Review by Mikaa

"A workable 3D fighter (given that this IS the DS we are talking about), but really for fans only"

Let's face it, Naruto is the new Dragon Ball Z. It's everywhere, on t-shirts, on TV, on your (son/daughter/own) lunch box, in the toy asiles, and on the card racks that once held scores of Pokemon cards. The series has gained a following that, like Yu-Gi-Oh and DBZ, seems to have an endless support of fans.

On that same token, while anime junkies and kids all admit to adoring the show (which I refuse to watch due to my preference for manga over anime), there is a notable split in these two groups: kids that love the translated show, and anime otaku that crave the (usually) subbed Japanese original.

The first group, the "Translated" group, if you will, loves anything and everything Naruto. This includes the games, each and every one. Even if they are rushed out the door, they will beg their parents to buy them. The "Otaku" croud, on the other had, either frown at the domestic games (due to censoring of "offensive" animations) or judge them as kids fare.

Upon recieving this import (yes, this is a review of the Japanese version, should D3 of America pick it up for US translation later), I tried it out, and when telling fellow workers, I recieved mixed opinions. Almost all of them were impressed with the game itself, given that it was running on the DS. But almost all of them judged it as a kids game.

Ironically, this is also THE best 3D fighter I have found for the DS.

So! Enough intro, now to the actual review.

First of all, Naruto: Shinobi Retsuden (for the sake of word count and my spelling, we shall go with Nartuo SR) is a 3D fighting game in the same vein as the two Naruto Game Cube games (and maybe PS2 - never saw those): you and an opponent fight on various arenas where you can side step, attack, block, or (if you build up enough "energy," you can warp behind a foe. Naturally, special attacks and combos are present, though usually these are activated by buiding up a meter and hitting your foe with a certain button or by chaining a specific combo that results in a special move. It makes me wish for a more King of Fighters movement system for more reliability and versitility, but it does work.

Controls are extremely basic for a fighting game: there is a jump button (since up and down allow for side stepping), a basic attack, a "special" attack, a "super move" button, a teleport button to get behind a foe, and a block button. And while it does take a bit to get used to each caracter's timing (like most fighters), each is unique in that their attack methods vary from each other almost too much. However, with practice, one can figure it out rather quickly. Just don't expect to be a pro in an hour.

Audio was there, but given that I never watched the show, I couldn't tell if any of it was from said source. Most of the music sounded like generic "ninja" fare, such that you might catch in Tenshu DS or Shinobi. There are some Japanese voice clips, but most were oddly silent.

Character selection is mostly restricted at first, with only a few fighters to use upon first play. Besting certain tasks (like beating the story mode) nets you more, while others are almost impossible to nab (can you say Hard Mode without losing?). As noted, there is a story mode (with only Nartuo against other fighters/ninjas), an "arcade" mode (where you can fight an AI or a multi-card fight), a survival mode, and a few options to tweak these.

Oh, I almost forgot about the graphics.

Graphically, Naruto SR is one of the most impressive DS titles I have seen when it comes to 3D. Typically you will see a developer try a 3D DS game with either N64-quality (ie - chugging and slow) or just down right bad (King Kong DS anyone?). Naruto SR does have brief moments of slowdown, but ELEMENTS, this is the smoothest running "fully" 3D game I have seen on the DS that was not made by Nintendo. While the backgrounds do remind me of Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance on the GBA at times, the smoothness of the backgrounds, coupled with the character models, is nothing short of amazing.

There are flaws in this game, naturally. Even with unlockable fighters, compared to recent fighting games, the number of fighters (somewhere in the teens) is pitiful compared to other series. Also, Multi-card play hurts very badly when you consider that this game is an import and runs between US$40-50 for ONE CART. Finally, the fact that the entire game's text is in Japanese limits the ammount of available gamers locally that would pick it up in the first place.

In short, not a bad game in general, and easily the best of the DS's tiny library of fighting games, but still not all that it could be. Maybe with WFC support, single-card download, and more characters. And maybe D3/Tomy would license the game engine out for other franchises. Because the game works.

Score: 8 of 10

+ Best Features: Graphics, solid controls, workable combat system

- Worst Features: Naruto license = "kids" game, limited character selection compared to most fighters, Japan only

* If You Liked: DBZ: Supersonic Warriors 2 (DS), Shrek Super Slam (DS), Naruto Clash of the Ninja 1 and 2 (GC)

* Guilty Pleasure: Telling co-workers that I found a DS game with a smooth 3D graphic engine, solid controls, and a good fighter, then seeing their disgust or shock when I told them it was a Naruto game.

- (Ugly) Reality: D3 of America has recently announced that it is bringing over Naruto: Ninja Council 3 on the DS (which is still available in import form at certain stores), which is a 2D side scrolling fighter for those unaware. Given the history of licensed translations coming from Japan to the US, what are the odds that Naruto SR will be brough over?


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/30/07


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