• Naruto: Rise of a Ninja is a game based on the character from a hugely popular Japanese Anime Manga series of the same name. There have been plenty of previous Naruto game titles, but it was Ubisoft that took the reins and became the first team to develop a Naruto title outside of Japan and one based on the western dubbed version that audiences have enjoyed for a couple of years. And before any panic sets in… you need never have seen any of the TV shows, or have played any of the previous Naruto games, as Ubisoft developed Rise of a Ninja telling the tale of Naruto and his friends from the very beginning. You will experience the storyline that took the anime series around 80 episodes to explain and while Naruto: RoaN does contain some confusion with certain characters popping up here and there with no explanation… this at least is a minor point to what is essentially a superbly developed Xbox 360 game and one that was a lot of fun to play.

    The pieces of the puzzle that make up the whole game include a story mode / campaign to play through… this following Narutos journey to becoming a Ninja. Then you have, what you could class as a standard stand alone beat-em-up tagged into the game and Naruto: RoaN also includes full Xbox LIVE Multiplayer support with a rather challenging ranked ‘forest of death’ challenge to sink your teeth into.

    Naruto Rise of a Ninja

    Starting with the story mode your game begins with you witnessing the Nine Tail Fox demon being defeated and transported into its human vessel that is the newborn Naruto. Flip forward a few years and you have Naruto in his home village; Konoha, unpopular with everyone, bar the odd individual liking him and having just failed his initial graduation. It is certainly at this point that you should have noticed that the cut scenes have a cartoon like appeal to them and actually are taken directly from the TV show, but… if you didn’t – well they are, and this formula of breaking up the gameplay and telling the story in this fashion continues throughout the entire game. This style of presenting the storyline and plot is very neatly implemented into the game and a joy to sit back and watch.

    Getting back on topic… Naruto works in a way similar to a platform style of game as you progress through the various areas that make up the playing field and then during fight sequences, switches to the rock solid method of a straight up fighter. Another very slick piece of Naruto is that your 3D environments being amazingly well done then has the characters such as Naruto and co presented in cell-shaded format. This adds depth and another dimension to your character, looks absolutely amazing, and certainly follows the design line of Manga Anime.

    As mentioned Naruto, right now at this portion of the game, is a very unpopular lad. After you have spent some initial time in the game, you will start to see mission scrolls popping up on your map. Usually these will revolve around certain Konoha residents having lost something or needing you to find the likes of hidden coins and by taking these missions on, Narutos popularity will start to climb. You will find yourself starting by helping a food seller and in turn unlocking the ability to buy food needed to replenish health through later missions. Up next, you will find a scroll seller needs help and as such and as you would guess allowing you to purchase scrolls to increase you fighting abilities and you will also end up helping a weapon maker – which, well… should require no explanation as to the use there. After you have established this base of store keepers selling you the products for which to survive throughout your game, other missions will then come in dribs and drabs at certain portions of the game. Another way to increase your popularity is to take on missions from your teacher and your master, and finally another way is for you to find heartbroken residents for which you can then execute your sexy jutsu move, and as such make them happy again (more on jutsu later).

    Konoha is begging to be explored and you will notice being limited to places you cannot reach at first but ones that you should remember to revisit once your strengths start to be increased. These strengths will include gaining the ability to double jump and then later having the ability to move very quickly and to use the speed as a boost jump to reach even further than before. When exploring in Konoha you will start to find hidden coins which can be used to trade for items and then later in the game unlock the option to take on several mini games including delivering hot ramen to customers, playing hide and seek and to chew through a number of checkpoint races. The town is certainly large enough for you to continually find something new but not too big that you get lost.

