and welcome turn of events. Even “advanced” moves like summoning an ally or transforming into a more powerful form are simple button presses, and both Naruto die-hards and non-fans can appreciate the ease of control.

Though simple in its gameplay, Powerful Shippuden does house an RPG-like leveling system, where XP is earned and distributed throughout a considerable number of stats. I could level my own stats, those of my allies, the power of my special attacks, and much more. The juxtaposition of simple play vs deep customization surprised me at first, but it’s the perfect way to keep the die-hard gamers from writing the game off as TOO simple. Would leveling base stats be more beneficial than enhancing one of Naruto’s energy moves? Should I focus on allies who may not stick around or keep things to myself? These are questions RPG fans have asked themselves through history, yet here I am asking them about a “kiddie” anime game. I was quite pleased with it.

The story progresses through missions, each with a cutscene before and after explaining what’s going on. The game does a stand-up job of explaining who people are and what’s going on, so my ignorance was not too much of a burden. Where ignorance did affect me, however, was in the humor. Some quick banter or one-liners are universal, and I did chuckle a bit, but when something like this happens:

…how am I supposed to react to that? What’s with the tutu? Is that a duck? What’s going on here? I could be wrong, but a firmer foundation in the source material might have shed some light on why those outfits are necessary. To put it simply, where fans may have laughed, I said “huh?”

I used Naruto Powerful Shippuden as an experiment: Could someone who never watched or read a second of a certain source material find enjoyment in a licensed game? As I found out, it’s entirely possible, but the onus is more on the game being enjoyable than it is the source being known. The game could have a terrific story worthy of being a jumping-in point, but who’s going to play if the mechanics are no good? Powerful Shippuden does not have this problem, as it mixes a solid side-scrolling format with surprisingly deep RPG elements to create an enjoyable play experience. I may not have fully understood what was going on, but I did enjoy playing through it.

What is with those skirts, though? Seriously…


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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