Review: Naruto: Clash of the Ninja (Nintendo Gamecube)

Naruto: Clash of the Ninja
Developer: Eighting
Publisher: Tomy
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: 03/7/2006

So Naruto is an anime tv show that all the kids love, right? Right. In it, ninjas do some crazy shit with like magic or something. So they come out with a game for the Gamecube called Naruto: Clash of the Ninja. Now I have a few problems with this show. First off, the ninjas have a leader and have a Ninja Council as well. My question is, why do you need a council for ninjas? I thought ninjas were supposed to be bad ass and flip out and shit. The whole idea of a whole game based on a council though…. Ok ok ok. I love Naruto and have been a fan of the Naruto anime series since the show first hit the subtitle circuit. I’ve also enjoyed the Gamecube series Naruto Gekitou Ninja Taisen. This game is a direct translation of the original Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen begging the question, was the original Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen any good? Sadly… no.

1. Story

First, here’s the story of Naruto in a nutshell. Naruto is a boy who is hated from birth because he has the spirit of a nine tailed fox demon sealed inside of him. This nine tailed fox demon, called the KyŔbi in Japan, attacked Konohona, the village of the hidden leaf. To stop this attack, the most powerful ninja in the village, the 4th Hokage, gives up his life to defeat this evil force. The village scapegoats Naruto seeing as he’s a memory of the death of the 4th Hokage. Because of this, Naruto acts out in class and is a general jackass.

The story of Naruto: Clash of the Ninja follows the lovable and goofy ninja Naruto, his angsty boy pal Sasuke (who had his entire family murdered , and the pissy but kind of sexy even though she’s supposed to be twelve Sakura through their first mission as Genin (think past cub scouts but not quite boy scouts). They are lead by a Jonin (2nd highest rank below Hokage) ninja named Kakashi as a three man team. This game covers the formation of this team, their growth in team work (especially Sasuke and Naruto), and their first major mission, where they are challenged by two other Jonin, Zabuza and Haku, the latter of the two is the same age as Naruto and Sasuke.

The story of Naruto is entertaining for what it is. The story here is used only to lead into fights and really to fill the air between these fights. Still, the growth of Naruto and the rest of Team 7 allows this game’s simplistic plot to have a twinge of humanity to it that most fighting games don’t have. The other nice thing about the story is that the main villain, Zabuza, has a twinge of humanity made mostly by the super angsty Haku.

The other nice thing about the story of Naruto is that while every character is filled with some degree of angst, the comedy and action of the game keeps the story from being a circle jerk to the latest Linkin Park remix in Jimmy’s parent’s basement. Naruto: Clash of the Ninja has a well told albeit simplistic and painfully short story. This game covers less then 20 episodes of the anime, and that anime itself has a lot of standing around and recapping of the last episode. The shortness of the story ends up being echoed throughout the rest of the game as the big flaw.

Score: 7 out of 10

2. Graphics

Naruto: Clash of the Ninja has a very anime-esque look to it that is very true to how the show looks. Unlike other recent anime games (I’m looking at you One Piece: Grand Battle), Naruto: Clash of the Ninja maintains not just the look of the show, but also the feel of the show.

The game itself is cel-shaded and has a nice look to it. Character animations are pretty smooth. Each character has a number of super moves that causes the game to go into a mini cut scene. While these cut scenes aren’t bad by any means, they are rather generic. Naruto’s “Naruto Rendan” and Haku’s ice mirrors attack are exceptions to this, but for the most part, super attack cut scenes are your ninja kicks or punches your opponent a bunch of times.

There isn’t much variety in the backgrounds though. There’s a level set on a bridge that has fog, a tournament scene in the hidden Leaf Village with poorly animated spectators, and so forth. The backgrounds are nice to look at and well designed, but they are really generic in their composition.

Naruto: Clash of the Ninja is a solid looking game at first blush that just underwhelms over time due to the fact that none of the characters are really that distinct in look and the stages themselves are even more underwhelming. The game has a style to it no doubt. It’s just that we’ve seen that style time and time again.

Score: 6 out of 10

3. Sound

Unlike most fans of Naruto who followed it before it was localized in the United States, I actually can tolerate the dub despite preferring the original Japanese. The voice acting for Naruto: Clash of the Ninja is pretty decent with a few exceptions. In the original game, most of the characters talk when they fight, land moves, or take hits. The problem here is that a simple “ikuzo” becomes “here I go” with every attack. This is one of those lovable things in that really doesn’t translate well in practice even though the translation itself is accurate. In short, your character constantly shouting out “Let’s Go” gets really annoying. Sound should not be irritating. This isn’t a knock on the voice actors or the translation team, it’s a knock on who put this all into practice.

The music itself is relatively inoffensive. The game, like the anime, has a very traditional sounding Japanese soundtrack. The level music is never overpowering and adds some ambience to each of the stages. Having said that, the music, like the look of the game, is too damn uniform. There really is no catchy tune in this game. Furthermore, the great battle music from the show is absent here.

So you’ve got annoying and constant use of voices mixed with nice but forgettable music. Naruto: Clash of the Ninja fails to implement sound to enhance the game experience in any way, shape, or form. It is mediocre at best and downright unpleasant at worst. It’s a shame too seeing as how, in my opinion, music makes Naruto the entertaining show that it is.

Score: 3 out of 10

4. Controls/Gameplay

The controls for this game are pretty solid, but there are a few issues. The game is quite literally fighting game chess. Moves are simplistic and blocking is easy. Combos are also incredibly easy to cheese, but there’s a teleportation counter to even that out. Super moves are not necessarily game breakers, but can be used effectively to beat your opponent’s brains out.

