I don’t actually know anything about Naruto. I’ve watched few anime in my time (Sgt. Frog is my favorite), but I’ve never watched an episode of Naruto show. I don’t know anything about Pervy Jutsu, flying eyebrows or why some of the characters wear swan outfits. I don’t know why it looks like Naruto has whiskers or why two of the characters look exactly alike. Luckily with Namco Bandai’s recent 3DS release, Naruto: Powerful Shippuden, I don’t need to know any of that. Some of that is explained, some of it isn’t, but the game itself is a lot of fun.
What You Need to Know
Naruto: Powerful Shippuden is a side scrolling action/brawler that follows the show’s two main characters, Naruto Uzumaki and Rock Lee. You go back and forth between those two character’s stories, unlocking missions on a branching map. Each of those levels has certain requirements that need to be met in order to attempt it, some of them require keys from both stories in order to unlock. Completion of a mission earns you experience points that can be used to level up the character or a number of different skills and support relationships.
Being ninjas, the characters in this game are all very fast. The action in the game is very quick. Attacks come quickly, buttons for combos need to be pressed quickly and use of blocks and evades will be necessary as you progress deeper into the game’s story.
All of this is done with a more chibi look to the characters. The characters all have oversized heads, small bodies and completely exaggerated expressions. Much of this is used in the jokes of the game. Nothing about this game takes itself serious and it benefits greatly from that.
Nice Mission Variety
While the missions may begin to get repetitive towards the end you’re going to find that the mission structures keep you going and mixes things up throughout the entire adventure. You’re not generally going to be doing the same thing multiple times in a row and that keeps up the variation and interest from mission to mission. You’ll have a number of familiar mission structures like taking out a certain number of enemies, or doing that with a time limit. That will be followed up by a mission where you must defend yourself for a period of time, but can’t attack. Other missions will have you searching an area for a number of objects, some will have you racing to the end of the level before time runs out. At one point you’ll even be cutting leaves in half while dodging falling shuriken.
These missions are also different between the two characters. Naruto can do more jutsu based attacks and has more of these abilities at his disposal while Rock Lee is limited to more physical based attacks. Having the two characters use different abilities makes the game, which could have been considerably repetitive, much easier to stay engaged with.
Light RPG Elements
For the most part this is a standard side-scrolling, action game, but the developers decided to allow you some freedom to customize the characters. This is done in between missions using experience points gained to level up a number of different stats. You have a standard level which, unlike most RPGs, you can upgrade. There are a number of different skills that each of the characters can learn that can be increased as well as different support relationships. In many of the missions the main character can have up to three support characters that can be called in at various times. For example Naruto can summon Sakura early on and she drops in, delivers a devastating attack on a single enemy, heals Naruto and leaves. These relationships can be upgraded allowing for these support characters to become more powerful as the game progresses. While you can only have three of these characters chosen at any one time, each character will end up with about a dozen possibilities for support characters before the end of the game.
In addition to upgradable stats, you also have a little reward system that will allow you to choose one of five optional, personal goals that will reward you bonus experience points if completed. These will range from finishing the level in a specific amount of time, to performing a certain number of special moves or causing different status effects to enemies. The more difficult the goal chosen, the more bonus experience you earn; allowing you to potentially earn a lot of experience very quickly.
While the combat is pretty fulfilling and varied, the enemies themselves get more than a bit on the repetitive side. Apart from a few unique named baddies most are cookie cutters from a small handful of character models. You’ve got wolves, multiple colors which denote different abilities. You’ve got dudes with bandanas, dudes with headbands and dudes who can shoot fire. There are masked guys in black robes and masked guys in white robes. All of this to say that there isn’t much variety in the enemy types and you can instantly tell what the character’s abilities are just by looking at them.
While it’s nice to know what a person can do just by looking at them, a little more variety in the enemy types would have been nice.
At first Naruto: Powerful Shippuden seems like any other standard side-scrolling, licensed game. After playing it for more than the first few minutes, however, you see just how deep the customization options can be, how varied the missions are and how fast the game plays. The characters are cheesy, the dialogue is at times extremely funny, but most importantly the game is just a lot of fun to play. I actually went into the game not expecting to be that impressed, but came away being pleasantly surprised at just how much I enjoyed it. You don’t have to be a fan of the show. You don’t have to know anything about Naruto. This is a fun game, and that’s really what matters most.
Review copy of the game provided by Namco Bandai
Played through the entire campaign
Total play time: 8 hours