Lists  Reviews  Images  Update feed
MoviesTV ShowsMusicBooksGamesDVDs/Blu-RayPeopleArt & DesignPlacesWeb TV & PodcastsToys & CollectiblesComic Book SeriesBeautyAnimals   View more categories »
Listal logo
All reviews - Movies (2) - TV Shows (1) - Games (102)

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 10 August 2010 03:40 (A review of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes)

Heroes succeeds in bringing the anime-style action of the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja games to the PSP.

The Good
Controls are quick and easy * New team-based action adds a little strategy Lots of ninjas.
The Bad
Long load times * Not much depth * Chakra attacks now noninteractive.

It seems like the primary purpose of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes is to bring Namco Bandai's snappy PlayStation 2 fighting series to the PSP--no more, no less--and to this end, it is mostly successful. It offers some superficially different gameplay modes and introduces team-based combat, but neither really changes the feel of the action. If the Ultimate Ninja games didn't do anything for you on the PS2, the arrival of Heroes on the PSP isn't going to have much impact, either, though it's sure to please fans.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes is a one-on-one fighter that favors speed and simplicity over depth and precision, and the controls feel comfortable on the PSP, though that's not to say there isn't some nuance to it. You've got a single attack button that you can easily string into a few different combos, as well as a projectile attack button that you can bolster with different types of shuriken found on the battlefield. The jump button proves most versatile, allowing you to easily double-jump, quickly dash toward your opponent, and instantly teleport yourself between the two planes found in each battlefield.

More often than not, though, the key to victory lies in your chakra attacks, which are fueled by chakra orbs dropped by your opponent whenever you finish a successful attack. Once you've amassed enough chakra, you can activate it with a single button press, after which you have a few seconds to connect with your enemy. Succeed, and you'll watch as a hyperstylized attack sequence unfurls, usually taking a huge swath of your enemy's life bar with it. Unlike its predecessors, there's no interactivity once you've launched your chakra attack, which kind of takes you out of the action. Furthermore, there's only one chakra attack per character, which means you'll see the same protracted sequences over and over again. There's a grand total of around 20 characters to play as, and though you might notice some differences in speed and attack strength, they all basically use the same controls.

While most of the combat basics should feel instantly familiar to established Ultimate Ninja fans, the big twist offered by Heroes is the introduction of team-based action, which is central to the heroes mode, where you'll fight against increasingly challenging opponents. The mode is divided by difficulty level, with each level consisting of a set series of fights. You can choose from an established three-person team of characters, such as Team Kakashi, Team Guy, Team Kurenai, and Team Asuma, or you can build your own custom team. You also choose the order they'll fight in, which doesn't really matter at first, but since your team's health and chakra levels carry over from one fight to another, spreading the load becomes a factor.

Based on whom you choose, you'll have access to unique performance modifiers and power-ups that you can apply before the fight starts. Like your fighters' status, the number of modifiers and power-ups you have carries over, which adds a little strategy to when you choose to activate them. Each battle in the heroes mode comes with optional win conditions which, if met, will earn you points that can be used to juice up your characters' stats, though these performance-enhanced versions can only be used outside of the heroes mode. The prematch power-ups and the way character status carries over are fun, minor additions, and they help balance out the now-hands-off nature of the chakra attacks.

Beyond the heroes mode, you can play the game against a CPU opponent or a live, local opponent, and the game additionally supports game sharing. There's also the promotion test, a series of ranked challenges that require you to meet very specific win conditions--beyond beating your opponent--before you're allowed to advance. This mode is tied to the heroes mode, since many of the scrolls you'll need to advance from one rank to the next can be earned there. While the action snaps and the modes of play are interesting enough, there's just not a lot to the game, a feeling that's exacerbated by the fact that much of the content has been borrowed outright from the previous Ultimate Ninja games.

A big part of the visual appeal of Ultimate Ninja on the PlayStation 2 lies in how those games capture the specific visual feel of the Naruto source material, something that Ultimate Ninja Heroes is mostly able to live up to. The characters look sharp, as do the environments, and the stylized visuals during the kinetic chakra attacks add a certain amount of punch to the action. Unfortunately, the shading effects that really helped define the look of the previous Ultimate Ninja games didn't make it to the PSP, which takes away some of the game's personality. The load times are a little harsh, but once a fight is up and running, there are no noticeable hitches, and there are moments when the camera pulls out so far that the characters are tough to make out.

The Naruto: Ultimate Ninja games haven't been terribly ambitious up to now, and with little in the way of actual, original content, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes feels even less so. That doesn't mean it's a bad game, it just means that it's not going to attract many fans outside its fan base.

Review by Ryan Davis from [Link removed - login to see]

0 comments, Reply to this entry

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 9 August 2010 10:56 (A review of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4)

Those of us Naruto fans that have been following the adventures of the spiky haired ninja on the PlayStation 2 as well as the next-generation consoles like the PlayStation 3 have seen the Naruto lineup of titles vastly improve over the years. We’ve seen the kids of the Hidden Leaf Village tackle on missions that adults would have failed and now, as the series fast-forwards a few years forward, we have reached the Shippuden chapter in Naruto’s life. Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippuden for the PlayStation 2 does feature an older and somewhat wiser Naruto but things just aren’t at all too different in terms of the gameplay.

