Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Review

If you have spent any amount of time viewing late night Cartoon Network, along with the standard fare of Inuyasha Cowboy Bebop, you may have also encountered a few episodes of the Japanese anime series Naruto. The show, which debuted in America last year, follows the adventures of Naruto and his friends as they go on journeys and adventures in their quest to improve themselves as Ninjas. Naruto has a powerful destructive spirit named Kyubi that has been imprisoned within him since birth. Naruto has experienced much rejection and fear from his fellow citizens of the Village Hidden in the Leaves, and this part of his personality is something that he would rather do without. The series has been a tremendous hit in Japan and America, and has spawned the second game to be based on the television show.

The video game, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja, (NUN) is primarily a fighting title and does not offer any of the involving plots or storylines of its television counterpart. However, that being said, all the familiar elements of the show, from the characters to the snappy banter, are there in full force. Individuals who are not familiar with the series will not be at any disadvantage. If anything, a fresh encounter with the Naruto universe may prove to be a novel experience as catch phrases such as "Believe it!" and the classic, "You suck!" come rolling off the lips of the anime characters. As it is in the series, the game offers humor and lots of action. But does NUN offer a knockout blow as a good fighting game, or is it just another mediocre video game based upon a popular franchise? We,ll use our Ninja stealth powers at GamerNode to determine how good this game really is.

NUN gets down to basics and offers classic fighting action with a few twists. In addition to the standard button sequences that all fighting fans always try to commit to memory, there are also special attacks in the game called "Jutsu." During the course of fighting your opponent, you have the opportunity to unleash these special attacks. These unique power attacks cause a great deal of damage, if the Jutsu is done properly. We,ll cover this later.

NUN breaks down into four basic components or modes; Scenario, Mission, Practice and Free Battle. Scenario is loosely called a "story mode," as it offers a brief storyline for each character you select. There are six characters to choose from at the start, with eight more unlockable characters as you progress through the game. Each character offers six battles and upon completion of each scenario, a new scenario character is added. There are also several secret characters that can be unlocked.

Mission mode gives you the opportunity of fulfilling specific goals and tasks in order to gain experience points and Ryo, the coin of the realm. This money can be used to purchase items at the "shop" through the use of a gumball machine filled with prizes. The chances of winning a valuable prize is determined by how much money you place into the machine. Mission goals start off in easy mode, with subsequent missions getting more difficult. Missions are broken down into various categories of difficulty and can only be played if you have the required experience points to open these levels.

Practice mode offers the opportunity to try out the various button sequences needed to perform fighting moves. The primary buttons for fighting are the circle and the directional pad buttons, with the triangle and X buttons used for special attacks and jumping. While this is quite an abbreviated button selection when compared to other fighting games, it still offers a great deal of different combos and attacks that can be used against your opponent. A menu selection screens up the various moves for each character and shows the status of whether the moves have been successfully executed. You can set the AI to defend, attack or do nothing. As in other fighting games in the genre, the practice mode offers valuable opportunities in honing your fighting moves.

The Free Battle mode allows the player to set up the conditions of battle and to select the character to battle against. Novices, or those not as familiar with fighting games, can adjust the play to include a handicap in which the human player can score more damage with their hits. Two-player mode is playable here.

Gameplay of NUN is fast and furious. Think of the game as a hybrid of Street Fighter, Tekken and Super Smash Brothers, with a healthy sprinkling of humor thrown in for good measure. A random series of button mashing can get you through the easiest stages of the game, but as you progress, it will be apparent that you will either have to increase your luck in haphazardly winning the fights or return to the tried and true method of learning your fighting combos and moves. Hence, a fair amount of time spent in the practice and free battle modes is well worth the effort in order to make any substantial progress throughout the game.

The special attacks, or Jutsu moves, are accomplished by pressing the button combo triangle and circle. While this seems to be an easy thing to do, the reality of the situation is not. You must be able to break through your opponent,s defenses before a special attack can be unleashed. As the saying goes, easier said than done. If a successful Jutsu move is done, the game takes you to another screen where a series of animations occur during the execution of the special attack. The amount of damage you deal out to your opponent is linked to a series of button sequences that appear on the screen. Hit all the buttons in the correct order, and you have a chance to extend the special attack and increase damage. On the other hand, if you are the recipient of a Jutsu move, you can defend yourself in the same manner by hitting the button moves correctly. This lessens the damage incurred by you and may be the difference in sustaining major damage and losing the match, or reducing the damage and possibly unleashing a counter attack of your own.

All characters have their own unique special attacks called Jutsu, but in addition to these damaging moves, some characters also have special assaults such as fire attacks. During the course of any battle, various power-up items appear on the screen, in addition to your "support character." These individuals appear at random moments with items that aid you in your health or ability to fight. They show up several times for a few seconds during battle, and connecting with your support character to obtain these items helps you to win your battles. These items are used immediately or can be held until they are needed. Offensive items can slow down your opponents, give you special status, or allow you to use special Ninja tools. You also have the option to steal these items from your opponent,s support character as well, which adds more depth to the overall experience of the game.

Fighting is only part of the equation, and as all good Ninjas know, being a successful Ninja requires the art of evasion. In NUN, you,ll not only be able to jump in the air to avoid attacks, but you,ll also have the ability to jump to and from the foreground and background in this game. Since this is a 2D game, the novelty of being able to jump back and forth from each plane adds to the strategy of defeating your opponent or evading him.

The graphics of NUN are done in the traditional style of anime-cell shaded 2D. While the graphics are simple, compared to today,s standards, the artwork is adequate for this style of artwork. The cut scenes, which appear during the Jutsu attacks, are amusing and hold true to the anime form. During regular battle, other cut scenes are introduced, which are connected to fighting moves and various uses of weapons, so the visual appeal of the game is very good, considering its 2D world. Some problems occur when the characters move into the background, as it is sometimes hard to distinguish which character you are because of the visual perspective of the game.

If you are a collector, NUN will drive you to the brink as it literally has hundreds of figures, cards, music, scrolls, videos and other items that can be bought or attained during the game. These items can be seen, heard or manipulated by going to Naruto,s house.

Sound is an interesting affair of catchy tunes and an abundance of verbal jabs and dialogue between the characters. As each level is started in the scenario mode, a short segment of comic book frames tell the story of the characters and their trash talk to one another. Some of the dialogue is funny with lines like, "I just hate suck-ups like you!" to the ever-ubiquitous line from Sasuke, "Die a thousand deaths!" The sound effects and voice acting serve as a nice backdrop for the intense action in the game. The music is simple but nice. Some of the tunes can be replayed at Naruto,s house by winning the records at the shop.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja is a surprisingly refreshing approach to the world of fighting games with lightning quick action, lots of power-ups, good anime cut scenes, a respectable fighting system and a gameplay that will appeal to die hard fighting fans as well as to the general gamer. You don,t have to be a fan of the Naruto television show to enjoy this whimsical fighting game, and that is good news for all aspiring Ninjas out there.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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