For those who are fans of the Naruto anime/manga series, I'm here to review the new game Naruto: Rise of a Ninja for the Xbox 360 with them in mind as well to those new to the series.
The premise is simple. You are Naruto Uzumaki, a child in the Leaf Village, who inspires one day to be the leader of the village. But, he has the Nine-tailed Fox Demon, a demon who tried to destroy the village years ago, sealed inside of him. This makes him an outcast and people don't like him because they view him as some sort of monster. Naruto sets out to prove himself to the world and become the top ninja to show them all. The game follows Naruto from the first episode up until the end of the Chunin Exams.
The gameplay of this game is broken down into three parts: free roaming, platforming, and fighting.
While in the beautifully cel-shaded world of the leaf village, Naruto is able to free roam and go where he pleases and venture through the town. You can run, jump, and climb all over the city and explore it at will. There are also lots of hidden coins and stuff through the village that you have to find. It's lots of fun just to run around the village. While in the village, Naruto can do missions for people in order to gain more popularity and make more people like him. These missions include delivering ramen to people in town, running races, and playing hide and seek with Konohamaru, the current village leader’s grandson. The missions can become difficult to do at times and will sometimes exhaust all of your skills, but over all, they don't really award you with anything besides status and some bumps in your HP and MP.
While running in the forests and doing missions, you'll go into what I call platforming mode. It's exactly like free roaming, except you can actually get hurt. You'll have to make difficult jumps and dodge traps and obstacles in order to make it to where you need to go. Nothing much to say about this except that the jumping is very unforgiving because of the camera. If you don't line it up just right, press the buttons just right, you'll fall either into the water and be hurt, or you'll fall down and have to climb all the way back up, no matter how long it took to get where you were.
The final mode of play here is the fighting. The fighting though, sadly, is quite disappointing. It's a really watered down 3D fighter. You have a button to do punches, a button to kick, a button to jump, and a button to throw kunai. The fighting is fast paced, but it all feels like a horrible button masher that takes no skill to do. There are Jutsu moves to perform in battle, each with their own specific way of using them (i.e. Naruto's Jutsu's involve button presses; Sasuke's involve aiming percisely and firing). While the Jutsu's are cool and powerful, you'll just button mash and then perform said Jutsu over and over again. And in the game, you'll find yourself fighting the same enemy over and over again (usually a generic bandit). It all feels like a big waste of time and its not fun to do at all.
After the game is finished (it clocks in at about 4 to 6 hours, it's not long at all), there really is nothing to do. You can go do all the stuff for all the villagers and get them all to like you and build up your HP and MP..but there is nothing left after the game is finished to fight or do. No rewards for doing all that hard work except for Xbox 360 achievement points. There is a mini game dedicated just to the fighting that you can play through and play as any of the characters you've encountered in the game, but, it is the FIGHTING system, so it's not fun at all. And the computer becomes insanely cheap in the higher levels. This fighting system is also online though, with hints of more downloadable characters to play as. So if you really like the fighting system, you can give it a shot online.
The final verdict on this game is that it's beautiful to look at, fun to run around Konoha and do things, but it's short, repetitive, the fighting system is horrible, and there's almost no replay value. For its $60 price tag, I would only buy it if you were a die hard fan or you were getting it for a kid for a present. Otherwise, rent it and give it a try. It's a fun game, and a good attempt for the 360, but when it boils down to it, it's sadly mediocre, just like the other Naruto games on the market.