For the gamer or casual anime viewer, Naruto Shippuden takes place two years after a younger Naruto set out to train with Lord Jiraiya. Despite being slightly taller and sporting a newer orange outfit, the anime opens with Naruto finally coming back home to the Leaf Village. What exactly happened during those years of training with the Pervy Sage? Well, Ultimate Ninja 4 lets us know via the game’s story mode called Master Mode.

Think of Master Mode as a sort of filler episode that gives us a peek into Naruto’s training and his adventures as he and his sensei travel. In this mode, we find Naruto and Jiraiya approaching a village in time to see a young girl named Aoi heading into a dank cave as a sacrifice to a so-called demon waiting in the dark. It doesn’t take Naruto too long to jump into action to save Aoi as well as discover the mystery behind this “demon” that manipulates shadows much like a certain Leaf Village buddy of Naruto’s.

Master Mode does manage to tell a story akin to a Naruto movie complete with a stubborn young girl that Naruto must save from herself. It’s actually a good story and the mode does allow us to explore the surroundings picking up extra items and unlocking secrets along the way. The map is even huge so there are different places to see in this adventure. What doesn’t really work, however, is the combat that is different from the fighting style of the other modes in the game. Even with trademark moves such as Rasengan and Naruto’s Shadow Clone Jutsu, the fighting isn’t as dazzling as the fights in Free Battle mode.

What the Master Mode does do right is offer plenty of puzzles and platform jumping segments that allows you not only the freedom to explore but also take time to find extra items you can use in this mode as well as other modes. For example, it is here where you can find fragments of your memory you can use to unlock events in Hero mode. You can even use Resengan to break through weakened walls and other barriers to reach other places on the map. You can also level up in this mode, earning cool new Jutsu or moves that will help you along the way such as using your Shadow Clones to jump even higher.

Hero mode allows you to relive past moments in Naruto’s life from the very beginning to the events that lead up to the Shippuden series. While most of the segments are merely cut scenes, there are events you can actually play such as the Genin training section against Kakashi-sensei. Then there’s Free Battle, the fighting game mode that offers up a large number of characters to use against a friend or the computer. It is here that you can relive memorable battles or make up your own rivalries using older as well as younger versions of favorites. It’s also good to see characters that didn’t make the cut in past games such as Kurenai-sensei, Shizune and even the First and Second Hokages. There are even a number of villains as well that also include the Sound Ninja and the Shippuden villains.

Nothing much has changed in the Free Battle mode from the last game in the Ultimate Ninja series and that’s Ok seeing as the main feature here are the older versions of characters such as Sakura, Neji, Rock Lee, Tenten and Temari just to name a few. Actually, the older characters are considerably better than the younger bunch. Older Sakura is a powerhouse compared to her younger counterpart and you’ll know it the minute you start tossing around the likes of Orochimaru as if he were a rag doll.

There are also a number of interesting unlockable extras in the game that range from figures of your favorite character, voice clips, videos of them unleashing their most powerful Jutsu and you can even unlock a new guide (the character that welcomes you in the main menu screen). There’s no shortage of things to unlock.

As far as the graphics are concerned, Ultimate Ninja 4 does look good on the PlayStation 2 but there is still room for improvement. Then again, I could just be spoiled by the PlayStation 3’s Ultimate Ninja Storm. Still, the character models look good and the visual effects are topnotch. I just wish the backgrounds looked better and didn’t feature washed out textures.

The sound is a bit more effective thanks to the cast of the anime lending their voices to the characters again. If you love the Japanese voices, you will not be disappointed either. Even the music from the anime series is present and it punctuates the story mode scenes perfectly.

While it’s far from the perfect Naruto game, Ultimate Ninja 4 is a more than decent introduction to the Naruto Shippuden story arc. The older cast of characters adds a new dimension to the fights and the story in the main mode feels right at home with the Shippuden series. If you’re a Naruto fan, this is a good game to buy but it hardly comes close to matching the fun of the previous game on the PS2 or the recent next generation releases.

Review Scoring Details for Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippunden
Gameplay: 7.5
Master Mode does a good job telling a story true to the Shippuden chapter but the battles could have used some polish. The rest of the modes make up a good fighting challenge with more than enough characters to fill out the impressive roster.

Graphics: 7.0
Visually, Ultimate Ninja 4 manages to make the characters really jump out of the screen but some of the backgrounds could have been a lot better. At least the visual effects look amazing.

Sound: 7.5
The English dub voices are present and the original Japanese voices can be selected if you prefer the far more superior Japanese voice cast. The music is straight from the anime series and that’s a very good thing, indeed.

Difficulty: Medium
The game tosses some challenging battles your way later in Master Mode and the computer-controlled opponents make use of every character’s strengths in other modes if you play the game solo.

Concept: 7.5
Master Mode tells an interesting tale that actually feels like a plot from a Naruto movie or filler Shippuden episode. There are tons of unlockable extras and characters to use in this game and Hero mode is a good way to catch up on the story from the very beginning. Online play is still missing in action.

Multiplayer: 7.5
You can take on a friend using a number of characters including the more familiar younger versions of the Leaf Village Genin that ranges from Hinata to Shikamaru. Then again, why go back to the old characters when an older Temari is far more effective than younger Temari?