    As mentioned to move you away from the town and to progress through Narutos journey to becoming a Ninja you will take on missions from your teacher as well as training and it will be these missions that make up the more challenging pieces of the game and where you will need to rely on your training and fighting skills – namely button bashing combos and jutsu techniques. Naruto has a standard health bar pretty much like most games but in Naruto: RoaN you also have a Chakra bar which is the essence Naruto will use to perform his jutsu moves. Jutsu moves Naruto will master through the game include, Shadow Clone Jutsu, Sexy Jutsu and Chakra Concentration Jutsu. Shadow Clone Jutsu allows Naruto as you would imagine create mirror images of himself and during battle allows you to deal heavy damage through timed face button presses. Sexy Jutsu is, well… kinda pervy and transforms Naruto in a sexy girl and is used to wow the residents of Konoha and to confuse certain opponents in a fight. Then and lastly you have Chakra Concentration Jutsu which is a neat little touch allowing Naruto to walk up walls and later in the game across water.

    Activating jutsu moves is very neatly done by simply holding down the left trigger and using the thumbsticks to follow a series of commands. Shadow Clone Jutsu in a fight will certainly become your staple attack jutsu, but at the same time, relies on your being able to knock an opponent fully down to the ground, and as such allowing you the time needed to pull off the jutsu move. Getting it wrong, leaves you vulnerable for counter attack, but managing to pull these moves off at the right time will always tip the scale to your favour in the heat of battle. Jutsu moves aside and with any fighter Naruto also has the ability to perform strings of combos and with a bit of button bashing and mastery, coupled with the odd jutsu technique thrown in for good measure… will get you through each fight sequence without too much frustration.

    Naruto RoaN’s storyline in a nutshell is good fun to play through albeit does rely on you being a fighting game pro. This is where it dropped the ball for me and while I know in the main is due to me being basically crap at fighting games, I did find on many an occasion that it took me several retries to get past an opponent, and as such allowing me to continue with my game. Even the first major fight you have is a biggy and having managed to just scrape through the battle with very sore fingers to boot, I was horrified to find I had to face him again… immediately! – This left me at that point in time, not wanting to play the game again. But of course I did and having left the game alone for a while, I then sucked in my gut and dove in… pushed past my stumbling block and began to understand that once you do start to get used to the fighting system the game overall as mentioned is a hell of a lot of fun to play. I suppose the point I was trying to make here is that it would have been a tad nicer of the developer to allow my opponents to start off slow and as such allow me to gain confidence as I moved onto bigger and stronger enemies.

    My only other issue with Naruto is that when you leave the town you find yourself continually on the same stretch of forest time after time and it became boring – real boring. Now as much as I did not expect to see huge differences each time – some diversity would have been nice at least. Thus, at least giving the perception that to get to said goal did not mean I had to take the same route each and every time.

    Moving away from the main portion of the game and now at a piece where I have to let you down… I struggled to find anyone around to allow me to experience what Xbox LIVE Multiplayer has to offer. However having scoured the various game forums I do know that a lot of people seem to be having issues with the forest of death achievements. To complete the exam you have to fight your way through and win six fights in a row to which the complaints all seem to surround people quitting on them all the time. I did however manage a local two player fight and makes for a nice change allowing you to pick from other characters in the Naruto universe. Multiplayer does look good, and in the main the problem with lack of gamers could be a release timing issue, what with the huge multiplayer titles like Halo3 and Call of Duty 4 stealing away these potential punching bags.

    Summing up Naruto takes one word – “fun”… I have enjoyed the time spent playing, and while I had to get over my initial anger moment at the beginning and fight the urge to not turn the disk into a frisbee… Since that point, I have pretty much not been able to put the game down. The look and feel of Naruto is spot on and coupled with gaming moments such as being able to leap from branch to branch with timed button presses and looking sexy as hell in the process, then moments like in the heat of battle pulling off an amazing jutsu, make this game what it is. It looks good… it plays well and makes a change from the normal run of the mill Xbox 360 titles currently on offer. Naruto is one, not to be ignored and should appeal to any age group too, there is a lot of fun to be had with the game, and at the end of the day that is what gaming is supposed to be – FUN!

    Score: 8/10

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