Naruto: Ultimate Ninja PS2 Review
Anime games have always been a big hit with the Japanese audience. The idea of getting to take part as one of your favourite characters from a show is what fans crave for. In the rest of the world however they are just about taking off. Over the past couple of years there have been a lot more releases of anime licensed games than ever before. Things like Dragonball Z, .Hack and One Piece are just a few to name. Although most of them don’t really score to high with critics, they sell solely on the license material they represent.
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja is a cel-shaded one-on-one fighting game developed by CyberConnect2 and is based on the anime of the same name. The game was actually released way back in October 2003 in Japan and has been brought to America, mainly due to the popular success of the anime on Cartoon Network. Naruto without a doubt isn’t one of your standard fighters. It plays somewhat like a 2-D fighter in the sense that you can only move left and right on the screen. The battlegrounds however are multi-layered so your character has the ability to teleport, as that is what ninjas do, to the foreground or background by pressing the appropriate buttons. The game contains very familiar stages from the Naruto universe, places like the Forest of Death, the Hidden Mist Village and the Seaside Docks; oh and obviously because you are a ninja it means you can act like Jesus and walk on water, a great way to have a battle.
While it may be one-on-one, Naruto does send out a feeling of Power Stone or Super Smash Brothers, the fighting mechanics have that equivalent frantic feeling to them. The game has a distinctive fighting system that is very simple. It’s so straightforward that you only have one main attack button. The circle button is your main attack, which features both your punches and kicks. To do moves you combine the circle with the directions of either the D-Pad or analogue. Square lets you use your item that is equipped to your character; you’ll have one item that has unlimited usage (Kunai, shurikens etc). Throughout the battle stage the characters can acquire new items from friends or destructible surroundings, selecting these weapons are done on the fly with the R1 or L1 buttons. The other shoulder buttons are used for blocking while the X button is for jumping, tapping the button twice will enable the double jump.
Another main feature to the fighting is the “Chakra” power metre. There are three levels, each level doing more damage to your opponent. At the start of the battle your character comes fully charged, so you can let rip a full blown special attack to lay the smack down and clear virtually half of your opponent’s health. Of course you don’t have to use it all, pressing the triangle the necessary number of times charges up the character to the specific level of Chakra you want to use. Chakra is obtainable in two different ways, one is to charge it up yourself by pressing and holding the down direction, doing so though will leave you open up to attacks. The other is to either smash the surrounding objects or thump the Chakra out of your opponent by smashing him down to the ground.
A distinctive thing Naruto has going for it is the mechanism for the special moves. Pump yourself up with Chakra and then successfully spanking your opponent causes a mini-game/cut-scene to occur. During this scene both of the players must match the displaying buttons on the screen, successfully doing so will either do more damage if you are the attacker or if you are on the receiving end, taking less damage. At first it really seems like a nice flashy idea, showing off the fancy moves in a TV style effect, but in reality after a while they become repetitive and really make the game slow down from its fast paced action.
The first thing that hits you is how stylized it looks. Naruto uses cel-shaded graphics to try capture the essence of the anime. To add to the feeling it even produces hand drawn shadows around the character models, effects that you usually see used in manga books. From the use of comic book panels and oversized onscreen text it all comes together in a hyper lit exhibition. The American voice cast is at hand, which is somewhat of a mix bag. Some of the voices are great while others make your want to tear off your ears. The character Naruto has one of the most annoying phrases that he keeps constantly using practically after every sentence he says. After hearing “Believe it” so many times you’ll want to tear out the little fox-man’s tongue. I’ve become so good at predicting when he’s going to say it that a simple press on the mute button on my TV remote solves the problem tremendously.
As a fighter, Naruto doesn’t fall short on things to do. Story mode is basically your everyday arcade mode but with short cut-scenes inserted between each battle. Beating them will reward you with more stories to play through, even if they are pretty short, with only six battles per story it should last you a good six hours to finish them all. The other bulk of the game is mission mode. Mission mode is full of challenges that you have to accomplish while fighting, things like defeating your opponent with more than 50% health left over or running up walls for three seconds. Multiplayer is included for two players, it’s nothing to get excited about though as the mode is your standard fare.
During your play through of Naruto you’ll find yourself collecting large amounts of “Ryo” or money to you and me. To spend your hard earned cash you need to visit the shop screen, in here you can enter a certain amount of money into a gumball machine and doing so will release an item, usually a figure, card, music or video of the games features. Something that the U.S version has over the Japanese counterpart is the inclusion of two new characters to add to the huge amount of unlockable goodies. Nine Tails Chakra Naruto and Cursed Seal Level 1 Sasuke are both fully playable; the Japanese version had them as special moves that you could transform into them with the selected character.
The thing with anime games is they are so focused on mainly supplying the fans with what they want that they forget about the rest of the consumers. Naruto fans will mostly get a kick out of how faithful the game is, but after the flashiness has worn off you are left with a simple fighter. For people who aren’t interested in the franchise then you’ll probably find yourself getting a frantic fun game. It’s certainly a game that isn’t for hardcore fighting fans though, so if you take fighting games seriously stay clear of Ultimate Ninja like it’s the death curse.
7.2 out of 10