Naruto: Rise of a Ninja Xbox 360

Naruto: Rise of a Ninja Xbox 360
Part fighting game, part platformer and part RPG, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja works hard to combine all its disparate elements into something fun and cohesive. Despite a few of problems, the game does manage to create something fresh and interesting out of a few standard parts.

Based on the popular manga and anime series, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja follows the young warrior through the first 80 episodes of the animated television show. Using clips from the cartoon and all-new animated sequences, the story of the Nine-Tailed Fox Spirit that inhabits the body of a young boy unfolds.

At its core, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja is a fighting game, with two players squaring off Street Fighter style. The mechanics of the combat portion of the game vary slightly from typical hand-to-hand combat and are a welcome departure from a gaming style that has remained largely unchanged for over ten years. There are still combo moves triggered by pressing combinations of punch and kick buttons but what sets this game apart is the use of Jitsu-attacks, where the player must first stun the opponent then trigger a special power by moving both analogue sticks in the proper pattern.

In order to further distinguish itself from the typical fighting game, Naruto employs RPG elements, "platform game” missions and a small, freestyle "sandbox” game map for players to explore. In order to begin each mission, Naruto must travel around Leaf Village and talk to villagers, gaining their trust by performing small tasks, like delivering ramen or healing their broken hearts with his famous "Sexy Jitsu” power. While exploring the village, the player can collect coins hidden throughout town, climbing atop buildings, à la Crackdown. The coins are then used to buy weapon and item upgrades in various stores around Leaf Village. Once a mission is undertaken, players will have to travel to the forest around the village, jumping across rivers and through treetops while being confronted by enemies who must be defeated in one-on-one combat.

The cel-shaded graphics are presented beautifully, especially on a hi-def television, where it looks like you are literally controlling a cartoon. The game play itself is somewhat repetitive and you will find yourself fighting the same enemies and jumping the same gaps over and over in the course of your missions. Story mode should take an average gamer between 12 and 15 hours to complete, but there is little replay value to be had after you’ve played through it once. You can also take on a friend in versus mode, either online or on the same console, but unless you and your opponent are closely matched in skill level, the competition will not hold your interest for long. The music and voice acting can be a little grating at times, but are well within tolerance for this type of anime-inspired game.

No single element of Naruto: Rise of a Ninja is particularly unique or original, but the amalgamation of the different gaming types is interesting to experience. I wouldn’t recommend this game as a full-price purchase to anyone other than fans of Naruto or fighting games but Naruto: Rise of a Ninja is worth a rental for anyone curious to see how the fighting game genre can be improved in the future. (Ubisoft)