Overall: 7.5
It’s great to see the next chapter of the Naruto saga unfold on the PS2 and Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippuden is a fun game fans will certainly enjoy despite its few weaknesses. Really, we don’t mind an original story to go with the main story mode but the battles aren’t as enjoyable as the other modes in this game. Naruto fans should definitely check this one out either way.

Review by jkdmedia from [Link removed - login to see]

0 comments, Reply to this entry

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 9 August 2010 10:31 (A review of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3)

I don't know if either nobody else who waited for the game to be imported, or if those that did chose to refer to everything by it's Japanese name (neither would surprise me). Whatever the case, this is a review based on the stateside release of this game, known as Ultimate Ninja 3!

The music in the game seems right along the line of the previous two titles, a nuisance at best. Good part, though, is you can turn the background music off at will. You can also switch between the Japanese and English voices at will, a plus for the subbies, no doubt. The sound effects are all great. Each hit sounds like it strikes with impact and all the special attacks sound just as they do in the anime, which is great. My only real complain would have to be constantly hearing “Yo!” every time I hit a button on the menu. It got old fast in the last game, and I'm still not liking it in this one. It's nice to give it an oriental feel at first, but after so long it quickly gets annoying.

I don't know what games some of these reviewers have been playing, but Cell Shading is far more often terrible then it is good. It takes a lot of effort to make it look good, and most companies aren't willing to put that much work into it. Luckily, Bandai made sure this game didn't end up that way. The Ultimate Ninja games are the best looking cell-shading I've ever seen, and this game is no exception. This time around the special effects have been juiced up considerably. Everything from the simplest Chidori to the largest Hokage-level explosion looks great! As with the previous games, every fight is marked with Manga-style goodness. From Japanese words appearing onscreen with effects, to the shading of the characters and the environment. It takes the best elements of the anime series and combines it with the manga to create this awesome fusion. Sometimes you'll be watching an Ultimate Justsu and swear you must've triggered a high-render cutscene, but that's actually just how good the characters and moves look.

Naturally this is one of the most important aspects, and rightly so. Ultimate Ninja 3 follows along the same line as it's predecessors. Combat is fast and furious. Countering attacks with the substitution Jutsu is basically the same as before, requiring precise timing. Fights are similar to the likes of Super Smash Bros and some other fighting games past. It takes place on a two-dimensional plane in a three-dimensional environment. You can teleport form the foreground to the background and back at will, and there are multiple levels on each (fighting along rooftops, in trees, etc…) Certain objects in the background are destructible, and when broken drop items that can be used in battle. Sometimes these items will increase your health or chakra (energy) levels, sometimes they will give you access to special weapons you can throw at your enemies. One are this game has improved on a lot is with these items. There are many more kinds that you can use that can not only be used as weapons, but many can increase your stats, or decrease your opponents. Even if you're losing the match, these items can shift the tide of battle dramatically, and add a new level of depth to gameplay.

As with previous games your character has special attacks, called Jutsu, and super attacks, known as Ultimate Jutsu. Normal Jutsu is more effective in this game then in the previous ones, and you can pick which jutsu you want to use at the selection screen if you want. You can only use two Jutsu in one fight, but you can pick between that character's normal two, or one of a set of others from other characters. Only certain jutsu are available for other characters to use, and they need to be unlocked for you to do so. Also, this game features the new Jutsu clash. When certain jutsu collide with each other, it will instigate a power struggle between the two players. I've never actually gotten it to work, but I hear it's very cool looking. This time around you can only use one Ultimate Jutsu per battle. You can pick which one you want at the character select screen. This is both a blessing and a curse. While it rather stinks that you no longer have all of your characters Ultimate Jutsu at your disposal at will, it's nice that you can pick the one with the effects you like. If you play as Sasuke, for instance, you can chose the Ultimate Jutsu that activates his Sharingan, rather then start the Ultimate Jutsu sequence in battle and fail intentionally to get it. Also, there are quite a bit more Ultimate Jutsu in this game over the previous installment, which is a plus. Some Ultimate Jutsu induce a powered-up state, much like in Ultimate Ninja 2. Power-Ups are temporary, and give you infinite Chakra for a limited time (though you can use Ultimate Jutsu while Powered-Up). Some actually transform your character. Transformations are permanent power increases, and while they don't give you infinite chakra, you can still utilize Ultimate Jutsu while transformed. Also note that many transformed states have their own normal jutsu attacks, and you can sometimes pick to start the battle in your transformed state (after you've unlocked all the characters). Some transformations and Summoning Jutsu initiate Giant Battles. Yes, you can now play as giant characters like the Shukaku demon in it's full form, Manda the giant snake that Orochimaru can summon, etc… The only problem with Ultimate Jutsu is that this time around you have to unlock them, just about all of them. To do that, you have to play through both single player modes, and spend a lot of time dating pretty much every other character in the game (including the guys) to unlock the hidden items needed to use the Jutsu, and then you have to level up the characters by fighting as Naruto in the Ultimate Contest mode. It's a very long, very boring process.

