I am not an anime fan and have never seen the Naruto series. I understand it’s pretty popular with the kids. The concept of an orange-wearing ninja student just baffles me. When the game Naruto: Rise of a Ninja also sports an awful cover, you understand that my expectations were not high.
Despite all my reservations, I had a good time with the game right from the start. There are problems – the moving about is not very precise, the fighting takes some practice – but it’s just charming. The cast and the environment are full of character and it feels like a place. It also manages humour.
You run around the very pretty city looking for collectibles, run little errands like delivering ramen, cheer up love-deprived citizens with “Sexy Jutsu”, pick up quests and occasionally beat up people in a separate fighting game mode.
The fighting is deeper than I would’ve thought and has its own character. Instead of pummeling your opponent blindly, you need to time your blocks and work on creating openings to perform the more time-consuming jutsu moves. These involve holding down the left trigger and moving both sticks in a given fashion, with a timing factor to worry about, too. It’s initially confusing, but rather rewarding once you get into it. There’s plenty of unlocking to do to really open up all the fighting possibilities. The game also has a separate fighting game mode apart from the story mode; I haven’t dabbled in that yet.
Some reviewers have said that you can’t get into the game without being into the series. I don’t know about that, I’m pretty happy as it is. They’re not going out of their length to explain every single thing to you, which is good, I wouldn’t want endless exposition. The characters feel deeper than they appear to be at first glance. I do get the feeling that there is a lot of detail meant just for the fans that I’m missing out on, but so what? This is the best action-adventure I’ve played in quite a while.
We’ll see how far I’m willing to go with the game considering the number of excellent games currently on the table, but I’m hoping this sells well in the Christmas crunch. It’s rare enough for a licenced game to be any good, let alone good on its own merits.