52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 51
Naruto: Rise of a Ninja
Release Date: October 30, 2007
Developer: Ubisoft Montréal
ESRB Rating: Teen
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
As I started my challenge so many months ago now, I had the intention to play as many different games as possible, but the play the newest games as possible. For this reason I choose to play “The Broken Bond” for I did not expect to get to “Rise of a Ninja”. As fate and plenty of game delays would have, I found myself back into the world our young ninja.
Back when I played “The Broken Bond” I commented that my biggest problems with the game were that the world was to restrictive at the beginning, the various quests extremely repetitive and the storyline not compelling enough. It is quite obvious that the game must have inherited all those characteristics from its predecessor “Naruto: Rise of a Ninja”. So what are the odds that I would enjoy this title?
The story of “Rise of a Ninja covers the first 80 episodes of the anime. Thanks to the cuts scenes made from the actual anime, I was able to finally understand the full story of Naruto (well most of it, Wikipedia filled in the blanks). 12 years prior to the events of the game, the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox attacked The Village of Leaves. The residing Hokage (village top ninja) sacrificed himself to imprison the demon in the body of a baby. That baby was Naruto Uzumaki. Because of his demonic inheritance, Naruto become an outcast in his village. Naruto is oblivious to what resides in him and tries his hardest to become the next Hokage in hopes it will earn him the respect of his peers.
This is where the game starts. Naruto is not very popular with the villagers. Well to put it bluntly everyone hates him. I can kind of understand why, the character is not very likable. Anytime anything does not go his way, he becomes a raging ball of emotions. Still, it is the gamer’s mission to make Naruto loved by all. To accomplish this task, Naruto will need to perform many deeds for many of the villagers. Some villagers can be converted by simply having their ramen order delivered to them on time. Others will demand that our young ninja perform more dramatic missions such as locating people or things, which may require combat. The weirdest of these involve the use of “sexy jutsu”. This is a special ninja magic that turns the caster into a sexy (???) and very young girl that turns the target into a molester trying to cop a feel before sending them into shock when they realize they tried to grope a teenage boy. Good to know they draw the line at only groping teenage girls. I know someone will comment that I do not understand the show. This is true, but not everyone that will play this game will be connoisseurs of the TV show. Ubisoft should have known better.
Naruto is more knowledgeable in the art of jutsu than just making himself look like a young girl in a bikini, he also have the ability to clone himself and to break powerful barriers with his hands and more still. Each jutsu has a combat and non-combat usage. Learning when to use each one is the key to finding all the secrets in adventure more, and the difference between victory and defeat while in combat. Each jutsu also have three levels of potency.
The visuals in Rise of a Ninja are great, but identical to The Broken Bond. The characters are all very distinct and well modeled. the world is beautifully rendered and does remind me of an anime. Naruto's main village in particular just begs to be explored and discovered. Since the world of Naruto is not extremely large, the devs resorted to severely limiting our hero’s accessibility range till new skills have been acquired. With a new skill in hand (or foot), one has to revisit the entire area once again to hit that those once impossible to reach spots. Rinse and repeat this trick several times causing a lot of backtracking and making the game way less enjoyable.
Of course adventuring is only part of the game. Another part is the combat sequences. Combat in Naruto is quite simple, yet very rewarding. For the novice tactician, just about every fight can be won by button mashing. Sure more difficult battles will result in losing a few times, but eventually Naruto will prevail. But for those that will invest a few minutes to learn a few simple combos, for the game only offers a handful for each character, combat can go from simple luck to a display off strategic arts. Performing a well timed combo is also important to create much needed distance between combatants allowing the use of jutsu, or ninja magic. Justu can be a battle changer if well performed. Just like everything else in the game, jutsu is in itself a mini-game. Jutsu is performed by moving Naruto’s hands (both analog sticks) in a specific pattern and then leaving the required charge time. Once the jutsu has been cast, it then becomes a quick timed event game where the gamer competes to press the correct two button sequence before the opponent. The more successful the mini-game, the more successful the attack. If Naruto is on the recipient end of a jutsu attack, a quick kunai (throwing knife) would quickly put and end to it.
If Naruto should fall while in battle, he had the option to use a memo clip. A memo clip is a memory from one of Naruto's past events that he can use to summon a bit of extra energy from. While the clip is playing, the gamer taps the A button to restore Naruto's health. Each memo clip will last a specific amount of seconds so choosing the correct one for each scenario can be important. Memo clips can be recharged once used by the Hokage. Aside from the adventuring and fighting, the game offer nothing else. The single player campaign should not be too difficult for even the average player.
The game does feature some great multiplayer action. The game allows for some online competition via an open tournament called The Forest of Death Exam. To tournament is more of a king of the hill with the new comer taking on players at the same level as they are until they have a chance to compete the tournament leader for the top spot. Once a match has been lost, they must start back the whole process. Even thought Naruto was released in 2007, I had no problems finding opponent to whip me silly.
I had stated that I did not enjoy “The Broken Bond”, so did I enjoy Naruto: Rise of a Ninja more. Yes actually. Even though the game is less refined than its sequel, it did a better job at allowing me to better understand the character. I also learnt from my previous experienced and kept the adventuring to a minimum focusing mostly on getting the story line moving. I only started to search for the many hidden coins and artefacts once I got the jutsu needed to really open up the game world. This greatly reduced the feeling of repetition felt while playing.
In retrospect, I really should have played "Rise of a Ninja" before "The Broken Bond" as it would have allowed me to understand the characters a bit better. The smell of Ubisoft Montréal is all over this title. The game shares many gameplay similarities with other titles such a Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed. Still the game will never replace Assassin's Creed or the Prince of Persia series as Ubisoft premiere adventure games.