The game relies on a power system based on the mystical energy known as chakra. Your character’s chakra increases as you land attacks, counter attacks, or block attacks. This chakra can be used as a combo breaker (allowing you to teleport mid combo) or be used as a super attack. If you miss a super attack, your opponent can cheese their way to victory with some talent by landing a series of big combos. This is an interesting way to add some depth to what is otherwise a somewhat shallow game. Naruto: Clash of the Ninja has a surprising amount of strategy.

Beyond this aspect, each character plays relatively differently despite having the exact same button patterns pull off attacks, special attacks, supers, and counters. Characters like Rock Lee or Sasuke are close combat fighters while Sakura and Haku play as hit and run characters. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses that each player will develop a taste for.

There are some problems with collision detection that really slow the game down. Furthermore, the best strategies for this game is to just hold back and keep blocking rather then actually fight it out. Purists will not find much depth with this fighting system, and they’ll master this game pretty quickly.

All those complaints aside, the engine in Naruto: Clash of the Ninja is not only solid but also a total blast to play. The fights are fluid and fast. This game has a real Marvel vs Capcom 2 feel to it. If you don’t mind being able to rely purely on strategy to win at this game rather then talent with a character then this is a game for you.

Score: 8 out of 10

5. Replayability

The problem with this game is it has ten characters. Two of those ten characters are variations of Naruto and Kakashi. You can burn through this game faster then a coke addict goes through a C note. This is utterly the shortest game this year. There is so little to unlock and so little extra to do that this alone makes Naruto: Clash of the Ninja worth only a rental. That’s what happens when you try and turn 20 episodes of a Dragonball Zish anime into a fighting game.

Score: 1 out of 10

6. Balance

Thankfully, completely broken characters don’t really enter into this game until the sequel (besides the uber Naruto and Kakashi characters). Oh wait, that’s one quarter of the characters. That’s right, 25% of the characters are broken.

Ignoring that temporarily, each character can be used to their strengths and fights can remain competitive. The game accommodates a wide variety of fighting styles and personal preferences. The game is pretty easy to play through, but the fights and missions do gradually increase in difficulty.

Having said that all of that, Kakashi and Naruto are way too powerful once you unlock their uber forms. They are the characters that everyone will use mostly because Naruto has a combo that knocks out over half of the health bar and Kakashi can perform his opponent’s super moves faster then they can. If you stick to the regular characters, then this is a balanced game. Sadly, once these two are unlocked, they’re a very easy way to make sure that you’ll never lose again, unless you completely suck or are playing against someone who is using them as well.

Score: 5 out of 10

7. Originality

Well think about it. It’s a fighting game… BASED ON AN ANIME!!!!!! Besides Dragonball Z, the Gundam series, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Yu Yu Hakusho, One Piece, Ranma Ԛ½, Zatch Bell, and the hundreds of animeish fighters released through Bandai, Capcom, SNK, Sega, and the hundreds of other companies, where have we seen this before? *cough*

It does get a few points though. It is the first Naruto game. Sure Naruto may be Dragonball with ninjas, but that’s beside the point. Naruto: Clash of the Ninja also has a rather neat teleportation counter system. That’s about it though. There’s not much that really makes me squeal with happiness about this game. Not original at all I say. The anime fanboy in me realizes this and feels somewhat saddened by this fact. Ah well. I’ll learn to love again. Wait… what?

Score: 3 out of 10

8. Addictiveness

Naruto: Clash of the Ninja is a pretty addictive game. It’s fun taking out a ninja and fighting another ninja with their magic powers. Wonderful wonderful fun. The thing is that the addictiveness of this game declines because of the lack of playable characters and the lack of modes. You’ve got only versus and tournament mode. The sequels remedy this nicely, but this isn’t a sequel. It’s an original. A fun original that’s addictiveness is undercut by it’s complete lack of depth.

Score: 6 out of 10

9. Appeal Factor

The unholy trinity of gaming has finally been met.

1. Ninjas
2. Anime
3. A Cute Y7 Television Show

The appeal is massive. The only people who won’t enjoy this game are people who want massively deep fighting games and people who hate the license. The thing is though that people who are massively into fighting games probably watch and enjoy Naruto. The gaming universe of appeal is collapsing upon itself! Oh wait, I’ve found a hole in this game’s seemingly impenetrable appeal. People who like to have something new to do with their games an hour in will probably not like this game. There we go.

Score: 9 out of 10

10. Miscellaneous

Here’s the thing about Naruto: Clash of the Ninja. This game will probably sell well, and the sequel will come stateside. The sequel doubles the number of playable characters and adds four player play. Furthermore, if you don’t mind importing, Naruto Gekitou Ninja Taisen 4 offers 39 characters (a few being variations of other characters) and a very deep mission mode. I implore you that if you need to get your hands on Naruto: Clash of the Ninja, just rent it. This game is a good base, but knowing what’s off in Japan right now, you’re really better off waiting or importing. It’s worth the extra money/time to wait for the sequel/import one of the later games in the franchise.

Score: 2 out of 10

The Scores
Story: 7 out of 10
Graphics: 6 out of 10
Sound: 3 out of 10
Controls/Gameplay: 8 out of 10
Replayability: 1 out of 10
Originality: 5 out of 10
Addictiveness: 3 out of 10
Appeal Factor: 9 out of 10
Miscellaneous: 2 out of 10
Total: 44 out of 100
Final Score: 4.5 (Below Average)



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