Extra Content-
Here's where the game's lacking. While the Single player modes are fun, you can complete them in little more then a day or two. Once that's done, it's just a matter of doing tedious, monotonous tasks just to unlock the remaining Ultimate Jutsu and the handful of characters you'll have left by then (if you didn't already use the code). Versus mode is a lot of fun with friends, but not much good on it's own. The game also would've benefited from the use of things like Alternate Costumes, and a tag-team mode. There's really not much there to motivate you to playing this game again. It might even only be worth a rental, if you don't want to unlock all the characters and moves, or if you aren't a big enough fan to think you might want to play it again in the future. They also got rid of those nice little ‘intro' sequences they used to have for versus mode. It wasn't much, but it was interesting to see how different characters reacted to meeting one-another in battle, and it made the mode seem more cinematic, if only slightly. It was a nifty little add-on that they got rid of for no apparent reason.

Overall, I'd say this is a excellent game for the fans, a great game for anyone who's got friends to play with, and at least worth the rental for the rest.

Review by Herugrim from [Link removed - login to see]

0 comments, Reply to this entry

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 9 August 2010 10:10 (A review of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2)

Ultimate Ninja 2 still values style over substance, but a bigger cast of fighters and a better-realized story mode will certainly make it a hit with Naruto fans.

The Good
Combat is easy to pick up * stylish special attacks * graphical touches give the game a unique manga feel.
The Bad
Too similar to the original Ultimate Ninja * special attacks slow down pace of the fight.

The quality of the Naruto games that Namco Bandai has been cranking out over the past few years hasn't come close to matching the quantity, though last year's Naruto: Ultimate Ninja was the rare exception. The core one-on-one ninja-fighting action favored speed and simplicity over depth, and some distinct graphical theatrics made it a fun, ridiculous game to watch. Twelve months later, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 delivers much the same experience, though the cast of playable characters has been expanded and the story mode streamlined. These changes are sure to be enough to please many Naruto fans, though they might not impress anyone else.

Hyperkinetic fight sequences between mystically charged ninjas are a defining characteristic of the Naruto anime and manga series, and they're also one of the biggest assets in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2. With one button to perform up-close melee combos, one for throwing projectiles, and a rather versatile jump button, it should take a first-timer only a few minutes of fumbling around to get the hang of it. That's not to say there's no nuance to the action; it will take a little practice before you're dashing back and forth across the screen, countering your enemies' counterattacks and performing crazy, acrobatic combo attacks. It's the special chakra attacks, though, that really charge the action in Ultimate Ninja 2. Pulling off one of these attacks, which can take some pretty precise timing, puts the brakes on the regular action and provides a series of severe, dramatic camera angles that look ripped from the pages of a comic book as the attacking character dishes out an involved, protracted attack.

The chakra attacks have been updated a little since the first Ultimate Ninja, giving characters new attacks and changing the way the level-three chakra attacks work. Rather than execute a set of random button presses faster than your opponent can, as is still the case with chakra attacks for levels one and two, you now have to mash wildly on a specific button or rapidly spin one of the analog sticks. A meter at the bottom of the screen shows who's currently winning the struggle. The net effect is that you sometimes need endurance more than precision to get the most out of certain chakra attacks. Ultimate Ninja 2 introduces a glut of new characters to play as, nearly doubling the cast of the original, which means there are many more chakra attacks to be seen. While these attacks always look great and give the game a lot of its flair, they sometimes produce a lot of sound and fury without actually dealing much damage. Also, they can go on for quite a while, dragging out the length of a fight.

The chakra attacks look great, and the rest of the game isn't too shabby either. Solid cel-shading effects, as well as specific effects such as textured shadowing and the dramatic use of Japanese writing, go a long way in making the game look like a manga come to life. The huge cast of characters animate smoothly, and their attacks really pack a punch. The game sounds as much like the Naruto anime as it looks like the Naruto manga. There's plenty of voice work from the American cast, which is great for authenticity, even if some of the voices are instantly grating.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 consolidates two of the single-player modes from the original into the new ultimate road adventure, which has you playing as several members of the Leaf Village ninja clan as they deal with foes and rivals from all sides. Unlike the scenario mode in the original, which provided just enough context to string the fights together, the story here is much meatier. Still, you'll probably need to have existing Naruto knowledge to be able to make total sense of it. Often, simply beating your enemy isn't enough to advance, and as you progress the victory conditions can become quite demanding and specific. Sometimes you'll have to beat your enemy, perform three level-three chakra attacks, and finish the fight still carrying a level-two chakra charge; other times, you'll be charged with not beating your enemy, running down the clock, and finishing the fight with a certain percentage of your health bar left.

While the various victory conditions can radically change the flow of the gameplay from fight to fight, it can also be frustrating when you've managed to meet five out of the six victory conditions, only to have to do it all over again. The ultimate road feels much more cohesive than the scenario and mission modes from the original Ultimate Ninja; it would seem that you'll be able to blow through the single-player portion of Ultimate Ninja 2 much more quickly. There's still the two-player versus mode to fall back on, but more single-player content would've been appreciated.

The expanded cast of characters and the improved story mode in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 will likely be enough to bring back Naruto fans for more. It's not bad for a fluffy, flashy fighting game, but it's still too similar to the original to warrant much attention outside the Naruto fan base.

