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Naruto: Ninja Council

Score: 60%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: D3
Developer: Tomy Ltd.
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (2D)/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Presentation is a great indicator of what to expect from Naruto: Ninja Council; serviceable, but sorely lacking. Aside from a few glitzy special moves animations, which help to infuse some of the over-the-top style of the show into the game, nothing about the visuals really pop out as anything spectacular. Like nearly every other aspect of the game, this is the same stuff you’ve seen before (and probably done better). Character sprites are way too small, which is a real shame since the animation is actually pretty good – especially some of the humorous side-animations of bosses.

Sound isn’t much better. You’ll hear a few voice samples from members of the show’s cast, but the quality is so garbled that it really doesn’t matter. Music is the same short clip played numerous times and will likely have you turning the sound off completely before long.


Gameplay:

Naruto: Ninja Council takes the path of least resistance when it comes to design. Rather than develop a game based around the Naruto license, it instead takes the same side-scrolling beat ‘em up we’ve all played and plugs in characters and locations from the show. Familiarity with the show’s plot or characters really isn’t necessary since the game really doesn’t stick to much of one anyway, though fans will more than likely be able to piece together some sort of narrative based on their knowledge.

The game is split up into seven worlds, each with filled with a same cast of enemies and power-ups. Paths are linear, though some side paths are hidden; however, most of these lead to power-ups and leaf symbols, both of which have little effect on how the game plays out. In fact, the collection of leaf symbols turned out to be one of the bigger collect-a-thon disappointments I’ve come across. Rather than unlocking something worthwhile, collecting all 100 leaf symbols nets you a sound test. Considering the quality of the sound, this isn’t much of a reward.

As you progress through levels, you’ll run into characters from the show, though their presence really has no point. Most are hidden and just waiting to heal you or give you an extra life. You’ll also run across rival students who show up as boss fights.


Difficulty:

Nothing about Naruto: Ninja Council is particularly challenging aside from a few boss fights -- which are more cheap than difficult. For example, one boss has the ability to fully heal himself mid-fight and another can unleash a special move that will instantly take away at least half of your health. While I can appreciate that there’s supposed to be a special strategy to each fight, the basic mechanics don’t seem to encourage it. Most fights can be won by simply running up to a boss, rapidly pressing the attack button and, once in a while, unleashing a special move.

Game Mechanics:

It shouldn’t take anyone more than a minute to figure out Naruto: Ninja Council’s control scheme. One button attacks, another jumps and another throws projectile weapons. Other than that, there’s nothing overly complex or daunting about the scheme. About the only aspect that requires much thought beyond pressing a button are special moves and all you have to do there is make sure you’re facing in the direction of your enemy and that you release the button at the right time. You’re also invincible when readying a special move, adding to the ease in difficulty.

In the end, Naruto: Ninja Council feels like a series of poor design choices lumped together. While I understand the game is aiming for a target audience who may care more about seeing their favorite characters rather than new gameplay, you would hope that the license would offer more possibilities. Perhaps throw in some RPG elements like River City Ransom, or maybe take a page out of Shaman King’s book and explore the Metroid route with the various ninja powers opening up new areas? There’s certainly untapped potential with the license, unfortunately Naruto: Ninja Council doesn’t have what it takes to release it.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Nintendo GameCube Naruto: Clash of Ninja Sony PlayStation 2 Suikoden V

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated