The little, once bratty Ninja Naruto is growing up right before our eyes. Naruto's growth has changed his personality for the better, so why haven't the games?! In another recycled beat em' up, Naruto takes on the fierce Akatsuki Ninja clan in Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatsuki Rising.
The Naruto series has had its share of mediocre games in the past, and before you go ahead and think "This one is going to be different", unfortunately it's not. Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatsuki Rising (say that ten times fast) is another mediocre expierence that will likely have you shaking your head in amazement. That's not amazement like this game is the best, it's amazement that Namco Bandai pushed out another rudementry beat em' Naruto game-- the same its has been over the years. Even though the vast majority of gamers won't find too much value in Akatsuki, Naruto fans still might.
In Akatsuki Rising the jumpsuit wearing ninja gets into another binding situation where he has to play the role of the hero. Naruto has the same abrasive attitude as normal, but this time around he seems a little more at peace with his abilities and nature--- could it be maturity settling in, in his teen years? After a two year exertion with his mentor Lord Jiraiya, Naruto returns home to find trouble awaits. It seems a new villain has arrived, the Akatsuki, and like normal evil enemies they have taken control over the public by spreading fear. Naruto being the little spitfire he is doesn’t put up with this, and quickly sets out to lay the smackdown on the Akatsuki clan and rescue his friend Gaara, who has been captured. From Orochimaru to the Akatsuki, the threat seems menacing in the begging and then the enemies simply fall like dominos. The story isn’t deep enough to capture any non-Naruto fans interest because it’s very stale and predictable, however loyal followers of the series will be a little more emotionally invested in the material. I don’t know about you, but I think Naruto could use one of those Hollywood reboots... just saying.
Aside from the linear chapters in the “scenario mode” you can freely play ranked missions on the side in the “mission mode”. This gives a little bit of extra variation into the mix, but not much. All these missions incorporate the same beat-em up gameplay and even if you’re helping Ichiraku at the Ramen-noodle shop, or helping out at the barbe-q, the results are the same... kick, punch, power move-- rinse and repeat. The only good thing to come out of these is that you can level up the playable characters and boost their skills for when you get back to the scenarios.
There is also a “Battle Mode” in the game that lets you go into a one-on-one battle with the characters you have unlocked which includes the villains. In total Akatsuki Rising has 10 characters you can unlock. Before the battles you can choose between loading your saved data with altered stats or play the game in the original mode. You also get to pick the size and location of the battle. It’s all typical fighting game stuff done lightly. This battle mode can also be played online which supports ad-hoc play only. If you can’t find someone who is willing, you might have found yourself a new best friend.
Along with the battling done in the battle mode, you can also battle it in the games Survival Mode that puts you the paces taking on numerous enemies. Once you are finished up with the Scenario Mode, Naruto Shippuden unlocks a new mode called the "Akatsuki Mode". The Akatsuki mode lets you play as a member of Akatsuki as a role reversal. As the Akatsuki you will gain insight into motives of the enemy and their feeling on the other side of the conflict.
Now all these modes in their overabundance of fighting would be awesome if the game could deliver on the action, and sadly it doesn’t. The combat in Naruto is kept basic with a few trick power-moves, however the basics work just as good. The controls are easy enough to learn, but the awful camera doesn't help you along the way. The camera angles are brutal, and they like to zoom in-and-out of the action leaving you blind to attacks. Multiple enemy encounters are just a nightmare--- and there are lots of those! Even the lock-on feature can’t even save you because when you’re locked onto a single target you are more open to everything that is happening outside of your viewpoint. Quickly shifting between targets is the only way to make sense out of the chaos which starts to become more irritating than fun. There is no real solution here and when the game is based around fighting, it should be the first part of the gameplay to be nailed.
From bad to worse, the enemies don't spice things up at all because for the majority, they are just faceless thugs that repeatedly come in for another whooping. Boss battles are few-and-far between, so in the meantime expect to a groundhog day type of experience. Naruto simply doesn't have enough variety, and even Baboons don’t help. After you beat up your first ten bandits, there is nothing else to do here. Adding on the problem of redundant combat are the visuals that don’t lend their hand in the spicing department. The static cartoon images from the menus work well, however in the game the environments looks barren and dull, and characters have a slight-case of the jaggies. The best aspects of the visuals are the special powers that bring some life into the game. Visually Akatsuki Rising isn't not entirely bad, but it’s nothing special either.
Naruto Shippuden Legends: Akatsuki Rising is a middle of the road experience that will likely keep the hardcore Naruto fans content while others wonder what is so special about Naruto anyway. The action had potential to be something more than it is, however because of lack of selection, a faulty camera and a fairly limited move set, this brawler becomes another throwaway title. I would think long and hard of how much you like Naruto before you pick up this game. The character of Naruto has matured so all we need now are the games to follow suit.
Reviewed by Tinnanski | 10.28.09