Getting videogames from my family as gifts has always been something of a mixed bag. In Christmases past they’ve make surprisingly good choices (Mega Man X
) and not-so-surprisingly bad ones (007 Everything or Nothing
). I still appreciate it though, after all, it means they at least pay enough attention to recognize what one of my most prolific pastimes is. This year I was given Naruto: Rise of a Ninja
, apparently because they knew I also liked anime and thusly a videogame based on an anime must be a really solid choice. So was it? Well, yes and no.
Firstly, let me just say that the game’s cell-shaded graphics look wonderful. The characters made great transitions to 3d and the environments are all bright and colorful. It’s something of a shame, then, that there are so few of both. There are only a couple different character designs used for both people inhabiting the Leaf Village and the many bandits you’ll be fighting around it. And while the Leaf Village itself is decently sized the explorable space around it is rather limited. This becomes very evident once side missions start forcing you to retread the same paths over and over again. This is really just part of a much larger problem Rise of a Ninja
has, namely, an overall lack of diverse content.
Somehow Ubisoft Montreal managed to take eighty episodes worth of storyline and character interaction and compress it down to around seven hours of game time. It helps even less that there are several spots in the main storyline that feel a bit disjointed due to the way it was edited. Now it isn’t anything terrible huge: events not receiving any mention, some characters not getting shown at all or if shown only for a few seconds in a cutscene, scenes happening slightly different, etc. For someone that’s seen the show it shouldn’t be any trouble filling in the blanks but it could cause people that are newly introduced to the franchise to get confused as to why something is happening or who someone is that just randomly shows up to fight you. Now I can certainly understand why they’d try to keep the storyline as light as possible, mainly to keep newcomers from being overwhelmed by a bunch of names, faces and events and to keep the game from becoming one long cutscene. Still, I think the story could have used a bit more fleshing out just so that newcomers better understand what is actually going on.
Aside from the sparse main storyline there isn’t very much else that Rise of a Ninja
offers. The biggest diversion would be the ability to run around the entire Leaf Village, with your ability to explore increasing as new techniques and jutsus are learnt. This can be fun for awhile, until the player realizes that there isn’t much too actually do there besides repeatedly running past the same five identically designed villagers. Collecting bronze and gold coins (much like Crackdown’s agility and secret orbs), making ramen deliveries, playing hide-and-go-seek with Konohamaru, participating in “ninja races” and completing side missions are the other main activities you can find in town.
That may sound like a fair bit but each activity is almost exactly the same with only a very slight difficulty increase to tell them apart. The side missions have a little bit more variety but most fall into the “Go get X back from the bandits” or “Run to this place that you’ve already been to really fast”, at least they also increase your statistics by a much larger amount and give training points that can be spent to let Naruto learn new combos and improve his jutsus to make his fights easier. There’s also an online mode where you can battle people over Xbox Live but considering that the battle system is another area of the game that comes off as being a bit too streamlined (all you need to win is to use one or two of the same combos repeatedly and perform a few button timing sequences to pull off your jutsus) and that people playing online are already very sparse* it really doesn’t add that much.
These flaws don’t necessarily make Rise of a Ninja
game but they certainly don’t set it apart from other recent and more noteworthy releases. The game can be a fun way to spend an afternoon but that’s really about it. With no real replayability and considering the fact that trying to complete all the repetitive side activities becomes an extreme exercise in tediousness I really couldn’t recommend anyone to actually buy this game, at least until the prices goes down quite a bit. It’s an okay rent, though.
*This could be in part due to the problems Live has been experiencing over the last week.