Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles Review

In 1999, a Japanese manga arrived on the scene which would garner fame worldwide. The plot was about a demon so powerful that it could level mountains and cause tidal waves in its quest to destroy and wreak havoc throughout the land. All was lost until one ninja leader sacrificed his life to defeat the demon and imprison it inside the body of an innocent child. This child was named Naruto Uzumaki, and grew up to be feared because of the demon locked inside of him. While he is considered an outcast in his own village, he grows up with the goal of becoming a great ninja leader. His adventures and experiences are the basis for the popular Naruto franchise.

Since the debut of the orange clad ninja, there have been over 24 Naruto video games released on Nintendo and Sony consoles; they have all been in 2D anime style until now. The newest Naruto game to hit the shelves is called Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles. Here, Naruto is in colorful 3D. The question is whether this new installment, in the words of Naruto, will "kick some butt," or be a loser.

Fans of the Naruto franchise will tell you that the games are all about fighting. With N:UC, this is also true — but with a twist. Whereas the previous titles emphasized the fighting aspects in the game with just a tad of plot to hold the game’s story together, N:UC turns this whole concept around and places a stronger importance on the storyline and RPG elements in the game.

The game is a mission-based fighter. Naruto’s assignments generally have to do with helping villagers and residents across the countryside. The main theme in many of these missions can be summed up in the word "delivery," as Naruto must deliver or guard things on his way to other cities in a majority of the missions. During these missions, he runs into bandits and ninjas and thieves (oh my!) bent on robbing or stealing his goods. In some cases, they just want to kick his ninja behind. This, in a nutshell, is how the game flows.

Gameplay starts out in Leaf Village where Naruto selects his missions. These tasks generally ramp up in difficulty with each succeeding objective, and a certain amount of "leveling up" is required in order to successfully beat the levels. This is where N:UCstarts to resemble a light RPG game. As Naruto defeats enemies, the vanquished opponents leave behind little glowing balls called virtue and chakra orbs. The virtue orbs are collected to power-up your offensive and defensive abilities, while the chakra orbs replenish the charka gauge. Chakra allows you to use special attacks and abilities to defeat your adversaries. During fights, bad guys will also occasionally drop item bags that contain attack and healing items.

The RPG influence of this game can be clearly seen in the menu system. It’s here where you can modify the attributes of Naruto by using "skill plates." These are basically empty geometric jigsaw templates; the forms are filled with various skill chips which fit into the plates. Skill chips can be bought by spending the virtue orbs that you have collected after battles. Each chip has a specific attribute and shape, and you’ll have to make sure that you buy the right piece shapes in order to complete each puzzle. The mosaic of all of these different pieces affects your health, defense, attack, and status. This concept is an interesting way to increase the qualities of your characters, but I soon found this to be a tedious and time consuming experience.

During one of the missions, it was clear that Naruto did not have enough attack power to defeat the enemies he encountered. I restarted the game (more about why I did this later), and selected the skill plate menu. My plan? Buy up a lot of skill chips that would increase the attack power of Naruto. Good idea, right? Since I had a truck load of virtue to spend, I was on a roll to buy and build up my character. After purchasing the chips, I started to fill in the skill plate. As each piece is added, the specific attribute of the piece is activated. The more pieces you can fit in to the puzzle form, the more qualities you’ll be able to use.

This proved to be more daunting than I first suspected. I found myself rearranging the pieces over and over again in order to make them all fit. While the process was interesting, after several minutes of juggling the chips, it became more of a chore rather than an entertaining or refreshing aspect. Mind you, I filled up my skill plate with attack chips. Later in the game, if you find that you need to beef up your defense you’ll either have to take out all of the pieces from the skill plate and start from scratch, or use a new skill plate to assemble a new set of features. The skill plate system really feels like busywork. While there is a good deal of strategy involved in selecting and placing your chips into different skill plates, the tedium associated with performing these tasks starts to wear on your nerves.

Part of the problem with this system is that unless you have a photographic memory, or a drawn diagram of the puzzle template in front of you, it is difficult to figure out which puzzle shapes you should buy. The templates and the puzzle pieces are on different menus, so you’ll be constantly going back and forth to see if a shape can fit the skill plate you are using. This is not fun for people with poor spatial abilities or for the impatient.