Review by Ryan Davis from [Link removed - login to see]

0 comments, Reply to this entry

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 9 August 2010 08:51 (A review of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja)

Ultimate Ninja capably captures the spirit of Naruto, delivering a stylish fighting experience that's both easy to pick up and easy on the eyes.

The Good
Unique manga-inspired visual style * Gameplay is easy to pick up * Over-the-top special attacks are a blast to watch * AI opponents put up a good challenge.
The Bad
Gameplay modes are a little too pedestrian * Special attacks appear a little too often.

Though he has yet to achieve the cultural ubiquity or pervasive merchandising of Goku and friends, there's definitely a strong correlation between Shonen Jump's Naruto and the Dragon Ball Z series. Both are solid middle-school power fantasies with a serious focus on straight-up combat, and they've both got a sense of humor and a certain winking acknowledgement of their more ridiculous moments. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja marks his first appearance on the PlayStation 2 in the US, and not only is it a far more polished production than Naruto: Clash of Ninja, released earlier this year for the GameCube, but it's flashy enough and accessible enough to appeal to those unfamiliar with the story of this nine-tailed-fox-demon-turned-aspiring-ninja.

Naruto and the lion's share of both his friends and foes are practitioners of a fantasy version of ninjitsu that affords them incredible agility, speed, and strength, allowing them to jump high up into the air, teleport short distances, run straight up sheer vertical surfaces and on the surface of water, and perform some genuinely crushing attacks. There's also a mystical side to their abilities, in that they can use special ninja scrolls to summon awesome elemental powers and supernatural allies. There's rarely any shortage of fighters trying to outdo each other with their spectacular abilities, and this comes across palpably in Ultimate Ninja's gameplay.

The action in Ultimate Ninja is fast, and also perhaps a bit mashy, but it's got a great deal of style and doesn't take too long to get the hang of. The X button jumps, and tapping it twice will produce a double-jump. Though the visuals are largely polygonal, the action is similar to a 2D fighter, except that each stage has multiple planes, which you can instantly teleport to by holding up or down, depending on your current position, when hitting the X button. There's a little tactical advantage to this, since power-ups and friendly characters looking to aid the fight will randomly appear across the stage, and it can be a good way to quickly evade an attack; but mostly it just allows for bigger levels and more craziness.

The square button can be used to throw your standard shuriken as well as any special power-ups you might've picked up, which can range from a gigantic shuriken to assistance from another character, but you'll mostly be using the circle button to launch attacks. Each character has a dozen or so different attacks, though you can expect to see a lot of shared moves between most of the characters, which basically means that they all play very similarly and once you've mastered one, you've basically mastered them all.

Unique to each character, though, is a multitiered super attack that you can tap into with the triangle button provided you have enough "chakra" energy, which you can collect off the battlefield. Successfully initiating a super attack cuts away from the action to a series of dramatic camera angles, during which you have a limited time to enter a series of onscreen button commands to keep the attack going, or if you're on the receiving end, to minimize the amount of damage it does. These super attacks are great to look at and can often be ridiculously over the top--Naruto himself, for example, can summon a gigantic toad to decimate his enemy, or he can create the illusion of a group of bikini-clad ladies to distract his opponent, while Kakashi will casually read a comic book while dishing out incredible damage. Stuff like this adds a lot of flair to the action, and it's great that each character has three different special attacks depending on how much chakra they have stored up, but they're so easy to trigger that it's not uncommon to see the same special attack several times in one match. They're reminiscent of some of the best moments in Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3, another well-crafted anime-inspired fighter, but they crop up a little too often, losing a bit of their dramatic potency.

The super attacks represent some of the most visually impressive moments in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja, but the game is consistently great-looking even during regular combat. The 12 stages included in the game are all nice to look at, with plenty of detail that gives each some unique flavor--you'll fight in a forest clearing, in a dense Asian city, atop a ruined temple in the middle of a storm, and on more than one occasion, on the surface of a body of water. The combatants are razor-sharp, with lots of fast and powerful-looking techniques and a clean, underplayed cel-shaded look.

What really makes the characters look quite striking, though, is a technique that makes shadowed areas appear hand-drawn, making them look much more as they did in the original Naruto manga. It's a really clever effect, and Ultimate Ninja employs several other tricks to convey a comic book feel. Massive attacks are often accompanied by gigantic onscreen Japanese characters, and the dialog sequences between fights show minimally animated 2D characters framed inside comic book panels. The gameplay is fun enough, but it's the presentation that really makes it hard to look away from the game. The employment of the US voice cast of the Naruto anime furthers Ultimate Ninja's authenticity, though even the most diehard Naruto fans will eventually tire of hearing him exclaim "Believe it!" at the end of every other sentence. The music is also notable for the way it blends traditional Japanese music with trace amounts of hip-hop and techno without being too grating or corny.

Compared with the inspired presentation and somewhat unique gameplay, the modes of play in Ultimate Ninja are a little pedestrian. The scenario mode puts you through a lightweight story mode with each of the game's characters, which just consists of half a dozen or so fights. It's nothing too special, but there are more than a dozen characters to play, which means there's plenty of fighting to do here. If you're looking for a more specific challenge, the mission mode presents you with a series of fights that you not only have to win, but win while also fulfilling other certain conditions. These can include acquiring a specific power-up over the course of the match, retaining more than half of your own health, or beating your opponent within a specified amount of time.

