If you're a Naruto fan who's been enjoying the Clash of Ninja series for the past few years, we have good news for you. Now, you can take that goofy 3D fighting with you wherever you go. Naruto: Ninja Destiny for the Nintendo DS lets you go one-on-one with 16 familiar characters taken from the Naruto comics and TV show, and it delivers the sort of cartoon style characters and smoothly animated Jutsu attacks that you want from a handheld Naruto game.
Although the 3D backgrounds look plain compared to what we've seen in the console Clash of Ninja games, the toon-shaded characters are still very large and highly expressive. Attacks flow smoothly from one to the next, and, if you pay attention, you'll notice clothing flapping and dust kicking up as you move. The fighting system gives you multiple opportunities during each fight to unleash Jutsu-charged finishing blows, which often result in ground cracking explosions and sweet camera moves.
Speaking of the fighting engine, here's how it works: Combatants trade attacks on a two-dimensional plane - fairly typical, right? However, you can always tap up or down at any time to take a few steps sideways. The fighting itself is full of variety. Two buttons let you attack high or low, a jump button lets you initiate aerial assaults, and a Jutsu button lets you unleash your character's finishing move if your Jutsu meter is full. The shoulder buttons enable you to block or trade half of your Jutsu meter for a quick teleport move that'll put you right behind your opponent.
On the touch screen, you can tap icons to activate the six power-up items that were randomly given to you before the battle. These items can refill some of your health, give you temporary strength and defense buffs, and even prevent your opponent from performing a finishing move. Power-ups are usually a bad idea in one-on-one fighting games, but here they fit like a glove. Some combos and finishers can take away more than half of your health, so having a way to recover and keep the fight going for a few more seconds is appreciated.
Nitpickers may question some balance issues, such as how certain characters can hit grounded foes while others can't, but the quick teleport move and rapidly re-filling Jutsu meter generally prove to be the great equalizer. Basically, once you learn the ins and outs, you can hold your own with any character on the roster.
The only real sore spot is the lack of play modes. You get a story mode that pairs together specific opponents, a battle mode that lets you do one-off matches or tackle all of the other characters in succession, and you get the usual wireless VS mode that requires both players to have their own system and cartridge. Honestly, the fighting is fast-and-furious enough to keep Naruto nuts occupied for a good while, especially if two friends make it a point to jam together, but we still think they should've included a character building mode and online play through Nintendo's WFC service.
Feb 29, 2008
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