Game characters travel via the old-school world map system. A map featuring different towns and cities is displayed and you move your party by clicking on the location that you want them to go. Cities which are of special interest in your mission are highlighted in red. During these trips from place to place, the game enacts battles for you to engage in.

The fighting system is pretty simple to pick up and an in-game tutorial goes over the basic moves for fighting. The fighting commands are mapped to the square and circle buttons. Special fighting attacks, called ninjutsu, cause extra heavy damage on enemies. Each ally in your party possesses a unique ninjutsu power and can utilize this ability by depressing the R1, R2 or both R buttons simultaneously. These power attacks can be performed as long as there is chakra in the meter and your stamina gauge isn’t empty. Every character has a special ninjutsu move, and are extremely helpful in whittling especially strong opponents down to size. Naruto has an especially devastating attack called the Nine Tail. When Naruto’s Nine Tail gauge fills up, the demon that is imprisoned within him is released and a tremendous flurry of combos, shadow clone attacks and other moves bash formidable foes into a pulp. Ah, what a pleasure it is to use this move. But the gauge for this attack fills up slowly because it is linked to the cumulative number of combo hits you deal out during the course of your missions. Since filling up this meter is a slow process, using the Nine Tail attack wisely and sparingly is a good rule of thumb.

Naruto console games are known for the fighting, and you’ll find plenty of it as you travel on your quests. You’ll use powerful ninjutsu moves and cool combos. Naruto can make a fast dash, appearing out of nowhere to surprise attackers. The combos he uses are fun to pull off, but since there are actually quite a limited number of moves, which is quite different from previous Naruto games where there are almost too many, the fighting action may start to get a little monotonous after a while. Ninjutsu moves or super moves are a nice touch, and add a little variety to the fighting action. Later in the game, you are allowed to add allies to your group. You can instantly switch out Naruto for one of these party members and utilize their special abilities and fighting moves while a time meter ticks down. Once the meter is spent, your character transforms back into Naruto.

One thing you should be aware of is this: plan your saves wisely. If you find yourself defeated in any level of the game, you’d expect to just reload the level and try again, right? In N:UC you are not afforded this option. If you accept a mission, and you fail it, you are not allowed to replay that level. There is a big "Failed" over that level, and the stage is locked out. There is no way to navigate back to the main screen menu where the load feature is made available.

If you want to get another chance to replay the "failed" level, and if you were conscientious enough to perform a save before your mission started, you can load your game by shutting down and restarting your machine. You cannot access this screen any other way. Do you know how annoying this is? You have to get up from your cozy chair or sofa, walk to your game console, reset the machine, wait for the game to load, wait for the main screen to appear, choose the "continue" option, select the saved game and load it.. That’s not so bad, you say? Try doing this three or four times in the course of trying to beat a level, and you’ll understand what the word frustration means.

Another rookie game developing error rears its ugly head in regards to the skipping of lengthy cutscenes. Basically, you can’t. If you’re entering a boss battle, and you are defeated, your last save point will bring you to the very beginning of the animated sequence. What this means is that you will have to view cutscenes which led up to the battle in their entirety for a second, or possibly third time. Not fun at all.

In this game, the franchise departs from the cel-shaded universe and delves into the first 3D rendering of Naruto and friends for the first time. For fans of the franchise, this may be something which makes the game worth purchasing as you see familiar characters pop into realistic 3D as never before. The graphics are nice, but nothing too far from the standard fare for games of this sort. The fight scenes also offer some good special effects — especially during the use of ninjutsu moves. Naruto actually looks a little on the heavy side, and surprises like this may rattle the Naruto faithful in this game. The other production elements such as the voice acting are done well and are faithful to the characters in the series. Music and sound effects also combine nicely with the action and cutscene sequences.

Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles departs from the traditional way this franchise has presented itself. While past games in the series were almost unbelievably loaded with different fighting moves to learn, N:UC is almost Spartan by comparison. The Naruto fighters have been known in the past for fast-paced fighting action with a minimal storyline. In N:UC, this has changed dramatically since the game has transformed itself into an RPG/fighter hybrid. The battles still come fast and furious, but fall short of being entertaining because of repetitious gameplay. However, this is Naruto’s first debut into the 3D world, and for this reason alone, Naruto fans may want to see their favorite ninja up close and personal by purchasing a copy of Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles for their collection.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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