The mission mode can be exceptionally challenging, partly because some of the win conditions become increasingly demanding, but mostly because even at the normal difficulty level, the artificial intelligence in Ultimate Ninja puts up a real serious fight, unafraid to constantly be on the attack and make liberal use of special attacks. Luckily, a practice mode is included so that you can hone your skills. Winning fights in both the scenario and mission modes earns you cash, which you can spend in the game's shop on odds and ends like voice samples, character models, and video clips of special attacks. Though the AI in Ultimate Ninja can easily hold its own, there's nothing quite like taking on a real live opponent, and to this end the game offers some simple two-player versus action. It's sufficient, but no more than that.

It's ultimately to the game's benefit that the gameplay errs more toward accessibility than complexity, even if that might mean that hardcore fighting-game fans won't find what they're looking for here. Actual fans of Naruto, however, will be getting plenty of fun and fast-paced action that does the source material justice, and it's an experience that can be enjoyed by anyone who doesn't take their fighting games too seriously.

Review by Ryan Davis from [Link removed - login to see]

0 comments, Reply to this entry

Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatsuki Rising review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 9 August 2010 08:12 (A review of Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatsuki Rising)

Naruto's latest outing is yet another simplistic, mediocre brawler.

The Good
Good voice-overs and music * Akatsuki mode is fun * Lots of customization * Plenty of unlockables.
The Bad
Lousy camera and lock-on system * Same story you've almost certainly seen before * Shallow fighting system * Lackluster graphics.

The Naruto series is enormously popular worldwide. Given that, it's no surprise that fans of the spiky-haired blonde ninja-in-training would love the chance to actually play him in a video game. Unfortunately the history of Naruto games is one that consists primarily of a string of mediocre-at best titles. Still, hope springs eternal and with each new Naruto game released, there's always the chance that this one will be that ultimate Naruto game that you've been waiting for. Alas, Naruto fans will have to keep waiting because Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatusuki Rising, the latest in the series, is yet another sub-par brawler that seems to re-tread the same ground with similarly pedestrian results.

The "haven't we been here before?" quality begins with the game's storyline. It follows the Kazakage Retrieval story arc in which Naruto returns to his village after a few years absence to meet up with his teacher and some old friends. Of course, it wouldn't be a day in the life of Naruto if something horrible didn't happen so that Naruto and his pals could bust out their cool ninja moves. Sure enough, when a couple of Akatsuki's followers manage to capture Naruto's friend Gaara, it's up to Naruto and his friends to rescue Gaara. If this sounds familiar, it's because it is familiar. It's pretty much the same story arc featured in Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippuden. Fans of that game who are hoping for a different perspective on the Naruto story based on the title (perhaps delving into the history and rise of the popular Akatsuki villains) will actually get a bit of fan service through the Akatsuki mode. This mode allows you to play as the bad guys capturing Sand Village and is a nice addition to the game. Unfortunately, you'll have to trudge through the same old repetitive story to get to it and the actual mode isn't that long.

The heart of the game takes place in the Scenario mode, which is a linear series of missions that follows the storyline of the show. As you complete missions in this mode, you'll unlock others things to do. These include the Mission mode where you can go on stand-alone missions that are rated in terms of difficulty to help the citizens of Leaf Village and the Survival mode where you'll have to defeat a certain number of enemies. Items, skill scrolls, and money acquired in these missions can also be used in the games store to kit out the many unlockable ninjas you can use. This level of customization and unlockable content is one of the game's biggest strengths. Put simply, there's a lot of game in here, and if you're a completionist looking for the kind of game where there's always another glittering prize on the horizon, Akatsuki Rising has you covered.

Unfortunately, getting there means that you'll have to slog through acres and acres of mindless button-mashing beat-'em-up combat. The key difference between Akatsuki Rising and previous Naruto games is that combat has been made a bit simpler by putting all attacks and counters on one button: the square. Most of the game is spent mashing that single button and repeatedly throwing the same combo on a mindless group of enemies. Counters are performed by pressing any button when being struck by an enemy, which means you'll often counter without realizing it. This can mess up your combo if you are struck by another opponent, and your target lock will switch away from the opponent you were attacking. Given the clunky method for switching between target-locked opponents and the occasionally wacky camera, it can make fighting against groups harder than necessary. That's somewhat ironic considering the simplicity of actual one-on-one fighting. The result is a system that starts out modestly enjoyable but eventually grows weirdly dull and frustrating at the same time.

Artistically, the game is all over the map. The sound is excellent. The music is the licensed soundtrack from the Naruto anime series and is used very effectively to punctuate the action. The character voice-overs are well done, which is an especially impressive feat considering how many untranslated Japanese terms the English voice cast had to incorporate into the dialogue. Graphically, however, the game could use some work. The characters and enemies translate well into 3D-animated models, but the environments they're traipsing through are the kind of blocky, flat, low-poly worlds that wouldn't be acceptable in a PlayStation 2 game. Landscape colors seem oddly muted and the level design apparently draws its inspiration from the square corridors of the original Doom base on Mars.

