Ain't nothing but ninjas.
For those of you unfamiliar with Naruto, it’s a very popular animé and manga in Japan, involving a plethora of ninjas. Starring the show’s namesake, Naruto, who has had the ill fortune of having an evil kyuubi(9-tailed fox of Japanese mythology) sealed within his navel. (Hence the apparent whiskers.)
Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen, has hit the GameCube, and the fact of the matter is, it’s pretty fun. As many people know, this is somewhat of a rarity in the sea of crappy licensed games, so Eighting should be proud of what they’ve accomplished with their Ninja All-Star Bash.
Featuring a very impressive cel-shading engine, the game pumps out detailed characters and great special effects and doesn’t cough once. When in battle, it isn’t unusual for the game to suddenly use Motion Blur, turn the colours negative or other “effects" popular within manga and animé mediums when a character deals a powerful blow. The only hitch is that the backgrounds, while not overly disappointing, are Goraud-shaded, which detracts from the art style.
The audio is passable, and while the game features some nice voice acting from the original cast members of the show, the music isn’t anything special. Not grating, but not something you’ll be remembering down the road, unless you’re an avid viewer of the show.
Unfortunately, Naruto’s only real downfall is how the game plays. It isn’t horribly by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s clearly meant to be more of a fun “party game" with good graphics than a serious fighter. Even the simplified controls reflect this. A is your weapon button, whether that is for projectiles (throwing knives or shurikens) or slashing. B is for traditional martial arts (punching, kicking, etc). Y is the throw button, and X is your one-button-super.
When your Chakra meter fills up you can just hit the X button to lay loose your special attack upon your foe. The L and R triggers are for quick dodge or “Ninja Teleport". If you’ve been hit by the enemy you can instantly teleport by a tap of the trigger and leave the classic “ninja log" where you used to be, and then fly out of nowhere with a counter attack. This is at the hefty cost of about 60% of your Chakra meter, so the game doesn’t descend into an endless counter-fest -- a very smart move on Eighting’s part.
Characters also have a variety of special moves that take up smaller amounts of Chakra meter that are available at any time. While it’s different for each character, special moves are a combination of pressing the D-pad in a certain direction and pressing the A button.
Naruto accomplishes what it sets out to do: it allows fans of the series to play as their favourite shinobi warriors and do it in style. After extensive time with the 2-player mode, it becomes pretty obvious that the game is geared more towards button-mashers, but, if you’re a big Naruto fan, this game is for you. If you’re looking to import a serious 3D fighting game though, you’re best off grabbing Soul Calibur II instead.