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Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles

Score: 78%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Tomy Ltd.
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

Naruto and the Wii haven't always been the best combination. While there have been a few solid fighters for the Wii with the Naruto license, they've all felt pretty much the same. Although the latest title to hit the system definitely strives to be different and stand apart from the other Wii games, Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles doesn't do the best job of making a long-lasting experience that you will want to go back to after the few hours it takes to beat it.

Visually, the game just doesn't seem to do as well as other 3rd person action games on the Wii. Sure the characters look good and the environments are nicely sized, but it all feels rough around the edges. During the game's cut scenes, everything looks great, and considering the fact that they aren't just pre-rendered movies, that's a good thing. However, while you are running around the various locations, the camera backs up and a good bit of detail is lost, thus making the overall feel less than spectacular.

The sound is okay. Of course, the voice actors reprise their roles for this game and they nail the lines pretty well, while the music and sound effects are appropriately pulled from the series. There was a major issue in level balancing though. I found that with the default audio settings, the background music was overpowering and the vocals were barley audible. Thankfully, some minor adjustments corrected this problem, but it was a shame that it had to be done.


Gameplay:

Like I said before, Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles isn't a fighter. Instead, it's a 3rd person action game where you dungeon crawl around a mysterious mountain in order to complete a mission that is somewhat tied to the actual Naruto storyline.

Actually, most of the game doesn't take place in the Naruto storyline at all. Based on the characters available and the state of events, it takes place just after Sasuke has killed Orochimaru and formed his own squad, Hebi, with the intent of hunting down Itachi and finally getting his vengeance. Where the story breaks away from the standard series of events is that instead of Jiraiya tracking the Akatsuki leader, Pain, back to his home city and confronting him and starting off the series of events that lead to Naruto taking up Jiraiya's mission, Konoha is attacked by a huge rock dragon. When a young girl named Akari appears and explains that this dragon is one of five, she hands Naruto a sword called the Dragon Blade. This blade is the only thing that can take down one of these elemental dragons, and once defeated, use that dragon's powers in combat.

Akari then explains that she and her brother are the last decedents of a clan of ninja that were cast out many generations before. When her brother learned of the dragons, called Genryu, he set out to free them and seek revenge against the entire ninja world. Naruto, Sakura, Sai, Kakashi and Yamato then set out with Akari at their side to go to the dragons' home and stop the misguided brother before he accomplishes his goal.

Meanwhile, the Akatsuki have learned of these mysterious beasts and have decided to find out whatever they can about them. Itachi and Kisame are dispatched to Mount Koryu, the home of the creatures, in order to capture them for further study. They aren't alone though; Deidara and the newest Akatsuki member, Tobi, decide to head out as well and see what they can do.

The last group to converge on Mount Koryu is Sasuke and his team, consisting of former Orochimaru students Jugo, Karin and Suigetsu. They are heading that way because they have learned of the Akatsuki's interest, and Sasuke is willing to do whatever he can in order to get a bead on his brother's whereabouts.

The game is pretty much split into two stories, those following Naruto and those following Sasuke. Naruto's plot has him taking on dragon after dragon in hopes of collecting all of the elemental orbs for his Dragon Blade so he can get into the inner circles of Mount Koryu and stop Akari's brother. Sasuke's path also has him trekking through the mountain, but his boss battles are typically against more recognizable characters like Deidara.

Either way, the game plays the same. As either Naruto or Sasuke, you will dungeon crawl your way through room after room and be confronted by various protectors (aka enemies). Sometimes, you will be locked in a room and have to clear away several waves of bad guys before you are allowed to progress, and other times, you will just have to cross the magical invisible barrier that makes the current set of foes disappear and a new set poof into existence.

Throughout your journey, you will not only collect new scrolls in order to increase the variety of attacks you can use, but you will also change out various supporting characters that can help you in the middle of a fight. For Naruto, these are characters like Sakura who can heal you, or Neji who can cause the enemies to light up while you are in a particularly dark part of the mountain. Sasuke's support characters are the other members of Hebi and give you abilities like Jugo's ability to all but clear the screen with a massive punch.

Eventually you will fight your way through enough rooms to find yourself in a boss battle room. Again, you will either fight one of the five dragons, or actually progress the original story some (sort of) as Sasuke encounters various Akatsuki members in order to hunt down Itachi.

These bursts of action are typically punctuated by long cut-scenes involving a lot of dialogue and, while helpful to the overall story, really break up the action. I guess that isn't too much of a bad thing though, because without it, Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles would be a much shorter game, and its already a pretty quick run-through as it is.


Difficulty:

Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles is not a hard game, and what difference there is between the two difficulty settings doesn't add a lot of challenge to the game. In fact, I rarely found myself dying because of wounds inflicted by enemy attacks. More times than not, it was a miscalculated jump or dodge that landed me off the platform I was on.

Truth be told, I was able to run through the game's story in a couple of sittings and a total of six or seven hours. While the story was interesting, the gameplay got repetitive really fast, and with only a minimal amount of challenge at hand, the overall game loses steam quickly.


Game Mechanics:

Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles doesn't do much in the way of innovation or novelty, but it also doesn't seem to have too many technical issues as well. As a 3rd person action game, it lets you string combo attacks together pretty decently, and as you advance in the game, you will be able to make longer and longer combos. This, combined with the ability to use various attack scrolls you pick up along the way, allows you to perform some flashy attacks.

Followers of Naruto shouldn't be surprised to see standard jutsu like Rasengan and Chidori, but there are also some interesting ones like Fire Shot thrown into the mix. What I did find interesting about Dragon Blade Chronicles is its use of not only the five chakra elements, but also the weakness chain. Since Naruto will gain both elemental orbs to fuel his Dragon Blade and attack scrolls that give him access to jutsu he would otherwise be unable to use, the fact that some elements trump others actually plays a pretty big role in this game ... much more than other Naruto titles I've played.

While trying to break away from the mold and give Wii gamers something different with the Naruto license, it still comes through as just an okay game. With its short play time and no replayability, Dragon Blade Chronicles is, at most a rental, and even then, only for gamers who don't have other systems to find non-fighting Naruto games on.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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