In the end, the biggest sin Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatsuki Rising commits isn't that it's a particularly bad game. If all you're looking for is some mindless button mashing and lots of unlockables to hunt down, this game will do well enough. The worst thing about Akatsuki Rising is that it's the same mediocre game Naruto fans have been playing in every one of the roughly 16 million Naruto games that have been released. There have certainly been exceptions (Ultimate Ninja Storm comes to mind), but Akatusuki Rising isn't one of them, and it seems like the Naruto faithful deserve better than this one.

Review by Allen Rausch from [Link removed - login to see]

0 comments, Reply to this entry

Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 9 August 2010 03:58 (A review of Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2)

The Naruto license does little to compensate for this forgettable brawler's undemanding combat and tedious story.

The Good
It's got ninjas fighting robots.
The Bad
Stiflingly boring cutscenes * Combat is overly easy * Story structure is relentlessly repetitive * Multiple playable characters prove totally unnecessary.

Namco Bandai's unrelenting barrage of Naruto-licensed games continues with Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2. It's been roughly nine months since the original Uzumaki Chronicles hit the US, and though the sequel features a few new bells and whistles, these do little to mitigate the fact that the combat's too simple and too easy to be particularly entertaining.

The threat faced in Uzumaki Chronicles 2 stems from the Shirogane clan, a nearly extinct group of ninjas that specializes in puppet mastery. In an attempt to release their master puppet from an ethereal prison, the remaining clan members have been savaging the countryside with their puppet army while looking for a set of mystical orbs. It's not a bad setup for a brawler like this, given that the puppets are basically robots, and robots are some of the finest cannon fodder you'll find. However, once it's up and running, you'll be constantly tormented with cutscenes of characters standing around and talking, all of which seem to drag on forever. Nothing terribly exciting ever happens during these cutscenes, and even the voice actors sound bored. Fortunately, you can skip these sequences without much consequence. Your mission objectives are always spelled out for you, and they usually just involve beating everyone up anyway.

Uzumaki Chronicles 2 establishes a pattern very early on in the story mode. You start out at your base of operations in the Hidden Leaf Village, where you'll be given a mission objective. Once you leave the village, you'll be shown an overworld map with paths connecting various points of interest. As you travel toward your objective on the map, your journey will be regularly interrupted by surprise attacks from puppets or bandits, and you'll have to beat up everyone before you can continue. Once you've reached your destination, you'll more likely than not have to beat up more puppets and/or bandits. Some light puzzle-solving and platforming are peppered into the missions, but they're either too straightforward or too unclear to add much to the experience. After that, it's yet more random encounters as you head back to the Hidden Leaf Village to take on a new mission and do it all over again. Occasional boss fights mix things up a little, but not much.

The simple, repetitive structure of the story mode wouldn't be so oppressive if the combat itself were more interesting. You can lock on to enemies, perform a few different jump and dash maneuvers, and juggle opponents with combos, but your basic ninjitsu abilities--which include an energized dash attack and the ability to generate a quartet of aggressive if short-lived clones--prove so potent right from the start that most fights don't require your full attention. You can goose your power levels to make the fights even shorter in a few different ways. Enemies drop copious amounts of virtue orbs, which can be used to boost character attributes. They also drop money, which can be used to buy health- and chakra-restoring items, as well as chips that can be placed on the skill plate. Chips can raise attribute levels, imbue you with new abilities, and more. Like the original Uzumaki Chronicles, one of the most engaging aspects of this game is organizing the chips on the skill plate so that you can fit as many on there as possible--and when inventory management is a game's high point, look out.

The game makes a few ineffective gestures to differentiate itself from its predecessor, all of them flawed. In addition to playing as Naruto, there's a rotating cast of other ninjas that you can tag in and play as on the fly, but it's a totally inessential feature, considering that it's rare to find a situation that you can't easily handle with Naruto alone. Pouring all of your virtue orbs and cash into Naruto is simply more effective than spreading it out across multiple ninjas, especially because you don't always have access to the same support characters from mission to mission. There are side missions you can take on for various rewards, but their actual content isn't different enough from what you'll be doing in the main missions, and the rewards are unnecessary. There's two-player co-op support in the story mode, as well as some self-contained, one-on-one brawling, but both are sabotaged by the game's inherently disengaging combat.

If Uzumaki Chronicles 2 offered some flashy visuals, it might've made the low-impact combat more fun to watch. What you get instead are stiff and blocky characters in small, repetitive environments, and an occasionally squirrelly camera. The sound is boilerplate Naruto, with some phoned-in voice acting and background music riddled with Japanese woodwinds.

With less than a year between the release of Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 and its predecessor, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the game hasn't changed very radically. At the same time, the proximity of the releases, and the consistently middling level of quality, make this sequel feel that much more superfluous.

Review by Ryan Davis from [Link removed - login to see]

0 comments, Reply to this entry

Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 9 August 2010 12:11 (A review of Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles)

Yup, I said it, I honestly believe that Dragon Ball Z has been dethroned. Naruto is the action cartoon at the top of the heap now and millions of fans couldn't be happier. But being number one comes with the realization that video games will be produced with this coveted license. Now so far there has been a couple of less-than-thrilling titles and a couple of games that were about average. I, myself, reviewed a GBA Naruto game the other day that I thought was pretty decent. But for those of you that own a PS2, the idea of playing and really enjoying a Naruto game has all but been a wish. Well, I am happy to report that today's review of Naruto Uzumaki Chronicles does move the franchise in the right direction, but I'm afraid that all is not perfect as the game does have a few missteps.

To sum it up, Naruto is an orphan who dreams of becoming the world's greatest Ninja, he has entered the ninja academy and through a series of adventures has honed his physical prowess and magical abilities to a fine edge. He hangs out with friends and faces down bitter rivals, he fights for the underdog constantly and tries to pass the challenges his teachers place in front of him. Yes, it's a great cartoon and the martial arts action never lets up. So Bandai/Namco tried something different with Uzumaki Chronicles, instead of making it a straight up fighting game with little extras, they developed the game almost like an RPG with fighting elements instead. The game is a completely original plotline that features a branching storyline and one frustrating save system.

To start things off, you might want to have a soda and some popcorn, because you watch a fairly lengthy intro, but don't fall asleep, because the game then takes you through a series of objectives that outline the game's advanced fighting engine. It's basically an in-game tutorial on how to kick some butt. From there you play the game via a series of missions that are assigned to you by the character Hokage. At first there isn't much of a challenge and you will find yourself playing bodyguard to some travelers, defeating bad guys in a set amount of time or otherwise going out and finding specific items. As you succeed in these missions things become a bit more challenging and RPG elements begin rearing their heads as you begin getting more powerful chakra (magic attacks) and begin bringing other characters with you to help out on specific missions. The missions do become somewhat repetitive in terms of what you are actually doing, you may have to protect someone in one mission and locating a magical item the next, but there is fighting regardless of what you are doing. I almost wished there was a greater variance in what the missions entailed, where's the stealth mission where you must infiltrate a tower without being seen. Where's the mission where you slip poison in an evil warlord's drink undetected - I mean he is a Ninja isn't he? Ok, that may be a bit dark for this title, but you get what I mean.

The controls are fairly intuitive and after a while you will dole out some serious pain with relative ease. Bad guys come at you practically everywhere you go when you are in a mission and even as random encounters when you are roaming the map. Beating these poor dregs will scatter gold on the ground which you can pick up and use to purchase items when you return to civilization. The true tests though come when you finally come face-to-face with a boss character. And this is where the game's biggest flaw comes up. You see you can only save at certain points in the game, namely just prior to a long-winded animation sequence which regrettably you cannot skip, so if you should die, you must re-watch the entire sequence again and I don't have to tell you how this can get really old when you start failing missions and/or dying. In fact, failing missions is completely possible and most unfortunate because you cannot go back and try the mission over. Unless you hit reset and play the mission again, chances are you won't get an item that will be necessary (or make things easier) for you in a later mission.

I also must tell you that I really didn't mind the graphical look of the game which is no longer animation looking but I also didn't care for them either. It's a pretty revered anime we are talking about and while I am no die-hard fan of the show, I think a certain amount of liberty was taken with the in-game animation. The characters don't have the same visual pop and with the smooth shading they used on the flesh tones, the characters just seem off. Like watching a live-action movie of a popular cartoon, you become used to looking at these characters in a certain way that by looking at them new, there is some concern. If it were a completely original game then fine, the graphics do a fair job of doing what they need to do to make the game look like an action-adventure title. I'm sure for every fan of the show that hates how it looks there will be a fan that didn't mind.

Gameplay: 6.8
You roam the map fighting, you take different missions that include fighting, you spend an awful lot of time fighting, yet it's not all fighting. The save system is one of the poorest I have ever dealt with. Forcing someone to watch the same anime sequence can be torture.

Graphics: 6.1
I like the animation sequences, but then the developers are risking making some fans unhappy with the 3D-polygon (albeit smooth) look the characters have, it's risky, only time will tell if the fans are disappointed.

Sound: 7.0
A musical score that seemed pulled from the show and voice acting in the anime sequences that were spoken by the shows actors. Again, another game that does not have Dolby Digital.

Difficulty: Medium
There are some missions in there where things can get dicey, but it isn't so hard that you will never beat it. You may beat your machine out of frustration due to the poor save system, but the game can be beaten in a weekend. There are 25 missions to complete.

Concept: 7.0
Here is pretty decent idea that works in some respects, a popular license turned into a sort of pseudo RPG/action hybrid, the missions could have been more varied in terms of actual accomplishments.

Overall: 6.7
Fans of the series need to be prepared for what they are getting themselves into, I'm probably overdoing it by talking about the graphics as much as I am, but hey, my nephew cocked his head like a confused dog when he first saw them and he IS a rabid Naruto fan. Good idea with the mission deployment but there are too many things that pop up keeping this title from being really good; as it is, it is passable.

Review by jkmedia of [Link removed - login to see]

0 comments, Reply to this entry

Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 9 August 2010 03:14 (A review of Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2)

This game is lot better than the first one. There are more characters and jutsus that made the game a lot more playable. The graphics are just as good as the first but a bit better and the difficulty of the game is hard but that's what made it fun for me. Trying to sum it up short, the only downfall of the game is that it is very short game.

0 comments, Reply to this entry

Naruto: Path of The Ninja review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 9 August 2010 02:31 (A review of Naruto: Path of The Ninja)

This is also as bad as Ninja Destiny but better because of the way the RPG setup is. The graphics are quite good for a RPG DS game.

0 comments, Reply to this entry